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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition

Community Resource Mapping


What is Resource Mapping?

Community resource mapping is not a new strategy or process. It has been in use for many years in varying forms. Community resource mapping is sometimes referred to as asset mapping or environmental scanning. Community resource mapping is best noted as a system-building process used by many different groups at many different stages in order to align resources and policies in relation to specific system goals, strategies, and expected outcomes.

Mapping of youth services, supports, and programs within a community can have essentially three outcomes: 1) the identification of resources available to individual youth in a particular community—often referred to as “youth mapping,” 2) the identification of new or additional resources to sustain existing specific youth activities or initiatives within a community, and/or 3) the identification of resources to assist in creating and building capacity to support a more comprehensive community system for serving youth. The first outcome typically occurs at the local level while the second and third outcome can happen at any level—local, state, or federal.

This guide focuses on strategies for building the capacity of communities to better serve youth with disabilities and their families.

How Resource Mapping Can Help Transform Your Community

“No one agency can meet the needs of all youth all of the time.” —State policy maker

The community resource mapping process acknowledges that individuals, organizations, and local institutions all have the capacity to create real change in their communities, but that no agency can do it alone. With increased accountability, tight budgets, resource shortages, and fragmented services, it is a sound decision for communities to encourage cross-agency and cross-systems coordination. Insight into a community’s existing partnerships and programs, resource allocations and policies, and priorities and assets can contribute to its ability to evaluate its overall effectiveness in serving its youth with disabilities. It can also support the creation of a strategic plan to improve the alignment, coordination, and, ultimately, delivery of services. When combined with this community information, resource maps can provide a comprehensive picture of a community’s vision, goals, projects, and infrastructure.

In short, community resource mapping can help communities to accomplish a number of goals, including:

  • Identifying new resources;
  • Insuring that all youth have access to the resources they need;
  • Avoiding duplication of services and resources;
  • Cultivating new partnerships and relationships;
  • Providing information across agencies that work with youth; and
  • Encouraging collaboration.
Recently, the Transition Center at the University of Florida assembled a number of school districts to begin the mapping process. Specifically, this community sought to identify current resources in surrounding communities to improve secondary education services and transition for youth with disabilities.

The Mapping Process

There are four steps to the community resource mapping process: 1) pre-mapping; 2) mapping; 3) taking action; and 4) maintaining, sustaining, and evaluating mapping efforts. The pre-mapping step allows stakeholders to lay the foundation for productive collaboration and to establish a clear vision and goals for building a system. The second step, mapping, determines which resources to map and how to best map them. The collection and analysis of data at this time helps stakeholders to identify strengths and challenges. The next step, taking action, allows stakeholders to determine the most useful plan of action for effectively addressing the data findings and established goals. Communicating and disseminating information are key throughout the implementation step. The final step involves maintaining, sustaining, and evaluating the efforts outlined in the map by continuously evaluating progress, making necessary changes to the plan, and learning from experiences.

Table of Contents

Setting the Stage
Federal Context for Aligning Resources
State-Level Context for Collaborating
Implications for Mapping Resources at the Community Level
How to Use This Issue of Essential Tools

What is Resource Mapping?
How Resource Mapping Can Help Transform Your Community
The Mapping Process

Step 1: Pre-Mapping
Establishing a Task Force to Guide the Process
Setting a Vision
Setting Goals
Communicating Continuously
Reflection Questions

Step 2: Mapping
Identifying Resources
Developing Mapping Tools and Strategies
Gathering Information
Determining the Meaning of the Information
Communicating and Using the Mapping Results
Reflection Questions

Step 3: Taking Action
Developing an Action Plan
Achieving Consensus
Implementing the Action Plan
Sharing the Action Plan
Reflection Questions

Step 4: Maintaining, Sustaining, and Evaluating Mapping Efforts
Evaluating Progress
Maintaining Momentum
Sustaining the Effort
Reflection Questions





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Citation: Crane, K., & Mooney, M. (2005). Essential tools: Community resource mapping. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition.

Permission is granted to duplicate this publication in its entirety or portions thereof. Upon request, this publication will be made available in alternative formats. For additional copies of this publication, or to request an alternate format, please contact: Institute on Community Integration Publications Office, 109 Pattee Hall, 150 Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, (612) 624-4512, icipub@umn.edu.

This document was published by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET). NCSET is supported through a cooperative agreement #H326J000005 with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department of Education Programs, and no official endorsement should be inferred. The University of Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition are equal opportunity employers and educators.