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Asset Maps

Asset Mapping

When we want to create change in our community, the first step in an asset-based, community-driven approach is to gather the neighbors and begin naming the good and the gifts. John McKnight, co-founder of Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute often says, “You can’t do anything with a need, so why to start there?” When we choo​se to start with gifts, neighbors experience their own power as they affirm together that they can create the change that is needed.

Libraries, museums, and other organizations can play a critical role in this process as conveners and catalysts. By inviting neighbors in your community to do the work of asset mapping, you are not only gathering data about gifts, assets, and capacity to create change, but you are creating that very change in the process of shifting the conversation. 

Below you’ll find a toolkit for various ways to map assets in the community, for the purpose of connecting, celebrating, and mobilizing them in ways that center residents as the core drivers and doers of change.

Asset Mapping user guide
Asset Mapping User Guide​

This guide provides a full exploration of asset mapping as a tool for mobilizing resident-led community action and interdependence. Topics covered include:

              Starting with what’s strong (and the harm of starting with needs)
              - Mapping assets to grow resident power
              - Types of assets and mapping
              - Tips and Cautions
              - Asset mapping methods​

Tools for discovering individual gifts
​Effective asset mapping begins with uncovering the gifts, talents and passions of individuals who live in a community. You can also use these practices within a specific group, organization or project. These two tools have the following benefits & uses:

- Practice putting on an “asset lens” when seeing ourselves, our group, and community.
- Builds trust & relationship between participants.
- Enables a team or group to clearly see and activate their collective gifts, talents, and priorities, which they can use as “ingredients” in planning projects, solving local problems, or organizational development.

Tools for discovering resident-led life

Tools for Discovering Resident-Led Associations

Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) names associations as the second of six key community assets. When we can see and connect these groups and their assets, we can create powerful positive local change. ABCD also highlights these resident-led groups as one of the most powerful assets the purposes of mobilizing local capacity and power. Those seeking to catalyze community would be wise to begin by learning about local associations, connecting with them, and exploring how to partner with them in ways that center their assets, priorities and contributions. This toolkit includes the following tools:
  - “Relationships with Associations” Inventory
  -  “Partnerships with Associations” Strategy Map 
  -  Resident Association Group Inventory
  -  In-Depth Association Research Process 
  -  Learning Conversation with Associational Leaders.​

Tools for discovering institutional assets

Tools for Discovering Institutional Assets

In every community, a wide range of businesses, non-profits, and government agencies are actively contributing to the well-being of the community and its residents. In an asset-based community-building framework, these institutions represent the third of six local community assets which, when well-connected with the other assets (individuals, associations, place, economy/exchange, and stories/culture), can spark new possibilities for local resilience, and creative problem- solving, and well-being.

We can think of institutions as great “treasure chests,” full of wealth that communities can use to realize their aspirations and solve local challenges. This wealth includes the assets (goods, services, and resources) that are currently being utilized as well as the potential assets that could be contributed as the institution becomes more involved and invested in local change efforts. You’ll find the following Institutional Discovery Tools in this toolkit:

  -  Institutional Asset Inventory
  -  Mapping Partner Organizations
  -  Mapping Employee Assets
  -  Mapping Who We Know - Six Degrees of Separation

tools for agency led asset mapping

Tools for Agency-Led Asset Mapping with Communities

Local institutions can play an important role as catalysts for resident action and asset-discovery. A powerful first step of catalyzing this change is to offer support for residents in discovering the abundant, often hidden assets and resources within reach locally. This toolkit was designed specifically for staff and leaders of local organizations seeking to come alongside residents as they work to improve their lives and neighborhoods. Agency-Led Asset Mapping Tools in this toolkit:
  -  Agency-Led Asset Mapping Process with Community.
  -  Listening Campaign and Learning Conversation​​​​​.

​Stories of Practice: Real-World Examples of Asse​t Mapping

There is no “one way” to map local assets. The following two stories follow the work of IMLS Community Catalyst awardees Emory University and Woodland Park Zoo as they experimented with asset mapping and asset-based community development.

Emory University

Emory University (Atlanta, GA)
The story of Emory University Stuart A. Rose Library's IMLS-funded project “Revisiting R.A.C.E.: Leveraging Archival Resources for AIDS Education" demonstrates how asset mapping can enable libraries and museums to not only learn the best way to be helpful to their community, but also to fundamentally change their relationship with their communities into one more deeply embedded, mutually supportive and respectful, and capable of sparking truly transformative change.

The Rose Library project lead staff have modeled a compelling and creative use of this tool by

  • internalizing its underlying asset orientation as a new way of seeing their community,
  • treating it as a guide for relationship-building,
  • including community-members in the process,
  • embracing mapping as an ongoing, cyclical, ever-expanding practice, and
  • taking action to connect, celebrate and invest in the assets.

The Seattle Youth Climate Action Network (SYCAN) team, facilitated by staff Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, creatively utilized asset mapping to open the way for young people who had become active in the network to act more powerfully within the network as leaders, contributors and decision-makers. The team's work with asset mapping exemplified key aspects of this process which are often forgotten in many asset mapping efforts led by institutions and agencies:

  • including everyday residents (not just professionals) as contributors and owners,
  • framing asset mapping in terms of actions participants might take,
  • prioritizing follow-up to support ongoing action
  • embracing asset mapping as a tool to guide relationship-building
  • approaching asset mapping as an iterative process​