Step 1: Pre-Mapping
“Critical to the mapping process is participation.” —Community partner
The pre-mapping step allows the necessary partners to come together and establish a purpose and overall direction for the mapping activity. This step in the mapping process should not be overlooked or rushed. Specifically, during the pre-mapping step, you will identify and secure key stakeholders and define the vision and goals for aligning community resources. Establishing clear communication in the beginning will make it easier to achieve your long-term goal of aligning and streamlining community resources. This section will highlight strategies to establish a task force for your mapping efforts and how to set a realistic vision and goals.
Establishing a Task Force to Guide the Process
“Your stakeholders are those individuals in the community who have something to gain by the outcome of your mapping process.” —Workforce development executive director
To move forward with a new agenda, first determine which stakeholder groups and individuals need to be part of the mapping effort. A task force comprised of relevant stakeholders (see Potential Task Force Members box below) can be established to start the pre-mapping process. During the planning stages, this task force draws from the expertise of those individuals who work across the numerous community systems such as education, workforce development, and government. It may make sense to use an existing community group (such as an interagency transition council, parent/teacher organization, or a Workforce Investment Board) in the planning stages, but it will most likely become necessary to add partners as the mapping process evolves. It also may be advantageous to meet with key stakeholders individually to gain their support prior to bringing them into a larger meeting. The make-up of the task force membership will be dependent on the community issues being addressed. For example, when addressing the issue of improving high school graduation rates, task force members may want to include middle and secondary school educators and administrators, dropout prevention organizations, high school youth and their families, juvenile justice representatives and disability supports personnel, among others.
Involving the right stakeholders is critical to achieving your goals. The choice of stakeholders to recruit depends on the intent of the mapping process, as well as stakeholders’ history or promise of positive interrelationships within your community. When considering task force membership, look beyond traditional organizations and involve a range of individuals with significant ties to the community as well as those who represent the diversity of your community’s people and organizations. Core membership should be able to create links between the parts of the system. As more stakeholders enter the process, they bring new ideas, skills, and resources that can provide new approaches to old problems. Be careful to keep the core membership at a workable number for greatest effectiveness (approximately seven to nine members).
Building and sustaining newly formed partnerships takes commitment. Stakeholders will remain committed to those activities that allow them to share ownership in both the process and its results (Stasz, 1998). When considering task force membership, you need to think about the self-interest of individual stakeholders and how each stakeholder may benefit from participation in the mapping process. In other words, determine what would give them an incentive to become involved and stay involved. Consider how the mapping process could help to meet their own organization’s mission and goals. Stakeholders need to be made aware of these potential positive outcomes prior to their involvement on the task force. Also, consider how their self-interest in participating interplays with that of other members of the task force.
Once stakeholders agree to participate on the task force, strategies are put in place to keep them engaged. Individuals are more likely to stay involved if they feel the purpose of the mapping process is compelling and that their participation is both valuable and valued. One strategy to make stakeholders feel valued is to rotate task force meetings so that different members can host meetings at their locations. It is important to identify someone from the task force to facilitate or perhaps co-facilitate each meeting and take notes. These responsibilities, too, may rotate from meeting to meeting. However, keep in mind that your facilitator should be a person who is not only respected by the other task force members but also someone who can keep members engaged in this process.
Setting a Vision
“It is useless to engage in the mapping process without a clear vision of what you hope to gain.” —Mapping task force lead
Before embarking on the community resource mapping activity, determine the current status of your community and what it is you want your community to accomplish. A well-defined vision statement is the cornerstone of any well-planned endeavor. It should be challenging, innovative, and forward-thinking. Writing a vision statement requires synthesizing, concentrating, and/or summarizing many ideas into a concise statement or statements. The purpose of a vision statement is to develop a shared image of the future. A clear vision statement guides each step of the mapping process and sets the standard against which policies, practices, and efforts will eventually be evaluated. In addition, a well-crafted vision statement can help to gain the interest and involvement of new stakeholders. Use your task force members to generate information and ideas for the vision statement. Brainstorming key words or short statements is usually a good starting point. Ideally, the goal is to reach consensus around what you want, how to get what you want, and how to measure and use what you’ve gotten.
After reaching consensus about a vision statement, careful attention should be placed on formulating clear and accurate goals. The goals need to be specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-constrained. The way in which a goal is stated strongly affects its effectiveness. It is important to be positive, precise, and practical when stating goals and setting priorities. Goals set the expectations for overall performance over time. Therefore, be sure to set goals at a level slightly out of your immediate grasp, but not so distant that there is no hope for achievement. Determining benchmarks or short-term goals allow for the goals to be more manageable. When thinking about setting realistic yet meaningful goals, ask yourself the following questions:
Goal-setting is an ongoing and ever-changing process that is accomplished over time. Keep in mind, you will need to periodically review your goals and modify them to reflect any changes in priorities.
Communication is essential throughout the community resource mapping process. It is important to make sure all stakeholders are aware of how the process is developing and to actively seek their input. All ideas need to be considered, even those that seem unworkable at first. Do not rule out anything until each proposal is carefully considered. Communicating continuously with stakeholders allows you to readjust goals if needed or pursue new ideas.
Stakeholders need to talk about their successes and areas where things are not going as well as expected; after all, you never know when someone will jump in with a good idea to solve a problem or offer some missing support. The use of e-mail or a listserv allows important information to be shared and encourages continuous discussion. Perhaps, more importantly, you need to recognize stakeholder contributions throughout the mapping process. A good way to gain involvement and support among your stakeholders is to routinely acknowledge their contributions and accomplishments. These actions help motivate and engage stakeholders and ultimately sustain momentum.
This section outlined the first step in the mapping process. The pre-mapping step is critical as it establishes the task force which will manage the community resource mapping process and ensure that the vision and goals are met. As with every step along the mapping continuum, communication is critical to move forward and maintain momentum.
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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.