Social and Resource Mapping

  • Objective: To gain a better understanding of the geographic spread, natural resources, access to infrastructure and the dynamics of inclusion/exclusion from development and decision-making.
  • Preparation/Materials: Flipchart paper, colored pens or markers, tape.In Tanzania and Uganda, the team found a large space for the mapping, sticks to draw into the earth for the map, idea cards, markers, stones and other materials to hold idea cards in place. Throught discussions, it is important to note who says what:
    • Are there certain questions answered by one gender or the other?
    • Are there particular participants who are dominating the conversation?
    • Is there disagreement among members about the mapping? What interests do they represent?
  • Participants: Members from across the community (young and old, women and men, different ethnic groups, etc.) In some cases, teams conducted separate maps with groups of men and groups of women. This helps bring in both perspectives of the social map, and outputs can be corroborated during data analysis.


Following introductions, the facilitator asked participants to draw an approximate sketch of their community map (or from a bird’s eye view). In the map area, participants drew all resources within the community. This may include:

  • Roads
  • Houses
  • Health facilities or schools
  • Religious buildings or leaders
  • Water sources or sanitation facilities
  • Markets, factories or quarries
  • Rivers, community forests, fields or oxen
  • Midwives, social workers, doctors, teachers, etc.

For each household in the map, the research team worked with participants to mark the names of household heads, the number of people within the household as well as the number of working individuals within the household.

  • Probe → Does everyone in the community have a household? Is there homelessness? Domestic workers?

Once the community was sketched, the facilitator asked the teams to mark where different groups in the community live: the wealthy, formal and informal leaders, laborers, religious groups, ethnic groups, clans, pastoralists, settlers, labor groups, immigrants, polygamous households, sex workers, etc.

After returning from the community, research teams worked to reconstruct the map on paper, using various colored stickers or symbols to label key community resources and household characteristics.

During analysis, teams discuss:

  • What are the resource (physical and human) patterns that have been mapped?
  • Which neighborhoods have less resources and which have more?
  • Is there a correlation between human resources (powerful persons) and apparent resource allocation?
  • Can you identify well-off neighborhoods and the poor ones? What is different about these?
  • Is there a core part (the oldest part of the community)? Who lives there?
  • Who are the people who live at the margins?
    • Probe → What are their characteristics (occupation, ethnicity, religion, date of arrival to the community)?
    • Probe → Are there any values, beliefs that explain this?
  • Are the residential patterns different in the areas that are better off, as compared to those that are not?

If you have done more than one social map, you can compare the maps of different communities, those that are better off, with more resources and a larger number of powerful persons.

  • What does it tell you about the larger locality?

The individual household cards were saved for well-being analysis and other subsequent exercises.


Variation: Transect Walk

CARE Nepal’s study chose to map communities through a transect walk. With participants from the community, facilitators started at one end of the village and walked across it.

During the walk, the research team facilitated discussions and observations about the community and its resources, clusters and demographic make-up. From this exercise, the research team noted livelihood strategies; clustering of clans, immigrants or other groups; resources and bio-physical features of different areas of the village.

Following the walk, facilitators then sat with participants to draw a copy of the map. Any gaps in the drawn map were then filled through the assistance of community members.

In addition, the GirlsPLACE Initiative (VanBell-Prouty and Sey, 1998) also engaged 'transect walks' through the school with children to explore:

  • The school's layout and overall conditions
  • Security issues and sanitation concerns (gender segregated latrines?)

These walks were conducted with a number of small groups of different types of children (gender, age, etc.). Following the exercise, groups compared maps and facilitators probed more on students' perceptions of the school environment.


Variation: Mapping to Probe Mobility and Migration

The Social Analysis and Action Tool used the social mapping served as a basis to discuss mobility issues and to reflect on access to resources. Some questions to facilitate the discussion included:

  • Are you surprised by the amount of resources in your community? Are there more or fewer than you had thought?
  • Which places or resources can be visited by anyone in the community?
  • Are there any places or community resources that certain people might feel uncomfortable or unsafe visiting or using? Can you identify these places and resources on the map?
  • Do you think there is a difference between what men experience in some places and what women experience in the same places?
  • Does a person’s caste, gender, ethnicity, age or education level determine the places they can go in the community? Does a person’s caste, gender, ethnicity, age or education level affect how they are received or treated in different places?
  • How do class, caste, religion, gender, age and disability influence a person’s mobility or access to resources within the community?
  • Within the community, how does a person’s sexual reputation affect their mobility and their access to resources? Why?
  • Whose mobility is generally more restricted? Whose mobility is generally less restricted? Why is the mobility of some restricted while the mobility of others is not?

This process can be an important first step for mapping centers of power, and locate CARE’s activities in relation to them.

Working with Children to Understand Mobility and Migration: This tool can also be adapted for exercises with children to draw a map to illustrate issues such as, where do they go each day, where do they come from and where have they gone (for transient children), and what are positive and negative spaces within a given community.

Giving children space to answer such questions through illustration, the facilitator then interviews the drawing to gain a deeper understanding of children's experiences and perceptions in terms of mobility, community spaces and migration.


Variation: Mapping to Explore Security, Spaces and Services for Women and Children

Building from the mapping, the Reproductive Health Response in Crisis Consortium (RHRC Consortium) outlined steps to use the mapping as a basis to explore issues concerning gender-based violence.

Building from the community-created map, facilitators ask people to map:

  • Where are the main areas that women and children feel vulnerable or at risk?
  • Are there individuals in the community that are known to be a threat to women or children?
  • Are there services available to women that address domestic violence or sexual assault/rape? Where are they?
  • Who do community members trust to help them deal with domestic violence or sexual assault/rape?
  • Where are the health services located?
  • Are mental health services available? Where?
  • Are there any women’s groups or resource centers in the area?
  • Where do people go to address security concerns or issues?
  • Are there places in the community that are regarded as safe places for women to go?


Variation: Mapping Social Spaces with Venn Diagrams

Following from the Day in the Life / Daily Activities Exercise, this tool refers to a group's activities to chart out spaces where young men or women can map what spaces they have, using a venn diagram.

For this exercise, participants begin by listing out the spaces that they frequent, thinking back to the Daily Activities Exercise.

In the middle of a flipchart paper, participants place an X to represent the group (boys, men) within a community. For each space listed, participants draw a circle to represent the space. The size and position of the circle represent its importance and relationship with the group at the center. in terms of accessibility and, importance. The diagram can also show relationship between spaces by showing connections and overlaps between them.

Based on the diagram, the facilitator engages a discussion. The Exploring Dimensions of Masculinities PLA Guide focused on adolescent boys offered the following questions:

  • How was the process of creating these maps?  Were there any particular debates about relative importance of spaces? If so, what were they?
  • What happens in these social spaces?  What role do these social spaces play in influencing local male youth culture (that is, young men’s feelings, attitudes and behaviors about being a proper young man)?  Do all young men feel equally comfortable in these spaces?  How do you and your friends experience being left out of male circles?
Following this activity, the exercise is repeated for women/girls. Following, participants again discuss:
  • How was the process of creating these maps?  Were there any particular debates about relative importance of spaces? If so, what were they?
  • What happens in these social spaces?  What role do these social spaces play in influencing local female youth culture?  (that is, young women’s feelings, attitudes and behaviors about being a proper young woman)?
  • Where do Male Youth and Female Youth go to socialize together?  How do these spaces overlap and interact?
Following this exercise, the facilitator presents a summary of the exercise and issues, thanks participants for their time and welcomes questions.



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  • B Bode (2009). The Causes and Conditions of Poverty in Acholiland, Northern Uganda. CARE International – Uganda.
  • S Sharma (2009). Participatory Methods, Processes and Analyses: A handbook for identification of underlying causes of poverty and formulation of strategies. CARE International – Nepal.
  • CARE International – USA (2007). Ideas and Action: Addressing the Social Factors that Influence Sexual and Reproductive Health.
  • CARE and ICRW (2007). PLA Field Guide: Western Balkans Gender-Based Violence Initiative.
  • RHRC Consortium (2004). Gender-based Violence Tools Manual: For Assessment, Program Design, Monitoring and Evaluation in Conflict-Affected Settings. 
  • P Stephenson with S Gourley and G Miles (2004). Resourcing Organisations with Opportunities for Transformation and Sharing: Child Participation. Teddington: Tearfund.
  • D VanBelle-Prouty and H Sey (1998). Girls' Participatory Learning Activities in the Classroom Environmetn (GirlsPLACE) A View to the Experiences of Girls. Institute for International Research.