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Community Capacity Mapping

A. Introduction

B. Mapping Communities - J. McKnight's presentation
i) Citizen Associations
ii) Local Institutions
iii) Individual Capacities

C. Ontario Community Capacity Mapping
i) The Project
ii) The E-Mail discussion list
iii) The Capacity Net & GIS Databases (in progress)


Asset and capacity mapping focuses on what resources that communities have in citizen associations, institutions and people. By identifying existing assets and resources, this information can be used for building community action and networks among programs and people. Like a roadmap, reviewing a communities health promoting capacities map can show you a variety of paths towards places - but the "getting there" is up to you and your choice of vehicle. The power of the capacity mapping process lies in what is done with the tool.

In this feature, we introduce you to some of John McKnight's thoughts and suggestions on mapping and building upon "associations of associations", to find the real power centres of a local area (neighbourhood, village, town, community). Following the synopsis of his presentation to the Ontario Healthy Communities "Sunshine Conference" in Orillia on June 19th, there is an overview of three tools described in the Kretzman and McKnight workbooks [see OHPE #60.2, next message for resources], and applied by various community health groups, for 'mapping' associations, institutions and individual capacities. In Section C, there is a look at Ontario initiatives in community capacity mapping - from a project that started in early 1997 as a collaborative initiative between OPC and the Centre for Health Promotion; to the development of an e-mail discussion list on Community Mapping; and lastly a new network and initiative in an Ontario municipality.
- Alison Stirling


John McKnight - "Building Healthy Communities Through Association Mapping"

Keynote speaker at the Ontario Healthy Communities Sunshine conference in Orillia on June 19th, John McKnight addressed the work ahead to make a difference in achieving a truly healthy community. After reviewing the history of the healthy cities/communities movement in Europe and Canada, and the determinants of health base of the movement, he turned to an examination of the power centres and heart of "community". He noted that the most important information about a community is the list of formal and informal associations where most of the local decisions, celebrations of life, passages and change and connections with other people are focused. McKnight urged conference participants to understand the resources and capacities of a community through mapping its associations, and working to bring together associations of associations to achieve real change. The assets and capacities maps are constructed from this initial data of associational and individual assets. These are what McKnight calls "primary building blocks", those located within the community and controlled by community members.

The capacity mapping process that John McKnight referred to, is outlined in Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets by John McKnight and John Kretzmann. They call this approach "capacity-focused development." (p. 5) See the OHPE #60.2 Resources message for more information on accessing these and other related capacity mapping resources.

To do an asset-mapping process, organizations complete a "capacity inventory" (p. 16) to assess the potential of individuals, organizations and associations, and to help "capture local institutions for community building" (p. 171). The inventory collects data through a series of brief questions. It can be used in a one-on-one interview or a group setting, or can be designed as a survey for individuals to complete on their own. When completed, the inventory is used to create a picture, or map, of the capacities or assets existing in the community. The assets these groups can provide include knowledge, skills, personal and professional relationships and more traditional donations of money, time and supplies.


McKnight starts with suggesting that a Capacity Map can record the informal and formal associations in a particular neighbourhood, community or town. To do this he suggests:
a) Get 12 people together who are known "joiners", active in civic life.
b) Break them into 4 groups and get them to list together all the associations that they belong to, and that they know of, including neighbourhood associations, service clubs, recreation and social clubs, health-related, cultural, religious, business & financial associations and more.
c) When brought back together, have them share these lists with each other, which will likely add up to about 50 (without duplicates) after exchanging and adding new suggestions
d) Pick key associations that each of these "joiners" will attend a meeting, and go through the same exercise with the members of that group. Within a month there will likely be a list of about 300 informal and formal associations and gatherings of people, many of whom will have key decision-makers in them.
e) DO NOT STOP at the association inventory! It is one important piece of the map, but must be considered with the institutions and individuals capacities in the area.

For an example of Association Mapping see: The Community Tool Box, Chapter 2 Section 6 on Constructing an assets map:


From CTCNet Start-Up Manual Chapter 2 Mapping Community Resources
These "Institutional Resources" can be found at neighborhood agencies, public and private.
Creating this inventory will assist your organization in developing partnerships. Any partnership must offer benefits to both entities involved

Step 1: List all the neighborhood and community institutions
Schools (public and private) including preschools
Post Secondary Institutions
Libraries and museums.
Hospitals and health care facilities
Social service agencies
Major manufacturers or business in or near your neighborhood:
Police, public defenders, firefighters etc.
Religious institutions and associated special interest groups.
Press & media: local newspapers, cable access stations, magazines,
Local or regional freenets or other telecommunications providers.

Step 2: List needed resources. For example: space/facilities; equipment; people; learning programs/courses, parenting and child-care and health organizations; economic capability & other resources

Step 3: Use the information developed in Steps 1 & 2 to determine those neighborhood agencies and institutions with which partnerships might be the most beneficial to both parties.
Construct a database of community resources listing contact information for key institutions, the potential resources from each and, if possible, the potential benefit for that institution from collaboration or partnership
Example Worksheets for Mapping Local Institutions can be found at Reca Foundation's web-site on Mapping:


From the North Victoria County Healthy Communities Coalition's Asset Mapping survey
Every single person has capacities, abilities and gifts. Living a good life depends on whether those capacities can be used, abilities expressed and gifts given. If they are, the person will be valued, feel powerful and well-connected to the people around them. And the community around the person will be more powerful because of the contribution the person is making. We are interested in the capacities, abilities and gifts of individuals. They may have been learned through experience in the home or with family, or learned at work, at church or in the community.
An initial task may be to map the capacities of individuals, so that a database can be developed and made available locally. Once the database is developed then local residents, businesses and community groups can access this information for possible employment, training assistance and volunteer activities.

For an example of an Individual Capacities Survey and all the categories see:

The power of capacity mapping comes with what happens after the resources have been identified. As Kretzmann and McKnight point out, the information gained by resource mapping should not be collected as an end in itself; it should be used to create new partnerships for community building. How you use the information will differ depending upon the purpose of your study, and your perspective. [from CTCNet]

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The Ontario Prevention Clearinghouse (OPC) and the Centre for Health Promotion (CHP) have been working together in the "Ontario Community Health Promotion Mapping Project" since January 1997 to strengthen health promotion by applying a community development approach in working with up to 10 pilot communities in Ontario. This collaborative project, funded by Health Canada - Ontario Region, is intended to help communities develop a profile of health promoting activities and associations in their area, create a basic 'map' of local resources, and to use the Internet to describe their activities, and link to other groups.

The project team and site participants have produced a number of products and infrastructures related to community mapping resources, getting connected to the Internet, and core information requirements for web-sites featuring community health promotion programs. [See OPC's Site for the Project: ]

This project was extended by a 10 week initiative to promote these resources and information on community Internet access programs.
One of the pilot site participants - the North Victoria Healthy Communities Coalition ( ) - presented information on this project to communities in Ontario, and committed to work with interested organizations on the application of these resources. As well, Ontario Prevention Clearinghouse team members are integrating 'community HP mapping' presentations into their series of regional forums and workshops [see ].

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In the Community HP Mapping Project meetings and discussions this spring, there was a great deal of interest in the possibility of having an email distribution list which can be used to share ideas, resources, concerns regarding community mapping.

Thus, the Ontario Community Capacity Mapping List [[email protected]] has been set up by Alison at the OPC. Anyone involved in, or interested in, the issue of Community Capacity Mapping in Ontario (or elsewhere) is invited to join this list.

If you, or anyone you know would like to be added to the list, you can send these addresses and names to Alison [[email protected]] OR to the list. Anyone who knows the address can send a message, but only those on the list will see it. The Ontario Community Capacity Mapping discussion list address is [email protected]

From: Peter Jones-NVHCC [[email protected]], co-facilitator of the list.

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Recently we received a notice from a community health department about an exciting initiative that is underway to develop a Capacity Net with health unit staff, some information systems staff, community agencies and citizens associations. As it is still in process, we will leave the identification and promotion to that group in a future OHPE Bulletin.

CAPACITY NET will have both virtual and literal components.

The literal - agencies and community groups - who choose to define themselves and their mandates as "capacity building" would meet regularly - NOT simply to network but to CHALLENGE each other to a sort of code of conduct and authenticity as capacity building agencies - ie: whose walking the walk and whose just talking the talk?

The group will also try to build - using existing funds from their budgets - a mechanism for learning from local community activists - so something like paying honoraria to local neighbourhood groups to host bureaucrats on a study tour.

The virtual - they have technical-type people willing to volunteer their time to re-build donated computers in order to give them to grass-roots and neighbourhood groups. These folks are also willing to train volunteers from those groups and help them form a network for support with each other.

In terms of Capacity Net - there are 4 or 5 key grassroots groups who were not yet consulted and this group is very concerned that they not go about pushing ahead without that developmental work first. "We want to build on firm face to face partnerships first. We are really firm that the electronic part of the network is the tool at the service of the human part of the network. We don't want to be driven by technology."

They are now in the process of holding those face to face discussions and further clarifying the idea/proposal - with 2 immediate plans:

1. start the network where there is interest now - they have 50 486 computers to distribute - and are working on identifying a group of private sector partners to provide mentoring on a voluntary basis to the groups who get the computers. Each new group enters the network and gets a computer when:
the Capacity Net can match the new group to a mentor;
an interested volunteer can be recruited from that neighbourhood to learn networking;
a sponsor can be found for the [new] group's ongoing costs for hookup through a service provider.

2. further develop the proposal to be ready and have constituency build when a future opportunity arises.


This same initiative has started GIS databases. These Geographical Information Systems [GIS] Capacity databases of social infrastructure or health promotion infrastructure, are not about individual resident capacities - but neighbourhood readiness and supports. For examples, they've geo-coded all church programs, community centre programs, collective kitchens, community gardens, parenting programs, breastfeeding support sites.... information related to family support. Now they can run maps which can overlay any combination of variables from these databases for any given boundaries. They have also now arranged compatability with all the databases that their region has (so -- every residence or building is geo-coded for tax rolls; environmentally sensitive areas, vacant lots, different land use zoning, road and traffic stuff, schools, any institution, wells and waterwways....). It is quite powerful stuff, working to link as much as feasible (some databases will be protected) via a web page so visitors can run searches and create their own maps.

In June 1998, the new Capacity Net, assisted by the public health department did launch a GIS linked inventory of family support programs/services in the Region on the corporate intranet but it is not yet available on a public Internet web-site.

At the moment the public health staff and community folks are testing out what was set up - a prototype - and making suggestions on what would make it more friendly and useful. For now, its being used to help PHNs and other agency professionals to identify family support programs (mom and tot drop ins, breastfeeding support sites, collective kitchens, peer workers...) within geographic proximity to where the client lives. Its potential is far beyond that.

At OHPE, we look forward to hearing much more about Capacity Net, and this exciting new use of GIS mapping!