Peter J Wilcoxen > MAX 401 Civic Engagement Action Plan Workshop

Assessment of the Problem and Population

Please prepare a detailed assessment of the specific social problem and target population you're addressing. Follow the format below, including the section headings but omitting the instructions below the headings. To help make the assignment clearer, each section contains a short paragraph showing the kinds of things that might be included there for the following hypothetical project: helping low income kids who have undiagnosed but correctable vision problems. The project would focus on first and second graders in school district X.


Provide an updated and expanded version of the "specific problem and population affected" section of your prospectus. That is, provide a high-level description of the specific social problem you're addressing, and the geographic area and demographic group(s) on which you are focusing. It doesn't need to have a lot of citations (that will come later, in your research review) but it should make points that you will eventually be able to substantiate via citations or data.

Example project:

Would briefly explain: (1) why low income students are at greater risk of having uncorrected vision (i.e., whether it's because they're not tested, or that they're tested but never get appropriate glasses, or something else); (2) how poor vision can impair the ability of children to do well in school, leading to worse outcomes for both the kids and their community (that is, what makes it a social problem); (3) an appropriate threshold for "low income" (i.e., family incomes below the poverty line, or the kids qualify for subsidized lunches, or some other criterion); and (4) the broad characteristics of school district X (i.e., urban, suburban or rural, relative ranking on achievement tests, high school graduation rate, etc.).

Details on the population affected

Provide quantitative details on the target population. How many people are there? What do you know about their demographic or socio-economic characteristics? Include as much detail as possible to make the scope of the problem clear--both its magnitude and in terms of its geographic and demographic incidence. This section must have some sort of bottom line figure for the number of people you're trying to reach, even if it is pretty rough at this point.

Example project:

Would provide: (1) The number of first and second grade students in the district; (2) the number of those students who are (or who are likely to be) below the income cutoff; (3) the frequency of undiagnosed vision problems in similar populations; (4) an inference from that information about either or both of the following: the likely number of kids who need to be tested (not all of whom will have vision problems) or the number of kids who actually have vision problems; (5) other demographic characteristics that may help you find ways to reach the students (i.e., numbers of students who are refugees, or are from households whose first language is not English, or are from particular religious or cultural backgrounds).

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Peter J Wilcoxen, The Maxwell School, Syracuse University
Revised 01/18/2019