Mapping Community Assets


Mapping Community Assets

This group builds on the publication of 'Appreciating Assets'. It focuses on sharing approaches to community-led asset mapping. 

Location: Global
Members: 85
Latest Activity: Jul 9, 2013

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Harnessing Community Assets: Stories from Applecross

Those who’ve been following the ‘Assets, health and the power of the narrative’ thread might remember the discussion around stories…Continue

Tags: narrative, story, asset, stories, mapping

Started by Gill Musk Aug 6, 2012.

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Comment by William McCaig Johnson on July 17, 2012 at 17:20

I find useful ABCD consultant & trainer Mike Green and his book/dvd set "ABCD In Action."  See:

See also Luther Snow and his work:

Comment by Chrissie Gillies on July 17, 2012 at 17:01

We are working towards a questionnaire to go out to all residents of North Harris and have been advised to get someone to help guide us through what we are doing.

I would appreciate any advice that would point me in the direction of a consultant that could help us.

Also, any suggestions regarding community engagement theory or practice would be fantastic!

Cheers, Chrissie :)

Comment by Susan Pettie on May 28, 2012 at 15:44

The Institute for Research & Innovation in Social Services have been doing some work on this. They have a blog

Asset Mapping IRISS

And have set up a space on the public service Knowledge Hub

Asset Based Approaches in Scotland Knoweldge Hub

Comment by Susan Pettie on May 28, 2012 at 15:40

Just arriving to these discussions and comments, and have already posted the following in response to Gill's 'Assets and the power of narrative'.
Thought however I'd share it here as well and point out that in our work we used the Compass of Resilience developed by Nick and others for the 'Exploring Community Resilience' publication.
We've been working with the power of narrative and culture change in relation to low income thriving in an urban area. Though some say Govan is like an isolated island in the midst of the city.
Govan Together was a collaborative climate change project which focused on celebrating and building on that which the place and her people have going for them. As part of the project we've published a community broadsheet. Both as creative evaluation and as a narrative based change intervention. This includes a mapping insert, as well as stories and information about what the project did and was aiming for.

Here's the links to the online version.

Govan Thegither

Govan Thegither Map Insert

However it's best read on paper so if your in Govan at all there are copies in the Pearce Institute. x

Comment by Tom Archer on May 24, 2012 at 9:32

Hi Nick, Gill,

There's so much in there, the majority of which I would hugely advocate/support.

Nick, I have a lot of time for these ideas around the limits of our social/economic/ecological systems.  Often, when I'm doing the shopping, I get a sense of how all our lifestyles are sustained by fervent consumption.  To opt out of this consumption (en masse) could leave lots of people without jobs, life prospects etc (this is actually what's happening in our recession).  Yet to 'opt in' to this consumption is perhaps to support something ultimately unsustainable.  What a horrible catch 22. Perhaps there is hope however. As Kropotkin argued, when social organisms are under pressure/threat they are forced to collectivise, and in these collective forms we might make better decisions!  

This leads nicely onto Gill's points.  I think idea of building in time to meet/discuss/learn about people in other contexts is really key.  To apply this to my area of knowledge (urban regeneration) i think its crucial that policy makers and those who hold resources get a sense of the 'lived experience' of residents in deprived areas.   This might help us form more effective public/com/vol collectives. Taking your points Gill, and those Nick has made, makes a rather  nice argument for co-productive projects where residents and public officials sit side by side to tackle a problem.

This does not, in anyway, circumvent the target culture issue though!

Comment by Gill Musk on May 23, 2012 at 23:46

Hi Tom, Nick

Really interesting questions and comments! I suppose as human beings, in whatever context, we like control and we don't like unpredictability! (Even less in a culture which is fiercely competitive and targets-driven.) Two more things come to mind in all of this.

I've recently heard quite a few people say, quite independently, that to take an assets approach means letting go, to some extent, of professional 'authority' and/or being given the permission to work outside your own role... (this has come up in both the public health and the community development / CLD setting).

Others have voiced concerns about well-intentioned attempts by government to legislate for joined-up thinking across professions... without any thought given to the impact (extra paperwork, time etc.) on people's working lives. If people are to think outside their role, they need not only the permission and motivation, but also the time...

How about if it became the norm for people (in any sector, professionals and activists) to have regular time built into their working lives, to meet with others from different contexts, and to reflect on the connections, the shared ground and the common values? This might make us all realise that unpredictability, though uncomfortable, is something to be cherished and valued...

I realise a lot of this goes on informally - and formally - but is it enough? Could stories help to engage people who might not have the time or inclination to look outside the box?

Comment by Nick Wilding on May 22, 2012 at 10:32

Hi Tom

Great to read your questions... they've prompted me to jump in!

"I wonder how this unpredictability can be made more palatable (or at least rationalised) for senior officers and politicans that are sceptical? (apologies that's probably the holy grail!)"

One of my realisations after the public health network meeting that  Gill and I attended was about what a lot of great people - who really believe in and want to support peoples' well-bring - are being frustrated by a schizophrenic system. It's not the outcomes that are frustrating by a targets culture (driven probably by short-term political agendas) that unhelpfully drives up the pace of work, the stress of those working in the system, and actively works against the ability to respond to other messages from 'on high' that are about sustainability, resilience and prevention.

I came away sensing that the networks' response - to actively set out to collect and share stories of other ways of working - is a good one at many levels. Firstly, it gives practitioners a way of finding their individual voices, on the way to developing a collective voice that might, at some stage, be able to be picked up those higher up in the political/public sector world with the power to begin to address these schizophrenic tendencies of the system.

Perhaps this kind of response might be echoed by professionals in other sectors too like those you are working with?

Ultimately, however, the root causes of the targets ethos etc. go deeper. In my view, they are driven by an increasingly individualistic, competitive culture which sees increasing 'scarcity' of resources and responds in a shrivelled way - by seeking to further up the pace of work and squeeze more out of people who are very stretched. I see this as an extension of a global issue that collectively, we are all trying to push more out of the ecological/social/political system than it can give. It's at the pointing of breaking down. In this context there are more opportunities to innovate that many people realise because 'the emperor has no clothes' and therefore people with the courage (and willing to take professional risks) to voice more radical alternatives are probably more likely to succeed (or at least, help others to succeed) than we realise.

For my money, this is the leadership we can try to encourage -  that is able to build on a 'root cause' analysis of the dysfunctions of existing ways of working whilst simultaneously opening up the space to experiment with more humane, collaborative and (in my view) psychologically mature responses to the pressures of resource limits. Rather than seeing scarcity, part of this move is about unlocking potential and the abundance of talent that the current system can't see because of its targets fetish.

That's turned into a bit of a rant. Be interested to see whether you or others agree with this direction of travel though - and in particular, what can be practically done in our work to support this transition of culture that this analysis I (and many others) points towards.

Comment by Tom Archer on May 21, 2012 at 10:26

Hi Gill,

Many thanks for your response, which is actually really helpful.  This all takes me back to my work on self-help, the starting point for which was the need for Council's to step back, and learn to deal with/adjust to the spontaneity of community projects.

This is, of course, hugely difficult in practice and I have lots of sympathy for Council Officers trying to do this.  Senior officers are trying to deliver specific outcomes, as directed by their political leaders.  In this structure its difficult to support something where the project and outcomes are not yet defined, and may not fit council objectives.

I wonder how this unpredictability can be made more palatable (or at least rationalised) for senior officers and politicans that are sceptical? (apologies that's probably the holy grail!)

Thanks again for your response.



Comment by Gill Musk on May 17, 2012 at 17:12

Hi Tom

You've maybe had some LAs respond direct but thought I'd add in my thoughts... I think your question gets to the heart of what we mean by community-led asset mapping. It seems fair to say, whatever the context, that a) there has to be some sort of catalyst or prompt for the activity and b) whoever leads it has to be skilled at connecting with people and turning conversations around from being deficits- to assets-based.

Often, assets mapping might be initiated by a local authority - e.g. as part of a community planning exercise - so in this sense you might say that it isn't 'community-led'. However, if done well, it is only a starting point and can lead to genuine engagement, ownership and transformation. Community development practice is at its heart asset-based, after all.

Exactly what it might look like I suppose depends on whether the work is kept in-house or contracted out to a consultancy. Either way there are some important common denominators. To quote from 'Appreciating Assets':

"An approach that appreciates assets is not a mantra or a simplistic 'quick fix'. Nor is it a mechanism by which to validate a pre-prepared external analysis. People working for outside agencies should act as facilitators not drivers, and not try to second-guess what the assets could be: the focus should be on releasing capacity within the community...

For capacity to be released the ideas developed by the group, with or without external facilitators, must build upon the unique knowledge that local people have about a place. There is a whole range of techniques that can be deployed: listening surveys, community celebrations, asset mapping, appreciative inquiry or participative appraisal..."

There are some really interesting examples of 'alternative' approaches to asset mapping too, using visual / creative techniques and storytelling.

Does this help?

all the best


Comment by Tom Archer on May 3, 2012 at 11:30


I've been wondering about the specific role of local authorities in community-led attempts to map assets.  You might think, by default, Councils should have a limited role.  However, a number of authorities I know want to play a facilitative role, but don't know what this would looks like.  Does anyone from a Local Authority have any experience of supporting/helping initiate such work?




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