AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators



Stacy Johnson, Jill Lipski Cain and Liz Radel Freeman on Community Mapping

We are Stacy Johnson, Jill Lipski Cain, and Liz Radel Freeman from the Improve Group in Saint Paul, MN. The Improve Group works with organizations to make the most of information, navigate complexity and ensure their investments of time and money lead to meaningful, sustained impact. Last November at Evaluation 2011, we presented on a community mapping process we created to help clients identify assets as well as needs in their community.

Lesson Learned: Community mapping helps stakeholders visualize the needs in their community – where there are concentrations or absences of resources and the proximity of resources to specific locations or populations. The process shows depth, connectedness, and gaps in resources more clearly than a simple listing of assets and areas of need.

Reasons to use community mapping:

  • It results in two rich data sources – the map itself and the facilitated discussion that occurs when creating and analyzing the map
  • The process engages all stakeholders in creating the map (collecting data) and through facilitated discussion (analysis)
    • There is a shared understanding among stakeholders though the collaborative process
    • It accommodates multiple learning styles (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic) and communication preferences
    • The process promotes community involvement, ownership, and empowerment

Hot Tips:

  • Find maps to use that are readily available online or in print from places such as Google maps, State Departments, Chamber of Commerce, Universities, etc. If using an external printing service, the maps need to be for public use (Google maps, for example, are not).
  • Consider the level of detail maps will need in order to map the resources you would like to identify.
  • Create icons of assets and deficits and leave blank ones for participants to create in the process. Use ClipArt or a resource like Google images.
  • Include participants that have an interest in the issue being explored, have different viewpoints or knowledge about the issue and area being examined, and are from a wide variety of groups or organizations.
  • Break participants into smaller groups of 4-10 people to complete the mapping process.
  • Have enough facilitators for the activity so each small group has someone to assist them and listen to the discussion.
  • Have each group present their map to the larger group and discuss the similarities and difference between groups and what they see happening in their community.

Rad Resources: Click here to see examples of completed maps created through this process. Click here to see how data from the mapping process was used in a needs assessment report.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.



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