Only in the past few months have I heard this term “asset mapping” as a needed tool to surface hidden but available value, bootstrap communities, and get shit done.

As I’ve gone back through my own blog and thinking/writing, I see that i also have been talking about this since 2009, though I was calling it “Human Capital Metrics.”

I found this post in my backlog – The Future of Collaboration Begins with Visualizing Human Capital, and had made a simple mockup of how Facebook profiles could be expanded to actually show information that was useful for people trying to collaborate or get involved in a creative enterprise together.



Then I found this little video I had done for Nokia’s Ideas Project, where I posited the web was evolving into a massive “Idea Exchange.”



I noticed I also spent 20 minutes talking about this in my first public speaking event, which was at Stowe Boyd’s Social Business Edge conference in NYC. My talk was titled “Designing a Culture of Collaboration.”



So apparently I’ve been yammering on and on about needing an assetgraph for over two years, and it shockingly STILL doesn’t exist.

So, I’ve been exploring what we need to do to make a super simple application that could be plugged into Facebook (or really any social network) so that we can make value visible more easily.



Asset Mapping Process


For starters, what types of assets do we want to see?

I read through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Netowrks Asset Mapping Guide PDF, and they break down assets into three levels:

  • Level 1 – Gifts, skills, and capacities of the individuals living in the community
  • Level 2 – Citizens’ organizations/networks through which local people pursue common goals
  • Level 3 – Institutions present in the community, such as local government, hospitals, education, and human service agences

They further break down these three levels into six types: individual, institutional, organizational, governmental, physical/land, and cultural.



So, my thoughts are that these same techniques for self-mobilization and organizing for change at the local level would work for Creative Economy 3.0.


What principles does it build on? (via Synergos Knowledge Resources)

  • Appreciative inquiry which identifies and analyses the community’s past successess. This strengthens people’s confidecne in their own capacities and inspires them to take action
  • The recognition of social capital and its important as an asset. This is why ABCD focuses on the power of associations and informal linkages within the community, and the relationships built over time between community associations and external institutions
  • Participatory approaches to development, which are based on principles of empowerment and ownership of the development process
  • Community economic development models that place priority on collaborative efforts for economic development that makes best use of its own resource base
  • Efforts to strengthen civil society. These efforts have focused on how to engage people as citizens (rather than clients) in development, and how to make local governance more effective and responsive.

What’s the facilitation process?

1. Collecting stories
2. Organizing a group
3. Mapping the capacities and assets of individuals, associations and local institutions
4. Building a community vision and plan
5. Mobilizing and linking assets for economic development
6. Leveraging activities, investments and resources from outside the community


Head / Heart / Hands Framework

Donnie MacLurcan of the Post Growth Institute has assembled a nice guideline for how to facilitate an asset mapping exericse, using a “head / heart / hands” framing.

When done in meatspace, participants would list three assets for each category on post-it notes, which then get put up on a poster, answering these questions:

Head: “I have some knowledge around…”

Hands: “I know how to…”

Heart: “I am passionate about…”

I installed the free Pomodoro Daisuki app for Chrome, and have been messing with that to demonstrate this exercise online.


While this is nice in terms of visualizing your own assets and capacities, there would need to be collaborative functionality and some kind of meta-tagging system so that this information would be pooled into a database and then presented back to you as a location-based data visualization, so you can see who in your community has what and where. There also needs to be a trust network/reputation layer, because you’re not going to offer all your assets to everyone all the time.

The big issue I’m finding with individual asset/capacity mapping so far is that many of us (myself included) aren’t completely clear on what ours are or how to best identify/surface/recognize them. So no amount of technology is going to solve that problem.

There still needs to be a human component to this, which is about facilitating a mental process, and I am seeing that it’s most effective when co-created. What I mean by this is that many of our inherent assets are only as useful as they can be done with others. Otherwise they’re not “social capital.” So an individual can’t really surface their value alone, they need feedback about how others’ perceive their strengths and where others have recognized their best implementations of their superpowers. (I will describe how I’m experimenting with this in a small group in my next post.)

Now, the next level up is assets at the organizational, then institutional levels.

As a specific use case for a nascent “Resilient City Project,” I’m in talks with people from my area here in the Hudson Valley, NY, people in Detroit, in Vermont, and in Montreal. The idea is to map out social enterprises, farms, and their supply chains, so we would have a transparent Eastern Corridor assetgraph, and could begin building business-to-business exchange networks up and down the East Coast.

I just discovered localwiki (ht @ryandeussing), an open-source wiki tool for mapping. It may be useful as a first step to this mapping project. I also found sourcemap last year, which is open supply chain mapping. So you can imagine how mashing up these tools can quickly help us map our regional resources, in addition to surfacing our individual ones.


After all this is mapped, we then need to bind that with the needs of the community….. and what do we have?

Matching unmet needs with unused resources = Creative Economy 3.0 Marketplace.



Asset-Based Community Development – An Overview

Neighborhood Asset Mapping Guide

Asset Mapping For The Long Haul: A Strategy For Occupy Movements