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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition

Community Resource Mapping

Step 2: Mapping

“Your map is only as good as the information that goes into it.” —Community mapping lead
  • The state mapping task force in Massachusetts conducted an environmental scan to determine the employment resources available to youth across the state. A survey tool was sent to key state agencies via e-mail to collect the relevant data.
  • A project in Washington, DC has youth complete the mapping process. Youth are sent into the community to identify existing resources that meet their needs and to determine where resource gaps exist.
  • In Kentucky, a series of meetings were held by the community resource mapping task force to identify and define the resources needed to meet its goals.

At this point, you will have identified the key stakeholders to engage in the mapping process and created a common vision and set of goals. During the next stage—the mapping stage—vision statements and goals are used to identify and evaluate the usefulness of current and potential resources. The mapping process begins by selecting one goal or high priority to map. The usefulness of resources is determined by evaluating the extent to which they assist in meeting strategic goals and objectives. This stage involves selecting a focus, identifying and collecting data or resources, and analyzing the data or resources collected. While the mapping step can be time-consuming, efficient organization can make it one of the simplest steps.

Mapping Steps
  1. Reach consensus on the parameters of the map—select a goal to map.
  2. Select the data to be collected based on these parameters—determine what types of resources you would like to collect.
  3. Develop tools to collect your data.
  4. Collect data with help from stakeholders.
  5. Conduct a community (or environmental) scan.
  6. Synthesize, analyze, and interpret your data.
  7. Communicate your findings.
  8. Set priorities.
  9. Develop related products.

Identifying Resources

The first step in the mapping phase is to determine what resources need to be collected in order to provide the information necessary for making informed decisions about change. You can collect outcomes data, process data, or both. The type of information you choose to collect depends largely on the goal you select to map. Sources of information extend far beyond those traditionally assessed. There is a tendency to view resource mapping as a way to find more money to meet an organization’s goals and objectives. Resource identification should not be limited to dollars; the identification of resources needs to be expanded to include human resources, technical assistance, in-kind resources, academic and technical standards, organizations that share similar goals and objectives, youth and adult services, and supportive policies. Not only are new resources identified during the mapping process, but utilization of current resources is examined. The primary question is whether current resources can be used differently to help meet your goal or whether new resources are critically needed.

The amount of data collected during the mapping process can often be overwhelming. It is essential to select only what is needed to get the reporting job done. Prioritize your resource mapping goals based on your overall vision, and then map around each of the goals. Strive to organize the information in a manner that is comprehensive, responsive, and meaningful to stakeholders.

Consider the following questions when selecting a focus for collecting data:

  • What do you want to map—fiscal resources, services, personnel?
  • How will certain resources help meet your goal?
  • How easy will certain data be to collect? Consider that certain data can be collected at any time with ease, while other data are time-specific and more difficult to obtain.
  • How often does certain data need to be collected or updated in order for decisions based on this information to be timely and accurate?
  • Which specific audiences or stakeholders may use this data?

Keep in mind that resources vary across systems—public and private programs, grant-funded programs, school-based resources, faith-based organizations, etc.

Developing Mapping Tools and Strategies

Depending on the focus of your resource mapping efforts, you need to obtain or develop appropriate data collection tools. Uniform tools for collecting data will help make sense of information from different sources. The task force can select standard instruments, develop its own, or tailor standard instruments to meet its unique needs. Tools should be selected or developed that allow you to report your findings with clarity, reliability, timeliness, and impact. When deciding to use an existing or standardized tool or instrument, first assess the adequacy and appropriateness of this tool for your unique purpose(s).


Gathering Information

Different methods can be used to gather information. The information collection methods you select depend on the type of information you want and the stakeholders who are sharing the information. Possible methods include questionnaires, surveys, interviews (both telephone and personal interviews), focus groups, roundtable discussions, and written or oral public testimony, to name a few. Look beyond traditional sources when collecting information about resources, including those sources that serve all youth, including youth with disabilities. No single collection method can provide all the necessary information to support good decisions. Remember, much data already exists within your community and is available for your use, such as state plans and priorities, state and local outcomes data, local university studies, and school-level surveys.

A significant first step in the resource mapping data collection process is to scan your community for existing and potential resources. An environmental scan includes an analysis of both the external and internal issues that are likely to affect resources for your organization, agency, or program. Specifically, you need to determine what your community has to offer that will assist you in meeting your goals. For example, a community issue may be insufficient resources to effectively address technology and training needs, or perhaps, not maximizing your community resources due to lack of interagency cooperation. The scan is not meant to be all-inclusive, but rather to stimulate thought on emerging issues and trends and, in turn, to stimulate discussion about future strategic directions and planning concerning resource provision, use, alignment, and maintenance.

Environmental scans can:
  • Enrich the strategic planning process with provocative ideas;
  • Energize people to take action;
  • Encourage public and frank discussion of organizational issues;
  • Contribute to regular, ongoing monitoring efforts;
  • Identify new resources and potential threats to existing resources; and
  • Help organizations to avoid unwanted surprises.

The information collected through community scanning can encourage the development of new partnerships within the community in an effort to reduce duplication of services and resource use, minimize gaps in services and resources, and expand a community’s services/resources to meet the needs of more of its members. The findings from the community scan can help to determine next steps in the collection process as well as focus the analysis of the collected information. Remember, focusing the analysis plan is most often a progressive process that needs to accommodate changes in vision, goals, programming, funding, and personnel.


It is also important, as part of the information collection process, to engage your task force members both as sources of information and researchers in the resource identification task. These individuals are integrally involved in the community and will be rich with ideas. Also involve individuals or groups (e.g., families, youth, and educators) who use or may potentially use the resources being mapped. These stakeholders are invaluable in so many ways because of their commitment to and desire for an improved system. Stakeholders can help to identify other partners in the process, provide a unique perspective about the mapping process and product(s), generate questions for collection purposes, serve as sources of information, and participate in the actual data collection process.

It is very helpful to assign task force members specific responsibilities for each component of the data collection process. These individuals may not necessarily collect the information themselves but are responsible for overseeing the process by setting timelines, training staff when needed, and developing additional procedures to govern data collection for their area. Procedures to guide “collectors” should be developed to address some common problems such as re-contacting individuals/organizations for missing information or approaching organizations that choose not to provide information.

Consider the following questions when developing the information collection plan:

  • What kinds of information should be collected?
  • How much relevant information already exists, and how can you access it?
  • How will information be collected?
  • Will you select or develop collection instruments?
  • What is your timeline for collection?
  • How much should collection cost?
  • How will collection responsibilities be determined?
  • How will the information be organized and analyzed?
  • How will you handle missing information?
  • How will the information be shared with stakeholders?
  • What kinds of problems can be expected?
Ways to Collect Information
Keep in mind that there are many suitable ways to collect information. No single collection process is perfect. Some, but not all, options for collecting useful information are listed below.
  • Environmental or community scans;
  • Interviews, surveys, or public hearings with key audiences (e.g., formal/informal leaders, program advocates, service providers to targeted audiences, and end-users);
  • Interviews with specialists (e.g., legislators, administrative consultants, and internal/external evaluators);
  • Site visits or observation of a setting (e.g., climate, attitudes of specific personnel, professional practices, resources and support services, facilities, and budget allocations);
  • Analysis of written and online documents (e.g., organizational charts, management plans, budgets, proposals, training materials and curricula, and minutes of meetings);
  • Interaction with existing groups (e.g., policy makers, advisors, clients, management teams, and staff);
  • Case studies and success stories;
  • Training evaluations; and
  • Questionnaires, rating scales, and inventories.

In order to choose one collection method or design over another, you must consider your goals. What do you want to learn, and from whom do you want to learn it? It is recommended that you use multiple methods to collect information. Very often the most informative method is not the most sophisticated—simple and direct methods are the best. Set solid timelines for data collection as the process can be time-consuming. Be prepared for the data collection process to take longer than expected.

There are a number of considerations when selecting information to collect and study. It is up to you to determine the criteria that your collection method must meet. To help with those decisions, some criteria for selecting the most appropriate data are listed below.

  • Credibility—information that is accurate and relevant to your audiences;
  • Practicality—information collected without too much disruption;
  • Timeliness—information produced in time to meet stakeholder needs;
  • Accuracy—information that is relevant and trustworthy;
  • Ease—information that is easily analyzed;
  • Objectivity—information collected by objective personnel;
  • Clarity—information that is clear and understandable to numerous audiences;
  • Scope—information that provides answers without unnecessary detail;
  • Availability—information that is easily accessible (i.e., existing data);
  • Usefulness—information that addresses current stakeholder concerns;
  • Balance—information that represents a multitude of perspectives and values; and
  • Cost effectiveness—information worth the expense to collect.

Determining the Meaning of the Information

Once the collection process is completed, information must be analyzed, synthesized, and interpreted for stakeholders. Analysis is the process of finding out what the information collected means. It is often the most difficult and time-consuming step in the mapping process. Analysis typically occurs in stages. First, information is organized based on your vision statement and identified goals. In other words, those resources and policies that are most supportive of your organizational or programmatic goals are identified.

Then the search for meaning begins. You will need to follow a four-step process in examining your information: 1) review the original purposes for information collection; 2) describe the information in a narrative or using tables; 3) examine your information for trends or patterns (e.g., gaps and overlaps in resources) that may point to untapped resources or new ways to align current resources for improved outcomes; and 4) assess the comprehensiveness of the information in light of your goals. You may recognize a gap in your collection process and need to repeat the process for more targeted information.


Finally, organizations should consider developing a process for verifying and validating the accuracy of their information. Find ways to lend credibility to your findings by verifying them with stakeholders and target audiences. Look for confirmation and consistency of information across multiple sources. Often, single-data sources can sway the analysis of the “big picture.” Seek out the interpretations of different audiences, since they can often shed some light on what your findings mean to them. Your organization should set deadlines for when it expects to receive comments on the accuracy of the information reported.

Be prepared for both good and bad news. The resource mapping process will highlight things that your organization does very well. It will also illuminate areas for improvement. Be ready to communicate both types of news to your stakeholders.

Consider the following questions when preparing your findings for review:

  • How detailed does the analysis need to be?
  • To what extent are your goals being realized?
  • To what extent are your community resources being identified, aligned, and used effectively?
  • How can these findings inform program policies and procedures?
  • How can these findings inform decision-makers, service providers, and staff?
  • How can you help the audiences interpret these findings?
  • How can the findings be communicated most effectively?

Communicating and Using the Mapping Results

It is important to engage stakeholders in the results of your mapping. The information gained from the mapping process can be used to help stakeholders make decisions on whether to improve, develop, and/or continue new and existing practices or programs. It also can be used to increase awareness, conduct public relations, and motivate individuals and organizations to improve their performance. Throughout the analysis of the map, keep your goals in mind, and think about how you want to present your findings to meet the needs of diverse audiences and ultimately improve your performance outcomes.

You may choose to prepare detailed reports for partners and stakeholders, as well as summary sheets that highlight key findings. In addition, the task force could develop reports, press releases, and fact sheets for the media and other community organizations that might reinforce the mission of the resource mapping exercise, effectively communicate findings, and bring new partners to the effort. Regardless of the communication method, it is imperative that products contain any content necessary for audiences to place the findings in a proper context and perspective. Simple, user-friendly reports briefly review and highlight the major aspects of the study, its conclusions, and its significance to the audience.

Reflection Questions

  • Have you identified the goals to be mapped?
  • Have you set priorities in mapping your goals?
  • Have you determined how to collect the information?
  • What collection process will be used?
  • How do the resources collected relate to your goals/outcomes?
  • Are existing resources effectively targeted and used to meet the goals of the community?
  • Are your findings reliable and credible?
  • Are the products developed responsive to the needs of the critical stakeholders in the community?

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.