• Use Community Resource Mapping and other research to develop knowledge of the existing assets, stakeholders, and connections in communities.
  • Evaluate community readiness to implement PBL in schools.
  • Determine target school districts and schools.
  • Identify “educator allies” and possible intermediary organizations to coordinate partnership efforts.




The resource document “Determining Community Readiness” offered a set of key factors and players whose presence is crucial to the future success of education transformation efforts, as well as others that will influence the right approach to those efforts. One framework that can effectively help to uncover this infrastructure is Community Resource Mapping. This approach has been around for a long time, but is being used more and more frequently in fields, from land-use planning to social-service provision, in order to develop programs and establish partnerships. The National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET) at the University of Minnesota offers a good basic definition:


Chidlred books out

Mapping provides an alternative approach to the more common “needs” or “deficit” models of youth services. Mapping focuses on what communities have to offer by identifying assets and resources that can be used for building a system…

Although there is no common definition for mapping, it is, generally, a methodology used to link community resources with an agreed upon vision, organizational goals, strategies, or expected outcomes. There are several principles that are unique to mapping efforts. First, mapping strategies focus on what is already present in the community. The idea is to build on the strengths within a community. Second, mapping is relationship-driven. Key to mapping efforts is the development of partnerships–a group of equals with a common interest working together over a sustained period of time to accomplish common goals. Third, mapping embraces the notion that to realize vision and meet goals, a community may have to work across programmatic and geographic boundaries. These principles provide the foundation for the mapping process.

This type of tool is also sometimes called Community Asset Mapping or a Community Resource Inventory. There are many kinds of ways to visualize the information collected, as well. Many “maps” don’t plot assets on a geographical map but instead use concept maps and categories. (When the results are plotted using something other than a geographic map, the region being examined must still be defined early in the process – see below.)

An example of a map plotted geographically is posted online here (PDF document).

A more conceptual example is available here

While a mapping process won’t necessarily result in a “traditional” geographic map, the first step is to define the size of the community to be described – not just geographically, but also according to other important criteria. This will help to target limited time and resources and to determine the scope of future work. Here are a few important categories to consider:

Data sources

Another Toolkit section, “Determining Community Readiness,” includes a brief list of information sources for learning about community resources that will likely also be helpful in a more formal mapping process.

Geographic size

In what defined areas should efforts to contact stakeholders and discover resources be focused? This could be limited to a single school district, city, county, metropolitan region, or PMI chapter area, or it could encompass some subsections and/or combinations of these (and other) jurisdictions. Keep in mind the following factors:

  • The size should be small enough to realistically be able to explore given limited time and resources.
  • Often, existing political and program boundaries won’t exactly fit the targeted area. For example, since many businesses hire from and service an entire region (and beyond), the geographic area for review of business resources and employer networks might be significantly larger than one or even several school districts.
  • The geographic area selected now will probably change (expand OR contract) over time as the mapping process uncovers more about the relationships in the designated region on more than one at any given point in the project lifecycle.
  • Projects also often mix different subjects, just as in real life; a single learning project might encompass art, science, marketing, and community service.

What economic and community sectors should be included in this research? The answer will depend on a region’s specific situation, but following are some sectors to consider:

  • Growing regional employment sectors
  • Economic sectors that include many project managers
  • Economic sectors that are being targeted by existing and/or planned career academies
  • Civic organizations that focus on education, employment, and career training (e.g., the Chamber of Commerce, education-oriented nonprofits, youth development organizations)
  • Local school districts and other education leaders: District Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents in charge of Curriculum, Principals, etc.
  • Philanthropists and charitable foundations
  • Economic development agencies (whether part of local government or independent)

While many sectors could be considered as relevant, the focus here is on the assets and resources present in a community that are related to career readiness and education.

Interviewing community leaders As noted in the Toolkit Section “Determining Community Readiness,” interviews with selected community leaders can provide a great deal of helpful information that does not appear in data reports or newspapers. That document also includes a list of people who are well-placed and should be considered for interviews.


It is possible that some of this work has already been done and that there is an existing Community Resource Map (or even more than one) for the specific community area. These maps (again, often referred to as Community Asset Maps and/or Community Resource Inventory), can be invaluable shortcuts.

However, existing maps may be out of date, focus on a different set of assets than the relevant ones for this map, and/or cover a geographic area that is too broad or small. Because it didn’t focus on answering the specific questions needed in the current process, an existing map is also unlikely to have all of the needed information.

Where to find information about past community mapping efforts? Besides Google and the local newspaper’s website, the best resource remains the set of community leaders already on the planned interview list. Some of them probably participated in, or at least know about, any mapping projects that have taken place in the past. Other good places to look are local government officials; city, county, and school district planning departments; and civic organizations like the Chamber of Commerce.


Although it may be too involved a process for many situations, Community Resource Mapping can be a very useful framework for delving into a community’s existing assets and investigating its readiness for educational transformation. The resulting maps reveal much about the complex network of community assets and relationships that will impact any initiatives.

“Community Resource Mapping: A Strategy for Promoting Successful Transition for Youth with Disabilities”, Kelli Crane and Becky Skinner, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition. Information Brief, April 2003. www.ncset.org/publications/viewdesc.asp?id=939

“Ready by 21 Community Catalysts – Ready Leaders: Aligning a Community’s Moving Trains”. Forum for Youth Investment. readyby21.org

“Collective Impact”. John Kania and Mark Kramer, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011, p. 36-41.

“Understanding the Value of Backbone Organizations in Collective Impact”. Shiloh Turner, Kathy Merchant, John Kania, and Ellen Martin. FSG & The Greater Cincinnatti Foundation.

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