Chicago has various communities that have leaders who help in obtaining, managing, distributing, and circulating resources within communities. These resources are often referred to as assets (or amenities) and are comprised of things like libraries, parks, schools, vocational talent, and help, etc.
Our Stakeholder, Goldin Institute partners with these communities to help maintain and obtain these resources. Our goal was to help the leaders of the communities better identify the assets, categorize them, and map them for ease of access for the members of the community.
A major challenge faced by the community leaders is to identify and share information about these assets with the members. The information can be the location, availability, hours of use, or protocol for a resource. Eg, a computer teacher being an asset to non-technical families.
How research changed the problem direction
The research changed the strategic direction of the asset mapping approach from marking assets on the map to finding assets and having structured conversations and developing a shared language.
How do community organizations or initiatives perceive asset mapping technologies and how do they envision designing and integrating those technologies into their work? How do community members prefer to discuss and share local assets? How can we facilitate their use of the current asset-mapping methods on a larger scale?
Create a Asset Mapping Toolkit is to fill the gap we identified by providing organizations with tools to lead conversations around community asset mapping. The tools inside help facilitate conversations, develop common language, and engage with assets once they’ve been identified.
The research changed the strategic direction of the asset mapping approach in the community settings focusing on people with low tech literacy.This toolkit helps community organizations identify and leverage community assets, including the identification of any barriers to accessing those assets, such as language or what constitutes as an asset. Additionally, the tools inside this kit will help facilitate conversations, develop a common language, and engage with assets once they’ve been identified.
To answer our research question, we crafted a two-phase research study. In Phase I, we conducted a qualitative study consisting of ethnographic observations, interviews. We transcribed and analyzed the data collected using inductive qualitative research methods. In Phase II of our project, we designed, build, and evaluated a physical solution that aims to satisfy the needs and concerns of the study participants.
This section gives a brief explanation of target audience and the research conducted to better articulate the problem.
The target audience are community members, local community and grass-root organizations that often employ the practice of asset mapping, which allows assets to be identified within the context of their geospatial location, such as on a physical or digital map. Community organizations and their leaders who often rely on community assets — people, places, services, relationships, etc. — for support and mutual aid.
While the interviewed Peace Fellows created their maps with different tools (digital maps, paper maps, other digital collaboration tools) all three fellows identified the high-level goal of their asset map was to deepen their community’s connections among various community members and better understand the relationships and individuals that exist within the community. In describing the importance of creating an asset map for their community, the Peace Fellows said:
“Asset mapping is a way to deepen your understanding of community.”— Centers for New Horizons
We looked at 10 competitors in the commercial market to identify trends in features.
Hand-code the interviews to turn qualitative data into quantitative data. Each interview was transcribed and codes were derived from those interviews. The codes were later combined to generate four main themes.
Key Themes From Research
Below are the themes we found through our affinity diagram and the quotes from the fellows that support these themes.
Synthesis from Findings
During interviews, we also heard that organization leaders encounter challenges discussing assets and asset mapping with community residents because the term assets often has a connotation relating to business, institutional, or monetary resources. We found that asset mapping:
- Is an ongoing collaborative process
- Does not always involve a map
- Relies on trust
- Is a way to build relationships
- Requires a shared language (e.g. mutual understanding of vocabulary around things like equity, resources, and community organizing)
- Organizations using asset mapping do not always use technology
“What we found was a gap in the asset mapping process where there is room for communities to have structured conversations and develop a shared language.”
Design Principles from Findings
From the themes above, we drew out our design principles and ideas.
With these findings in mind, our team came up with a physical solution that could be used to facilitate conversations about asset mapping within the context of community organizations and spaces. This physical solution, an asset mapping toolkit, is designed to assist community leaders in the process of getting started on a community asset map (e.g. the pre work to creating an asset map) through physical items, or tools.
Though our initial goal was to create a digital application, we found that access to wi-fi is limited or unavailable in some Chicago communities that the Peace Fellows represented, and thus it was important to design a tool that could be accessed without relying on technology or an internet connection.
This is the representation of Asset Mapping Toolkit, the purpose of which is to fill the gap we identified by providing organizations with tools to lead conversations around community asset mapping. The tools inside help facilitate conversations, develop common language, and engage with assets once they’ve been identified. It has the following :
- Onboarding Booklet
- Instructions on obtaining a map
- Community Conversation Cards
- Is a way to build relationships
- Defining Key Terms Activity
- Resource List
The objective of this tool is to get the participants acquainted with the tools inside of the toolkit and provide an overview of the asset mapping process. It includes instructions on:
- Creating a vision statement
- Defining meeting objectives
- Defining meeting roles
- How to use each tool inside the toolkit
The first objective of this map is to provide information on how organizations can obtain a map to start their asset mapping process.The second part of the map provides follow-up questions that organizations should consider once they’ve identified an asset.
The objective of the conversation cards is to help organization leaders have and facilitate meaningful conversations around their organization’s approach to asset mapping. Each set has 15 conversation questions. The cards build upon each other in the order of:
The objective of this activity is to allow organization leaders to develop a shared understanding of key terms associated with the asset mapping process.
The objective of the resource list is to provide organization leaders with information to drive community action. It can be of value during conversations around assets and asset mapping by pointing to existing resources organizations achieve their goals.
Initially our idea was to test the toolkit in person by going to each organization's location and seeing how they conduct workshop using this toolkit. But because of COVID-19 we conducted online evaluations instead.
Our motive was to receive feedback on each section of the toolkit, so we conducted an exploratory study to gather assessment data about the effectiveness and usage of the toolkit. These are a few changes we made based on the feedback.
Users suggest that they need questions to capture people and their talents; not just programs. Three out of 11 users felt great about resources in actions and questions associated with those.
Organization leaders suggest that they need questions to capture people and their talents; not just programs. Three out of 11 users felt great about resources in actions and questions associated with those.
Reflections and Takeaways
I feel fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work for Technology for Social good Lab. I was able to learn about diverse communities of Chicago and was able to work for social good that has a huge impact. I learned some valuable lessons such as:
- Different projects require different research methods - I learned that the type of research methodology undertaken depends on the timeline of the project as well as the type of information that we need to gather. Various qualitative and quantitative methods can be used to gather data based on the data needed and the time available to tackle the research.
- Time management - Working with communities can be difficult and challenging at times and requires the skills of project management and prioritization.
- Research needs to be changed with the situation - Our initial plan was to text the toolbox in person by going to various workshops organized by the community leaders but because of Pandemic, everything had to be done remotely. It was tricky to test a physical toolbox online, but we changed our evaluation methods based on time and situation.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me. I would love to share my experience with you.