Trend lines visualize significant changes, over time, in key issues in the community; these issues are usually considered markers of community health. Topics for trend lines often reflect themes people consider important, for example, teen pregnancy, infant mortality, obesity, violent crime, graffiti and vandalism, etc.
It can be used to learn from the community how it views important changes or trends; to assist in problem identification and analysis; to focus community attention on positive and negative changes over time; to illustrate different perceptions within particular socio-economic segments of the community - when done in groups formed according to age, gender etc.; to provide foundational information for basic messages or discussion themes and appeals to the community.
Explain the purpose of the exercise. The facilitator and participants determine a list of topics of interest for the trends. Sub-groups are organized according to gender, socio-economic status, age etc., depending on the topics selected and the community composition.
Explain the concept of trends using a simple graph. Explain how time (in years), moves from left to right along the bottom axis, and the rate of how the meeting topic increases or decreases on the upright axis. (participants may be able to identify it with the concept of a child-growth chart). Ask the groups to draw their lines on the sand, or on the floor.
Quantification is not always easy. Ask questions, if necessary, i.e. 'when was the most; the least?' Another way of doing so is with stones (i.e. 1 stone is an extension officer, or 1 malnourished child etc.). Use the discussion of trends to probe for explanations of the changes. This will help identify underlying problems and traditional activities to correct the situation. For instance, if soil erosion is getting worse, ask why and find out what measures have been tried in the past and how well they have worked. Ask what they think might ease the situation. Copy the trends and the explanations onto paper.