Asset Mapping: Tips on Mapping for Community Development

Interracial HandsThe best way to help a community grow is to map its assets. If you’re leading a community, you should consider asset mapping as a helpful way to see what’s available in a community to build off of.

Learn how to cultivate a community with this course. Here’s some helpful tips and tricks for asset mapping your community.

What is asset mapping?

Asset mapping is a project taken from asset based community development. The idea is to take an inventory of the capacities available throughout the community. That is, talk to the residents to find out the skills and experiences available. The next part is to discover what ideas that particular community cares about enough to take action for or against it. Finally, it has to be discovered how the citizens can come together to achieve any goals the community might have.

The idea behind asset mapping began with Northwestern University’s Asset-Based Community Development Institute in Evanston, Illinois. The Asset-Based Community Development Institute considers local assets to be the primary items a community can use to develop and develop strongly. By using the skills of the residents, the support available from local institutions, and the power of local associations, the community can build upon its strengths to grow that much stronger. Learn the basics of building a community.

How to Implement Asset Mapping in Your Community

According to the University of Missouri and Lincoln University, there is no one way to map the assets of the community. However, there are a few key areas to cover so that your asset map will be complete. First, you’re going to want to know the talents or gifts each individual in that community can offer. This can be anywhere from financial resources, specific skills needed, education or training, networking, etc.

Second, you’re going to want to consider their associations. The associations that are created by these individuals can be informal or formal depending on how many people within the community are interested in something. These interests will give you a better idea of who to turn to depending on your project. Don’t forget to consider just how long your asset map needs to be.

The size of your asset map will depend on the geographical focus of the program. You can work on an asset map as small as a single neighborhood to something as large as a county-wide map of assets. Your asset map should be personalized toward the program you are trying to create. As an example, consider the fact that many low-income students don’t have safe, distraction-free places where they can do their homework.

You should begin your asset map by finding the skills, training, and gifts that can help with your program. With creating a safe place for students to do homework, you’re likely going to need some people to watch over them, especially if they’re minors. Having an idea of your community’s talents will give you the ability to know exactly who to pick.

The next thing you’re going to want to do is find community associations both informal and formal that could help you create or implement this program. Obviously an association created for people who love to knit will not be helpful in this case, but perhaps you find a formal organization that’s willing to give the students a place to go to. Now, you likely have tutors and teachers, and you have a building. Lastly, you’re going to want to create a resources for those that need more help than your program offers.

Reaching out to your local institutions will give you resources you can pass on to those in your program. Perhaps you have a student that needs to read a particular book for a project. Budget cuts have left the school without the book the student needs. He might be able to find the book in a local library or even at a college library. Reach out to those institutions so that you can send students over to those places to get the help they need. Create a Facebook page for your program to reach those that need your help.

An Example Asset Mapping Template

When gathering this information, you’re going to want to have somewhere to put all of it. There’s likely going to be a lot of people in the community, and you won’t remember everything. Here’s an example template you can use to map out your community’s assets, produced by the University of Missouri and Lincoln University:

Problem, Issue or Concern to be AddressedGeographic Area to be ReachedResources RequiredMembers of the Community & Notes Regarding Skills or TalentsHelpful AssociationsInstitutional Resources
An after school program to give low-income students a safe place to complete homeworka local school district within one townA building to hold the students in, local people willing to tutor or watch students, money for computers or other equipment, local resources available for students to turn to for help
  • Jessica Smith – local teacher willing to watch and tutor students on Thursdays and Fridays
  • John Bush – local IT employee willing to help set up computers and network when equipment is received
  • Ray Johnson – chair of local Moose Lodge willing to host students in lodge
  • Erika Solis – manager of a local Best Buy willing to work with corporate for a donation of equipment
  • active PTA in the district
  • Moose Lodge
  • local library
  • local schools
  • local Best Buy
  • local colleges and universities

Things to Remember

When creating an asset map, you’re going to have to be specific in what is needed. Although a generalized map of everything available in the community might be helpful, it could take you a very long time to even get it done. Rather, you’ll want to try and keep your asset maps focused on a specific problem or some other thing that needs to be addressed. Using this as your “theme” for your asset map will give you a better idea of who to approach first and what resources you have in your community. Create an online community.