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Community Asset Mapping

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Placemaking and a sense of place are increasingly foundational to the work of grant makers and philanthropists. This trend reflects a realization that policies and investments must be responsive to and reflective of the people, neighborhoods, and communities they are designed to affect. Such responsiveness is central to the notion of equity, which suggests that the cookie-cutter approach of simply providing the same thing for every community does not serve anyone well. As practitioners, we may be tempted to take the latest, greatest evidence-based model and import it into our work. But when creation or adoption of a program strategy is divorced from an assessment of the needs of the community, the disconnect can limit or even thwart effectiveness.

Community asset mapping is an important prerequisite for strategic planning and program development. We define community asset mapping as a systematic process of identifying and documenting the assets within a defined geographical area. An asset is anything that improves or can be used to improve the quality of life within the community, such as organizations, features of the natural or built environment, or attributes of community members. The outcome of the community asset mapping process is a document (sometimes but not necessarily a map)that inventories and categorizes community assets.

Benefits of community asset mapping include:

  • Building relationships, trust, and buy-in within the community;
  • Helping community-serving entities avoid duplication of efforts;
  • Potentially amplifying impact by highlighting opportunities for collaboration; and 
  • Enhancing self-efficacy and resilience by focusing on the community’s strengths andpotential, not just its challenges. 

There are five steps in the community asset mapping process. 

  1. Clearly define the community and its boundaries. 
  2. Identify, train, and equip a team to gather information about assets. Ideally, this group willinclude residents. 
  3. Use existing databases, search engines, directories, and websites to develop a list of assetsin a document or spreadsheet. 
  4. Use surveys, stakeholder conversations, interviews, focus groups, listening sessions, social media, and/or web-based tools to expand the list of assets and better understand the relationships between them. 
  5. Document assets and relationships in a graphic organizer or spreadsheet, or on a map. 

Thinking about incorporating community asset mapping into your program development and strategic planning processes? We’d love to help. Visit to schedule a free consultation.