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Introduction to Community Asset Mapping

Compiled by S.Rengasamy, Faculty member, Madurai Institute of Social Sciences to

introduce the concept to MSW Students

Community mapping is generally understood to mean a visual, geographic

representation of community characteristics. However, the term can also be
used in a conceptual sense, to mean an inventory of information with or
without a visual representation. In addition to geographic mapping, the
dictionary includes the following definitions: to delineate as if on a map, to
survey, to locate, to plan in detail (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary). In
either sense, Community Mapping is a tool, not a product. Persons interested
in community development, youth development, and other issues of
community functioning can use Community Mapping to illuminate
relationships and to suggest or focus strategies toward specific goals.

The term Community mapping is being used in various ways:

1. Community mapping in the literal, geographic, sense refers to the
presentation of data on a base map of roads, parcels, or blocks. The visual
representation of data through Community mapping can be a dramatic
way to establish a common knowledge base among a group of diverse
persons concerned with improving or changing outcomes for communities
and their residents.

2. Community mapping also conceptually refers to a process of inventorying

the resources or assets available to a specified neighborhood or
community. It includes inventorying of public capital and cultural
resources as well as community assets for individual development.This
conceptual approach is identified as Community Asset Mapping.

3. Community Mapping can also refer to an “abstract” graphic presentation

of relationships that exist within a specified community (village / urban
ward) without reference to geographic location. This visual presentation of
relationships, generally known as ecomapping, is identified as Community
Relationship Mapping.

Advantages of Community Mapping

Used analytically, community mapping can help people to
see similarities or differences in the spatial distribution of
socio-economic realities. It provides a different
perspective on what is commonly known about an area
and its physical and socio-economic characteristics. Thus,
it can validate the perceptions of decision-makers and
residents—or it can establish factually that “commonly
held truths” are misperceptions based on incomplete or
mis-information, biases, or personal experience.

Methodology of Mapping
Spend several hours (or even days) in doing a comprehensive community map. You can
start with a brief “walking, cycling or biking survey” –Then, get on foot and dig deeper.
Use the questions below to guide your search for visible and hidden community assets. You
may also further tailor the questions or have additional ones related to the purpose and
project you have in mind.

The first step …What to understand?

One can start anywhere from the population, housing, worship places, economy, streets etc. there
is no customized way.

People in the neighborhoods and communities

1. What are the demographics of people that live in the community?
2. What occupations do they hold? What are some of the skills associated with the main
3. What are the patterns of residence based on income?
4. What are the patterns of residence based on caste, religion?
5. What are the most popular places to congregate or meet?
6. What are the most traveled routes?
7. What are the migration patterns, e.g., has the population changed much in the past few decades
and in what ways?
8. Has the population been there a long time or short time?

1. What is the type of housing?
2. What is the age of housing?
3. What is the condition of housing? Are there patterns evident in the type, age, condition by
income, caste, religion etc.?
4. What is the median cost for a home? What is the median cost of a vacant plot (per cent)?
5. Is there affordable housing? How is it subsidized? How is it allocated?
6. Is there new housing being constructed?

Maps shape our perceptions. They define boundaries and politics and communicate
Mapping is important because it allows us to respond to broad geographical and societal
issues. Maps are useful to understand and identify spatial links and explain concepts in a
visual way that can be easily understood. Maps represent compilations of information about
selected physical and human features

Institutional Assets
Education and schools
1. How many schools are there including preschool, elementary, high school, college, graduate
programs, and vocational education? Map them.
2. Are there any unique or special attributes of the schools in the area?
3. Are there known associations supporting or working on education, such as PTAs, parental
associations, teacher associations, nonprofits?
Health and Human Services
1. Are there clinics and hospitals in the area?
2. What about physicians’ or dentists’ offices?
3. Are there mental health, drug rehabilitation, or other similar facilities?
4. Are there organizations that provide health education, AIDS/HIV education, or other similar
5. Are there shelters, meal services, or other residential care facilities for the homeless, victims of
domestic violence or abuse?
6. What city, county or governmental agencies actively provide health and human services and
where are they located?

1. What is the condition or road and bridges?
2. What is the condition of public transportation (buses, bus lines, bus stops)? Does it vary by
3. What are the patterns and types of traffic? Are there any hazards for children, students, or
4. What is the average commute time for work? How easy or hard is travel in the area?

Organizational Assets
Business, Economy and Employment
1. What kinds of businesses are there? Consider for for-profit and nonprofit businesses that
provide jobs and employment opportunities.
2. What kinds of businesses are missing or absent, especially considering the basic needs of
3. What kinds of work, service, internship, and other opportunities are there for students and
young people?
4. What is the balance of businesses owned/operated by people living in the community and
people who don’t live in the community?
5. What kinds of partnerships exist, if any, between small and large businesses and nonprofits,
social service agencies and other voluntary groups?
6. What types of training and education agencies or Community Mapping
entrepreneurial programs related to business and PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER
Context determines if
employment exist (such as occupational mapping is
training/employment centers)?  geographic or conceptual
7. What are the major nonprofit organizations in the area? Before you map
Are they locally focused or otherwise? What are their  know your purpose
funding streams and/or funding focus areas?  define issues
8. What is the prevalence and role of tourism in the  know your strategy
community?  set up an action
Determine to establish the base
Media map
Train students in mapping
1. What newspapers and publications, including small, Beware of pitfalls in presenting
independently operated ones, are in the community? Or, data
Use data to
where are these newspapers located?
2. What are the media sources most read by community members?
3. Where do radio and t.v. stations/service originate?
4. Are there public access points or channels? What kind of coverage do they do?

1. Where are the points of public (free) access to computers, the Internet, etc. (if any)?
2. Are there facilities where the public or community members can get training in technology?
3. How is the Internet or technology being used for small or large business?
4. How comfortable/knowledgeable do you find community residents to be in using
computers/the Internet? How does this vary by age or other factors?

1. What local government offices are located in the community?
2. What country government offices are located in the community?
3. What federal government offices are located in the community?
4. What law enforcement offices are located in the community? What are the relationships
between law enforcement and citizen groups? Are there community policing efforts or
neighborhood watch associations?
5. Are there service, campaign, or internship opportunities available for students with
government agencies?
6. What coordinating governmental bodies or groups are there (e.g., to make accessing
government services easier?)

Physical and Land Assets

1. What type of terrain is there?
2. Are there pieces of land owned by government agencies? Are there large pieces of land owned
by private companies? Who owns the land?
3. Is there land that appears not to be in use?
4. Is there evidence of mining or taking natural resources from the land, now or in the past?
5. Are there vacant buildings? Who owns them? Do they appear safe or serviceable?
6. How would you describe the physical space (e.g., densely populated, open, sparsely populated,
highly developed, undeveloped, etc.)?
7. Are there key physical landmarks, resources or attributes that could be assets in your program?

Historical and Cultural Features

1. What historical or cultural sites are there in the community? Make sure to consider both
commercial and non-commercial places.
2. Are there historical buildings or architectural features?
3. Are there resident artists, musicians, craftspeople, and others involved in historical or cultural
4. Are there museums?
5. Are there community festivals, celebrations, events, functions, and so on? Who sponsors
them? Who attends them?
6. Are there nonprofit or community organizations noted for their work on historical or cultural

Part I -- Skills Information

It is interesting to collect the skills of the local people and one will be surprised at the vast pool
of skills available. List out the skills, read it to any local resident, and ask him just say "yes"
whenever the informant feel that he has that.
Take an interest in all their skills and abilities. They might have learnt it through experience,from
the family, from the job by their association with some body.

Caring for the Elderly ________ Caring for the Mentally Ill ________
Caring for the Sick ________
Caring for the Physically Disabled or Developmentally Disabled ________
Now, I would like to know about the kind of care you provided.
Bathing ________ Feeding ________
Preparing Special Diets ________ Exercising and Escorting ________
Grooming ________ Dressing ________
Making the Person Feel at Ease ________

Typing (words per minute) ________ Operating Adding Machine/Calculator ________
Filing Alphabetically/Numerically ________
Taking Phone Messages ________ Writing Business Letters (not typing) ________
Receiving Phone Orders ________ Operating Switchboard ________
Keeping Track of Supplies ________Shorthand or Speedwriting ________
Bookkeeping ________ Entering Information into Computer ________
Word Processing ________

Construction and Repair

Painting ________ Knocking Out Walls ________
Wall Papering ________ Furniture Repairs ________
Repairing Locks ________ Bathroom Modernization ________
Tile Work ________ Plumbing Repairs ________
Electrical Repairs ________ Bricklaying & Masonry ________
Kitchen Modernization ________ Furniture Making ________
Plastering ________ Soldering & Welding ________
Concrete Work (sidewalks) ________
Installing Windows ________ Building Swimming Pools ________
Carpentry Skills ________ Roofing Repair or Installation ________

Window Washing ________ Floor Waxing or Mopping ________
Washing and Cleaning Carpets/Rugs ________
Routing Clogged Drains ________
Using a Handtruck in a Business ________ General Household Cleaning ________
Fixing Leaky Faucets ________ Gardening ________
Cleaning/Maintaining Swimming Pools ________
Wood Stripping/Refinishing ________

Catering ________
Serving Food to Large Numbers of People (over 10) ________
Preparing Meals for Large Numbers of People (over 10) ________
Clearing/Setting Tables for Large Numbers of People (over 10) ________
Washing Dishes for Large Numbers of People (over 10) ________
Operating Commercial Food Preparation Equipment ________
Meatcutting ________

Child Care
Caring for Babies (under 1 year) ________ Caring for Children (1 to 6) ________
Caring for Children (7 to 13) ________ Taking Children on Field Trips ________

Driving a Car ________ Driving a Van ________
Driving a Bus ________ Driving a Taxi ________
Driving a Tractor Trailer ________ Driving a Commercial Truck ________
Driving a Vehicle/Delivering Goods ________
Operating Farm Equipment ________ Driving an Ambulance ________

Operating Equipment & Repairing Machinery

Repairing Radios, TVs, VCRs, Tape Recorders ________
Repairing Other Small Appliances ________
Repairing Automobiles ________ Repairing Trucks/Buses ________
Repairing Auto/Truck/Bus Bodies _______ Using a Forklift ________
Repairing Large Household Equipment (e.g., refrigerator) ________
Repairing Heating & Air Conditioning System ________
Fixing Washers/Dryers ________
Repairing Elevators ________ Operating a Crane ________
Assembling Items ________

Writing Reports ________ Filling out Forms ________
Planning Work for Other People ________
Directing the Work of Other People ________
Making a Budget ________ Keeping Records of Activities
Interviewing People ________

Operating a Cash Register ________
Selling Products Wholesale or for Manufacturer (If yes, which products?) ________
Selling Products Retail (If yes, which products?) ________
Selling Services (If yes, which services?) ________
How have you sold these products or services? ________
Door to Door ________ Phone ________
Store ________ Home

Singing ________ Play an Instrument (Which one?) ________

Guarding Residential Property ________ Guarding Commercial Property ________
Guarding Industrial Property ________ Armed Guard ________
Crowd Control ________ Installing Alarms or Security Systems ________
Repairing Alarms or Security Systems ________

Upholstering ________ Sewing ________
Dressmaking ________ Knitting ________
Tailoring ________
Moving Furniture or Equipment to Different Locations ________
Managing Property ________ Hair Dressing ________
Hair Cutting ________
Jewelry or Watch Repair ________
Are there any other skills that you have which we haven't mentioned?

Priority Skills
When you think about your skills, what three things do you think you do best?
Which of all your skills are good enough that other people would hire you to do them?
Are there any skills you would like to teach?
What skills would you most like to learn?

Part II -- Community Skills

Have you ever organized or participated in any of the following community activities?
Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts ________ Church Fundraisers ________
School-Parent Associations ________
Sports Teams ________ Camp Trips for Kids ________
Field Trips ________ Political Campaigns ________
Block Clubs ________ Community Groups ________
Rummage Sales ________ Yard Sales ________
Church Suppers ________ Community Gardens ________
Neighborhood Organization ______ Other Groups or Community Work? ________

Part III -- Enterprising Interests and Experience

Business Interest
Have you ever considered starting a business? Yes _____No _____
If yes, what kind of business did you have in mind?
Did you plan to start it alone or with other people? Alone _____Others _____
Did you plan to operate it out of your home? Yes _____No _____
What obstacle kept you from starting the business?

Business Activity
Are you currently earning money on your own through the sale of services or products?Yes
_____No _____
If yes, what are the services or products you sell?
Whom do you sell to?
How do you get customers?
What would help you improve your business?
Institutional Resources
Facilities Use/Rented
Meeting space for:
10 people 50 people 100 people 100 plus

Materials Use/Donated
Books Resource Materials Lab: _____________

Equipment Use/Donated
Copy Machine Desk space Phone Access Computer Use
Word Processing Telecommunications Internet and WWW access

Purchasing Power
Use of local vendors? Local Business Youth Services

Employment Practices
Focus Locally Recruit Locally
Group Presentations Provide Courses

Community Profile
Using the information gathered in your collection of materials and community canvass, complete
a Community Profile, which gives you a good snapshot of the community overall.
Major community & religious Cultural Groups
Educational Attainment
Median Household Income
Patterns of Employment and Unemployment
Key Industries
Biggest Employers
Major Occupations
Main Civic / Temples /Churches/ Mosques and
other Religious organizations
Social Service organizations
Technology Use in
Recreational and Cultural Highlights
Public Participation GIS (PPGIS)
Participatory GIS (PGIS)
PGIS is a term that has been coined to express the adoption of GIS to empower indigenous and
local communities.

The movement represents the vision of GIS practitioners who have developed an interest in the
socio-political contributions that the technology can make to empower less privileged groups in
society. PPGIS is therefore about the role of GIS in a broader consideration of the empowerment
and disempowerment of communities.

It is viewed as an alternative to traditional GIS applications with an agenda to empower

communities who are often ignored in traditional GIS applications.
Some consider PPGIS to be a post-modernist transformation of GIS applications, or an activist
agenda that is directed at the democratization of society, technology and spatial data usage.
The PGIS initiative focuses on generic issues such as empowerment and equal representation.

Maps shape our perceptions. They define boundaries and politics, and communicate power.

Mapping is important because it allows us to respond to broad geographical and societal issues.
Maps are useful to understand and identify spatial links and explain concepts in a visual way that
can be easily understood.
Maps represent compilations of information about selected physical and human features

It is believed that without access to GIS and its analytical capabilities and popular appeal,
ordinary people would find it difficult to respond to official policies that alienate them. The
communities could therefore lose out in public policy debates that involve GIS.

PPGIS provides tools that allow communities to achieve some leverage in their dealings with
state bureaucracy.

According to Obermeyer (1998 p. 6), the movement aims to develop a GIS that will be adaptable
to “inputs from ordinary citizens and other non-official sources”.
Generally, PPGIS projects are designed to move underprivileged groups from a situation where
they have no influence on decisions that affect them, to one where they can fully participate and
have a decided impact on the outcomes.

It is the empowerment of weaker members of society, rather than the production of information
for official policy decisions that drive PPGIS applications. Recorded benefits of PPGIS projects
thus include advocacy of popular causes, a better understanding of local issues, and accessibility
of communities to digital spatial information.


Craig and Elwood (1998) believe the organizations adopt GIS for the following reasons:
1. Administrative purposes: i.e., program evaluation
2. Strategic purposes: i.e., assessment of local or neighborhood needs
3. Organizational purposes: i.e., recruitment of members, and
4. Tactical purposes: i.e., counter-mapping, representation of local knowledge etc.,


In inner cities and local communities in North America and Europe where technical competency
and cost has been a barrier to GIS implementation, PPGIS applications occur within several
organizational arrangements (Leitner et. al., 1998). These include:
1. Community-University partnerships with inner city communities (Ghose, 1999; Elwood
2001, Elwood and Leitner 1998: Craig and Elwood; 1998)
2. Grassroots social organizations (Sieber 2001, Martin 2000, Meredith et. al 2001, Tulloch
3. Community-based in house GIS (Craig and Elwood 1998, Sawicki and Burke 2001)
4. GIS facilities in Universities and Public Libraries
5. Map Rooms (City of Minneapolis Map Room, Leitner et al, 1998)
6. Internet Map Servers and Web-based PPGIS (Kingston 2001)
7. Neighborhood GIS Centers (Elwood, 2001, Ghose, 1999)

Characteristics of Traditional GIS Applications and PPGIS Practice

Traditional GIS Characteristic Participatory GIS
Technology and people Focus People, process and technology
Facilitate official Empower communities
policymaking. Improve Motivation/Goal Facilitate public participation.
software programs
Public officials, decision Participants Local, underprivileged groups
Supply driven, technological Implementation Demand and need driven
Because it is possible Why adopt? Because it is needed
Rigid, hierarchical & Organization Flexible, open and participatory
Decided by GIS experts Details of Decided by users/focus groups
Led and controlled by GIS Role of GIS GIS experts act as facilitators
experts Experts
Multipurpose applications Project Type Specific projects
Public organizations & large Local, rural and indigenous
private enterprises in Western Place communities in both developed
developed nations. and developing countries
Top down, hierarchically Bottom up, grassroots and citizen
Information Flow
structured. participation.
Capital intensive projects Expenditure Low cost projects
State and corporate funding Sponsorship Donations, NGO support.
Big and complex systems Size of Systems Small and simple systems