Setting the Stage
Community resource mapping is a strategy for promoting interagency collaboration by better aligning programs and services for youth and families. The major goal of community resource mapping is to ensure that all youth have access to a broad, comprehensive, and integrated system of services essential in achieving desired school and postschool outcomes. Community resource mapping can be used to improve education, workforce development, and economic development in a community by aligning available services and resources, streamlining those services and resources, and identifying areas of need. The idea of resource mapping builds on the community’s strengths by increasing the frequency, duration, intensity, and quality of services and supports in the community. It is a way to organize information and give direction to meet a common community goal. As a result of resource mapping, families and youth have more flexibility and choice in navigating the system.
Community resource mapping is particularly important as a strategy for improving school and postschool outcomes for youth with complex and varied needs, such as disenfranchised youth or youth with disabilities. When collectively pooled, resources for these youth can create a synergy that produces services well beyond the scope of what any single system can hope to mobilize (National GAINS Center, 1999, revised 2001). The alignment of resources, streamlining of resources, and identification of service gaps within the community enables educators and service providers to (a) understand the full range of services available to youth within a community, (b) more efficiently provide the specific supports needed by each youth, and (c) develop new services and supports targeted to fill existing gaps.
Federal Context for Aligning Resources
The need for the strategic alignment of resources within a community has been part of the federal agenda for many years. Since the mid-1980s, federal initiatives in both education and workforce development have stressed the need for coordinated planning and functional linkages among stakeholders to meet the school and postschool needs of youth. By integrating and aligning services and supports with other legislated requirements, all youth experience greater access to emerging general education and workforce development systems. These initiatives promote comprehensive strategies for improving programs for all youth (including youth with disabilities), calling for broad-based partnerships between schools, employers, postsecondary institutions, community service agencies, families, youth, and others. Effective youth programming and services depend heavily on functional linkages and partnerships among numerous stakeholders that promote and support the sharing of information and resources, as well as engagement in joint planning and commitment to securing positive youth outcomes. Collaborative strategies that effectively link systems also align organizational missions, policies, funds, actions, and day-to-day management so that youth have access to the full array of services they need (Johnson, Stodden, Emanuel, Luecking, & Mack, 2002; National Center on Secondary Education and Transition, 2004).
State-Level Context for Collaborating
As individual states work to improve, expand, or complement their capacity-building efforts to improve school and postschool outcomes for youth, the conversation around collaborative planning and provision of coordinated services and supports routinely comes to the forefront. There is continued emphasis on the importance of “working better together” for improved youth outcomes at the state level. Increasingly, states are seeking ways to: (a) build and sustain state and local interagency collaboration and systems linkages; (b) examine interagency collaborative funding and cost-sharing avenues; (c) build understanding among stakeholders about existing and potential services, resources, and supports; (d) improve capacities of co-existing systems to streamline or realign resources to serve all youth; and (e) reduce the fragmentation, duplication, and gaps in services, supports, and resources commonly occurring across youth-serving entities.
Implications for Mapping Resources at the Community Level
In most local communities there are a myriad of agency programs and services designed to meet the educational, employment, and developmental needs of youth. Most of these programs are targeted toward specific populations that typically must meet agency eligibility requirements to receive services and assistance. This phenomenon far too often results in fragmented and disconnected programs and services at the community level. In addition, many communities lack a shared knowledge and vision of the resources necessary to support youths’ needs and interests in school and beyond (Benz, Johnson, Mikkelsen, & Lindstrom, 1995; Hasazi, Furney, & DeStefano, 1999; Johnson et al., 2002). In determining ways to plan and deliver a well-organized menu of services for youth, local communities must first identify and understand their available resources and needs. Key to this process is the idea that resources refer not only to fiscal capacity but also include people’s knowledge, skills, and personal and professional relationships.
Community resource mapping is a process that can be and should be tailored to respond to the specific challenges, strengths, and context of any community, whether that community is at the federal, state, or local level. This tailoring helps involved stakeholders remain committed to the mapping process for an extended time.
How to Use This Issue of Essential Tools
In response to numerous requests from states and local communities for community resource mapping facilitation and materials, the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET), under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, has developed this guide. This community resource mapping guide offers information for stakeholders (e.g., educators, community agencies and organizations, families, workforce development specialists, and others) who are making efforts to create better aligned and coordinated community systems that support improved school and postschool outcomes for young people. This manual helps stakeholders take action to make sustained change in their communities through the use of a resource mapping process. Information is presented in a straightforward step-by-step fashion that allows stakeholders to facilitate and participate in the mapping process.
This publication is organized around four distinct steps:
The content of the guide is derived from the experiences of communities across the nation that are achieving success in bringing about positive change. In order for stakeholders to achieve successful outcomes they need to have a clear understanding, from the very beginning, on where they are now and what they want to achieve (Kerka, 1997).
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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.
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.