By Reporter Xing Beilin
The first demand of 90% residents in a commercial housing estate built just ten years ago turns out to be “perfection of communal facilities”; residents think it is extremely inconvenient to receive delivery even though there are delivery locks in the housing estate…These key demands of residents that surprised and confused the experienced residential area officials a lot, are the new problems concerning community governance figured out by carrying out grass-roots investigations and researches using “Community Analysis Tools”.
This set of “Community Analysis Tools”, initially launched by Jing’an District Civil Affairs Bureau in the while city, was designed to solve neighborhood committee officials’ confusions of “not knowing exactly what kind of service do residents need on earth” by helping neighborhood committees to accurately and objectively find out the demands and problems of the communities. So far, the first-round information collection in forms of questionnaire inquiry and household interview to all 52342 households of the 275 neighborhood committees of the whole district has been finished, and a “mind map” of community work clearly exhibiting community information, resource distribution and development venation and accurately serving for demands of all kinds of people has been drawn.
Mass work says goodbye to “stepping on the cotton”
Extended from the standardized construction of neighborhood committees, the community analysis tools introduced professional techniques in the field of social work, took “community structure” as the original point to divide the constituent elements of a community into community information, community resources, community mobilization, community demands and problems, responding strategies, interaction assessments and other parts, and divide the process of community analysis into three phases, namely community understanding (data statistics and results reviewing), community responding and community evaluation, and made data of investigation the “treasure chest” for residential areas to get a clear picture of residents’ family conditions, demands and problems, making residential area officials emboldened in handling residents’ demands with basis, instead of “stepping on the cotton without knowing how to do exactly”.
When speaking of the usage of “Community Analysis Tools”, Zhou Rong, Secretary of CPC General Branch of Sanxing Neighborhood Committee of West Zhijiang Road Sub-district told the reporter bluntly that, when he saw the seemingly “professional” sample forms and the three-paper questionnaires at the first, he felt a little bit anxious. “The most difficult thing for conducting community analysis is that we need to visit and have interviews with the residents door to door, to collect complete sample data. Will the residents cooperate with us?” With the doubt, Zhou Rong chose to conduct the pilot experiment for the new tools in Beifang Jiayuan commercial housing estate to see whether they work or not. He won a victory initially as he totally handed out 418 questionnaires and got 301 back. The survey to Beifang Jiayuan almost realized “full coverage” regardless of those non-occupied residents, and therewith a clear and accurate statistical report was formulated. This made Zhou Rong have new understanding of the professional tools. “In fact, community analysis tools create a good opportunity for officials of the residential areas to walk into the houses of the residents, to relearn how to knock at a door and how to talk with residents.” he said.
The community analysis tools not only helped neighborhood committees to scientifically explore and understand the conditions of the residential areas and the demands of the people and improved the efficiency of services for communities and residents, but also became a powerful method to teach and cultivate new community workers. Thus, the “green hand” of community work can quickly understand the communities and master the methods and steps to find and solve problems by utilizing the community analysis tools as the “baby walker”.
“At first, when chatting with residents, I was just like “stepping on the cotton” without knowing what to talk about at all and awkward circumstances would come only after a few words. Besides, I was even unaware of the basic information such as how many buildings and how many households were there in the housing estate.” Post-85s (the generation born between 1985 and 1990) girl Zhu Zhouhuan, Probationary Secretary of Sanxing Neighborhood Committee, can still vividly remember the circumstance when she just joined the neighborhood committee to work. After taking part in the pilot experiment of community analysis work, she had a complete understanding of the type, location, population and resources of the housing estate while filling in the forms, and got familiar with the conditions of the whole community in no time, quickly growing into a “utility player” in terms of community work.
Let key demands “float out”
Beifang Jiayuan is the housing estate chosen by Sanxing Neighborhood Committee as the sample. For this commercial housing estate with relatively good infrastructures built just ten years ago, the officials of the neighborhood committee had been considering that the focal point for strengthening services was the public soft services such as childcare and aged care badly needed by the residents in the community. However, the conclusions they drew after utilizing the “Community Analysis Tools” were totally another story.
When analyzing the information data concerning residents’ demands, Zhou Rong and his fellows found that 92% of the residents expressed their demand for improvement of communal facilities, which totally overturned their anticipation at that time. So, the neighborhood committee timely invited 13 households of residents who ticked the demand to sit down to have an interview together, and “knocked at the door” of several residents to learn about what communal facilities on earth need to be improved in their minds. “Residents taking part in the interview are those who rarely come into contact with the neighborhood committee at ordinary times.” Zhou Rong said that many residents had complained about the coexistence of people and vehicles as well as the simple and crude decorations at the main gate of the community and expressed their hope for improvement. This kind of demand was not “emergent, difficult and perplexing”, but affected the residents’ feelings. Having found the key point, the neighborhood committee then launched the renovation project on the main gate of the community. The designing scheme was quickly passed by a vast majority of the residents and the upgrading and renovation of the gate was completely smoothly. Now, at the main gate of the housing estate, the pedestrian and vehicular access systems have been strictly divided into two different parts, and the facade of the doorkeeper sentry box looks more distinguished after re-decoration. The residents light up with pleasure when going in and out of the housing estate through the gate as it is the fruit of their affirmative votes.
Huang Beihua, Deputy Director of Civil Affairs Bureau of Jing’an District expressed that it was not uncommon to see the discrepancy between daily experience and results of researches and analysis similar to what appeared in Beifang Jiayuan in the work of neighborhood committees. Community analysis tools are actually the master tools to realize precision services in grassroots communities. Presenting the mastered information, resources and demands through digital methods helps grassroots workers to learn about communities including what are communities and what the community has and lacks, and carry out community work based on these.
Lead community governance work into an “orderly state”
In the interview, Zhou Rong also told the reporter that it was the different status of the community outlined with “data” and the community he thought he was familiar with that made him break through the traditional thinking model, learn to conduct scientific analysis by himself, and find the accurate acting point for orderly community governance. The neighborhood committee has used the results of community analysis as basis when formulating its work plan and project budget of this year. “In the past, we used to collect opinions through party members and backbones of residents in the community, and their suggestions were always very similar. But now, by listing residents’ demands with the help of the community analysis tools, we can not only make our services to residents more accurate and to the point, but also alleviate the work burdens of the neighborhood committee in a another form.” he said.
According to the introduction of Huang Beihua, the data can be processed hierarchically for different demands. The neighborhood committees have the ability and resources to respond to and solve residents’ demands, and encouraging neighborhood committees to solve the demands and promote the interaction between them and residents is essentially the purpose of community analysis. In addition, sub-districts and towns can review the data again, and study the feasibility of elevating some common demands to public service and public management projects of the sub-districts. Huang Beihua revealed at the same time that the community demand report of the whole Jing’an District was planned to be released within this year, to provide data support for relevant government sectors in their categorized guidance, policy support and decision making to communities.