What is it? Asset mapping, in one sense, is the act of identifying all the known resources in a community. In another sense, it represents a profoundly important shift in perspective away from simply seeing the needs or deficits of a place. Every locality contains assets and those being mapped can include anything that is valued, from the personal gifts of individuals to the systems-wide impacts of institutions. Asset mapping is about process as well as product. Processes that engage community residents to in sharing and identifying their own assets tend to have the most positive impacts. After a participatory process, the product (or map) may then be used to link resources. And, anytime two or more existing assets are connected in a new way, then development happens.
How has it been done? The Institute for Policy Research created an asset map for the area around Grand Boulevard in South Chicago. Their map was focused specifically on the neighborhood’s voluntary, community organizations, and their connection with one another. The Institute gathered information from written materials, community leader interviews and a block-by-block survey. Project leaders produced a list of these associations, including the various types and functions. Researchers followed the mapping process with an extensive survey of organization leaders, designed to identify future actions and possibilities. The project provided a foundation of shared knowledge about the community’s organizations, revealed ways that these organizations might work better together to facilitate change. (Source: The Community Toolbox)