Community Mapping, often referred to as Public Participatory Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS), can be used to narrate a story surrounding what is occurring everyday (at every second) in our communities. However, community mapping as we see it, can in some parts of the world be a drawing in the sand.
Whereas regular maps seek conformity, community maps embrace diversity in their presentation and content. That said, to be useful for outside groups such as state authorities, the closer the maps follow recognized cartographic conventions, the greater the likelihood they will be embraced as effective communication tools.
During Community Mapping events, community members come together to collect data, which by nature is varied – an inventory of health centers, restaurants, pedestrian infrastructure, toxic emissions, health conditions, the list is endless. The goal – improve the community, curb violence, and increase local economic revenue bases. Community mapping empowers the public by providing opportunities to have a lasting, positive influence on their community. The maps that are generated are used to document community needs and assist with consensus-building and decision-making for improved program designs and policies at a public-sector level.
There are several great websites which are creating training sessions on how to get people more involved in community mapping. Engaging Together is a U.K. organization aimed just this where they list all community assets present in the Dudley borough, and communicate how they use these assets to build relationships and strengthen communities by bringing together a contingency of individuals thus creating a sense of belonging. However, to create community mapping that sticks, one needs technology.
The next generation of community mapping is the Geme.io app which aims to include community asset mapping on various levels. This will help to stimulate and motivate change in the local society, and the app is specifically useful is when:
- There are people not engaged in their local community and/or isolated from relationships with their neighbors.
- A community is fractured with little belief that it can change.
- There are no community associations or where those that do exist are exhausted, characterized by low membership and dominated by public agency agendas.
- Agencies only see the community as a source of problems and needs and cannot visualize potential solutions.
- There is a group of people who organizations see as dependent – for example, people with learning disabilities. This people can thus be empowered.
- Communities and staff who both desire change and see the world differently. By making potential changes visible, assets are uncovered which is where change can thus occur.
Community Asset mapping levels – actual and potential:
The assets of community individuals: these are skills, knowledge, networks, time, interests and passions. Residents can be asked what is positive about where they live, and what they could do to make life better for their community. This can be done by a municipality using the app.
The assets of associations in community: this is not just formal community organizations or voluntary groups. It includes all the informal networks and ways that people come together: football teams, allotment associations, workplaces and so on. For example, a pub quiz team has members of interest, but it could also offer fundraising and networks.
The assets of organizations in community: this is not just the services that organizations deliver locally, but also the infrastructure assets they control, e.g., parks, community centers etc. In fact, it covers anything that could be put to the use of a community to improve its wellbeing. It includes staff and their influence and expertise.
The physical assets of a local community: the green space, unused land, buildings, streets, markets, and transportation in the area. Mapping these assets helps people to appreciate their value and to realize the potential productive uses.
The economic community assets: economic activity lies at the heart of rebuilding a community. What skills and talents are not being used in the local economy? How do local associations contribute to the local economy by attracting investment and generating jobs and income? Could public spending in the area be used to employ local people instead of outside professionals? How could the residents spend more of their money in local shops and businesses and increase local economic activity?
The cultural community assets: everyday life is full of creativity and culture. This involves the mapping of talents for music, drama, art and opportunities for everyone to express themselves in ways that reflect their values and identities.
We are asking all local authorities worldwide to embrace community mapping not as expert mapping, but as a human interaction mapping initiative. Let’s map together!