Mapping “Assets” in Our Community

Supports in the community, whether private, public, non-profit or otherwise, come with various mandates to help citizens; but how does one keep track of how many are out there and what their areas of impact are? This is where community asset listing or mapping comes in…

We talked a few posts ago about how an idea one has can translate to specific action in the community as it gains traction with others who want to see that idea realized. When those actions take the form of an ongoing entity or "asset" that provides a regular community service, like the Food Bank or a community recreation centre, it becomes important knowing how many of these assets are doing what and where. We’ll expand on each of those thoughts below.

  • How many community supporting assets are there?
    We’d want to know how many of these assets exist. Why? Because tracking how many exist can give us an indication of need (the more assets there are, the more, perhaps, need there is in the community that these assets are trying to address) or engagement (the more assets there are, the more engaged citizens are in supporting their fellow citizens).
  • What exactly are these assets doing to support the community?
    The services that these community supporting assets provide can be broken down into categories. For example, the Food Bank helps feed individuals and families who would otherwise go hungry without the Food Bank’s support. A library provides a public space for learning. A non-profit might exist that helps young, single mothers earn their high school diplomas while providing childcare. Another non-profit might exist that helps formerly incarcerated men reintegrate into the community…the list can go on. By knowing what these assets are doing for the community, we can understand the depth and breadth of support that they provide to citizens. We can also find out if there are more than one asset providing the same or similar service.
  • Where are these assets operating?
    For most assets and the citizens they serve, where they operate is important: it gives us an understanding of the area of impact they have in the community considering their physical location. For example, a homeless shelter might operate in an area where there are historical challenges with homelessness, or where there are other, co-located services that the homeless can benefit from. Opening a homeless shelter in the fringes of a city, where access may be difficult due to barriers in transportation and where there may be a dearth of complimentary services that the homeless can benefit from, may prove to be less impactful than if that shelter was located more centrally. For other assets, location may be less important, like a hot-meal delivery service that serves the entire city through a fleet of volunteer drivers.

Alright, so how does community listing or mapping fit into all this? Well, we can make a list of services and service providers that exist in the community. You can take a look at an example of a listing service here as an example. After opening that link, you can select commonly searched service terms and phrases to bring up information about the kinds of services that are provided by various community supporting assets.

You can develop an actual map of assets. A map can visually present where an asset is physically located and the “footprint” of impact that asset has considering its location. I found this neat, interactive community services map developed by the City of Peterborough that lists community services by category.  

Or, you can try a more “manual” way of asset listing or mapping by creating an excel spreadsheet. I made an attempt at building a list, thinking of some community supports located in the city of Edmonton, Alberta using an Excel spreadsheet. It’s not finished or pretty, and it lacks location information, but it does show the beginnings of a list of non-profit community assets and the categories of services that they provide. This list can also tell you if a particular service is also provided by another community serving entity by manipulating the data (by using the data filter feature in Excel). My attempt here should simply show you that you don’t necessarily need a lot of technology to put together a list that can work for your needs.

That’s it for this post! And, as usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts. 


Attending the 2017 Washington State Public Health Association Conference

(Summer break!)