Building On Assets With Community Mapping
Community mapping (also referred to as asset mapping) is the process of creating a geographic representation of a community’s characteristics, specifically, its assets: the people, organizations, places, and institutions that can create real and impactful change. The idea is that each of these assets has the potential to make a positive difference in the community, but they need each other’s help to do so.
Budget restrictions, a lack of resources, and a shortage of human power can make it difficult for any group to make a community-wide impact on its own, but by working together, the potential for change is heightened exponentially. In short, community mapping is about what a community has to offer, and the opportunities those offerings provide.
At the heart of community mapping is the concept of asset-based development. Historically, governments and other institutions have viewed community development through a lens that focused on deficiencies and shortcomings; they aimed to solve a community’s problems by focusing on those problems. They’d map crime, unemployment, poverty, and illness trying to diagnose what was wrong with the area in order to fix it. Asset-based development, on the other hand, looks at what there is to value about an area. It’s about solving problems by focusing on what tools and resources you have available.
Types Of Community Assets
Individual assets are what the people in a community bring to the table. This could include knowledge, experience, and skills such as creativity, organization, advocacy, or leadership. While these assets are smaller in scale than the others, they are arguably the most important. At the end of the day, it’s the people a community has at its disposal that create change.
Community assets include local associations, events, and activities. Associations in this context refer to a group of individuals who team up around a common goal that benefits the community as a whole (either deliberately or inadvertently). This could include neighborhood groups, social groups, religious groups, youth groups, clubs, etc.
Last, institutional assets are established organizations that were created to better the community. These could include religious organizations (mosques, temples, churches, etc.), schools, libraries, fire departments, hospitals, parks, shops, shelters, facilities, and more.
The Goals Of Community Mapping
The aim of community mapping is to collect data around the assets and resources within a community to create meaningful service projects. More specifically, asset mapping helps community leaders:
- Assess if existing resources are effectively achieving the desired outcome – essentially, to see if resources are being used to their full potential
- Pinpoint which new resources are needed to reach and sustain goals
- Prevent unnecessary duplication of resources
- Encourage collaboration across agencies by sharing information, pooling resources, and coordinating efforts
- Develop comprehensive policies and implement them across agencies
How To Create A Community Map
Build Your Team
The most important people on your team hands down will be the members of your community. The people who live in the area will have experienced what makes it great firsthand, and they may be able to offer a unique perspective, as they are the ones who benefit from a technologically advanced hospital, a beautiful park, a well-stocked library, and the knowledge of their neighbors.
The next people to include in your team are local leaders. This could include the fire chief, members of the local school board, business owners, religious leaders, or anyone else who has a major influence on residents. These leaders will likely have some insights about the resources available to the community, as they may have helped others navigate them at various points in time. What’s more, respected leaders will be able to get residents on board with the project.
Finally, you’ll want to include elected officials such as the town council on your mapping team. These individuals represent the community’s interests in a formal manner, and their support will be invaluable. Elected officials have the ability to influence budget allocations, planning, and policies, so they can help facilitate change once the map is complete.
After you’ve gathered your team of community map makers, you can begin collecting data. A great place to start is with public records, which could include information on local businesses, emergency services, schools, religious organizations, and community amenities. You can also gather data the old-fashioned way, firsthand. Ask residents what resources they’ve used or know about, as this will not only help you identify assets but gauge which of those assets are most helpful to real people.
Modern technology will also be of huge assistance in this phase of a community mapping project. With GIS, you can instantly toggle on parcel data to find information about all of the structures in the community, upload datasets, and even create your own database.
Visualize Your Findings
Finally, it’s time to build your map, and once again, GIS will be incredibly useful. You’ll want to start with a base map, then add a layer for any data you’ve found (you could add a layer for charities, institutional assets, financial resources, youth programs, etc.). By layering community assets, you can gain insights not otherwise apparent. Maybe you find that you’re lacking youth programs, or maybe your assets are clustered in certain areas, or perhaps there’s an excess of financial resources in one area while others are lacking. With this knowledge, you can make a plan to capitalize on your resources, bettering the community by focusing on the good.
Community Mapping Made Easy With MapRight
Every community has its own set of unique benefits, but without a comprehensive overview of those benefits, it’s difficult to use them to their full potential. That’s where MapRight comes in. With MapRight, you can easily create a community map detailing all that your area has to offer, and you don’t need a degree in GIS to do so. Our software takes the technical aspects out of GIS map making so that novices and professionals alike can make the most out of this technology. With a few clicks, you can toggle on and off GIS layers for parcel data, zip codes, or land use, attach photos and videos to different points on your map, and even create your own databases. Ready to give it a go? Start your 14-day free trial of MapRight today!