Community mapping

$1k to $5k
estimated cost of external help
  • Scan and research
  • Explore options
  • Consult
0-2 weeks
estimated run time
3-5 weeks
estimated lead time
Confident facilitator
recommended experience
Also called asset mapping, this is a process of identifying places, resources and people (assets) in a community that are underutilised, provide an opportunity or otherwise have relevance to a task at hand. This process usually centres on identifying these assets on a map, but can be conducted in person through physically visiting the area, or through discussion around a map. When conducted online, the map is the central point of discussion with participants able to ‘pin’ locations, use categories, and comment on each others’ pins.

The process can be particularly useful to designing service delivery programs as it can uncover important allies or physical barriers for the program or recipients. The process should be led with a clear aim in mind, and can be particularly powerful in helping participants feel empowered and connected in designing solutions to their own challenges.

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In 5 steps...

  1. Determine how you want participants to indicate assets. This could include travelling through the area to point out assets of interest, discussion around physical map, virtual map, or some combination of these.
  2. Invite a range of participants in relation to the challenge at hand. It can be useful to include participants from the general public, specific interest groups, local government, and employees of local services such as libraries etc.
  3. Clearly communicate the purpose of the map to participants so they understand what they should be locating for you. At the same time, clarify and define any categories of asset you might be looking for – eg. organisational, associations, individuals, environments/spaces, cultural etc.
  4. Through discussion, or other triggers such as walking or storytelling, help participants to identify areas of interest within the community. Record these assets on a map or into an inventory of some sort.
  5. Connect assets mapped back to a plan of action. How do each help you achieve your goals? Communicate this plan back to participants. It might be worth checking with them at the same time if your thinking is achievable or realistic.

When to use it

A community mapping exercise can be particularly helpful when you need assistance or support of the local community to achieve a goal. Particularly in communities which do not already have a strong sense identity or connection between members.

Community mapping can empower community members to find new, undiscovered ways to solve their own problems – for example enabling new mothers to use an existing community asset such as a library, as a meeting point to share or swap an existing asset of excess baby toys on a given day, to save money and make new friends. This can reduce dependence of a group on institutions, or shift perception of an institution from seeing that group as a source of problems to being able to provide them with means to help themselves.


  • Quickly locate key stakeholders and distribution channels.
  • Improve relationships and sense of opportunity.
  • Empower problem owners to become problem solvers.
  • Establish a local networks.
  • Understand potential effects of a policy or service.
Long term

• Higher-quality, better-aligned solutions.
• Increased levels of support and enthusiasm for the project.
• Better relationships between the project team and key stakeholders.


  • Your map will only be as good as the knowledge of those in the room. Try to get a mix of people with deep personal connections into the community, business owners, local government, and deliverers of services to the community.
  • Without focus you could end up with a lot of information which isn’t directly helpful to your policy or service design. Be sure to careful craft questions and test these before getting started.
  • Be careful to capture ‘why’ participants felt an asset was relevant, in addition to the asset itself, or it might not make much sense to you later. It can also be helpful to capture the ‘who’ too, so you know more about how that asset is being used right now.
  • If you are doing a walk or drive through of an area, ensure that you assess for safety and advise participants of any issues such as road safety, visibility or other hazards in your initial briefing.



  • If using a map, consider what type of map is best. For many processes google maps style street maps will work fine. But in more decentralised communities such as rural shires, a more stylised map that uses key landmarks as much as roads may be preferable. Allow enough time to source and set up your map before your event.
  • If using a physical map, mount it to foam board or similar to allow the use of pins.
  • When finalising your key purpose or questions for participants, consider if you need more than one question to get all the assets you are looking for. And also how you might ask users to tag things differently depending on the question.
  • If running online, consider if you want to enable participants to see and ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ with other users’ identified assets. The impact may be different if you see how many people identify an asset on their own versus adding their name and comment to an already identified asset.

During the process

  • If using a virtual map, encourage participants to share the map using social media or email sharing tools.
  • If hosting the exercise in person, consider if recording the discussion is viable or desirable. There may be benefit for you in being able to revisit conversations about specific assets, which are rich in anecdotes or contact names that might not make it onto the map.
  • Keep the focus positive. You are looking for things that can help, more than for issues in the community in most cases. However, if there are meaningful physical barriers, such as mobile reception blackspots, or areas not served by public transport, include these. Just make sure that they are relevant to the task at hand.


  • Share any report or directory that is generated with the participants. They will often be quite keen to have the information for themselves to make new connections in their community.

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