A11 Mapping the local area

Participatory Techniques

Local people already know more than any outsider about their community and the people living there. Many people assume they know everything about their local area, but there is always more to learn and understand before making new plans.

Take plenty of time to help people in the ‘community’ to tell their story together. One very effective way of doing this is to draw maps, either using clear ground with sticks, leaves and stones, or if available, large sheets of paper and pens. Encourage small groups to draw different maps to show:

  • the natural and physical resources in the area (hills, forests, roads and rivers, for example)
  • where people live, noting important people and organisations
  • how the area looked 50 or 20 years ago (only for older people).

It is best if groups of different age and gender work separately as sometimes the different results are very revealing. For example, the young people’s map may show very different information from that of older women. Allow each group to explain their map fully. Encourage questions and discussions.

  • Discuss what information should be included in a map showing important organisations. For example, the map could include credit unions, NGOs, food processing mills and both large and small producers.
  • Who did most of the drawing and most of the talking in each group? Did everyone have the opportunity to participate? If not, how could shy or quiet people be encouraged to draw and share their knowledge?
  • Did people have plenty of time to complete their maps? Was there enough time for community members to look to look at the various maps and listen to each group explaining their map fully? Encourage questions and discussions.
  • What differences are there between the maps produced by different groups? Why are there differences? How does the information from each map help to make a more complete picture of the community? Do the differences tell us something about our community?
  • How can the information on the maps be kept safe for future reference? Can maps drawn on the ground be copied onto paper? Who should look after the maps and make them available if needed?