What is the 2012 Community Assessment Project?

The Community Assessment Project was led by a diverse coalition of individuals from nonprofits, foundations, government, corporations, and education to study the quality of life in Santa Clara County. They brought a variety of perspectives and experiences and helped to design the surveys, gather research, and analyze the results. What distinguishes this assessment is its emphasis on measuring how well people think their lives are going in a few key areas as well as their thoughts and feelings about their community. The goal was to better understand our community’s assets as well as its challenges.

What did the Assessment Project discover?

The findings show while the quality of life in Santa Clara County is good, people are longing for a sense of community, insecure about their financial situation, and stressed by the pace and pressure to keep up in this competitive economy. While people like the rich diversity found in Silicon Valley, they feel like they don’t know their neighbors well enough and don’t know how to connect with others not like them.

Additionally, the study confirmed that many residents are struggling to make ends meet and there is a significant gap in quality of life depending on where people live, how educated they are, their ethnicity, and how much money they earn. In addition, participants expressed that “it’s up to us” as individual community members to improve our quality of life and make our community a better place to live.

How did the Assessment Project gather information?

Input and perspectives about quality of life were gathered through a phone survey of 1,200 randomly selected individuals, an online survey that was completed by more than 3,100 individuals, and more than 80 small-group community conversations. In addition, more than 50 reports were reviewed. These secondary sources included U.S. Census data as well as existing reports compiled by a wide range of outside organizations.

The phone survey included a representative sampling based on age, gender, race and ethnicity, and included randomly generated cell and landline phone numbers. 1,200 Santa Clara County adults participated and it was conducted in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking residents were referred to the Chinese version of the online survey, which was open to all Santa Clara County residents. The online survey was available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Questions were asked in a number of key areas, including income and standard of living, education, health, neighborhood conditions, transportation, and community participation and connections. Demographic data was also collected.

About 500 people participated in 80+ small-group community conversations, held in diverse communities across the county in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Organized and conducted by United Way Silicon Valley and its partners, these were informal gatherings that included open-ended questions and free-flowing discussions about quality of life issues. Each session was recorded and detailed transcripts are available. These community conversations allowed the coalition to dig deeper and uncover richer results.

We are making this entire body of data public so it can be used by policymakers, funders, community advocates, service providers, neighborhood associations, and others who are interested in improving community conditions.