Asset Mapping


Asset mapping is the process by a community inventories its assets and capabilities. The process can take many forms, but is a positive way of identifying both strengths and gaps and identifying a plan for moving forward.

Tool Description

Asset mapping is the process by which the capabilities of individuals, civic associations, and local institutions are inventoried.  It involves documenting the tangible and intangible resources of a community.

Like Appreciative Inquiry, asset mapping starts from a positive perspective, viewing a community as a place with assets to be enhanced, not deficits to be remedied. It differs from similar approaches, like Community Needs Assessments, in this way.

Assets may be persons, physical structures, natural resources, institutions, businesses, or organizations. The asset-based community development process involves the community in making an inventory of assets and capacity, building relationships, developing a vision of the future, and leveraging internal and external resources to support actions to achieve it.

Three approaches to asset mapping include:

The Whole Assets Approach takes into account all the assets that are part of people's view of their immediate community as well as the surrounding region. It is a systematic and balanced way of assessing community assets, including natural, social, economic and service components of the community system.

The Storytelling Approach produces pieces of social history that reveal assets in the community. It identifies how assets that are often hidden or dormant can be put together with others to bring to light previously unnoticed assets. Often, a story will emerge about the success of human capacity and the people who made it happen—people with community interests at heart.

The Heritage Approach produces a picture (map or list) of those physical features, natural or built, that make the community a special place. Assets include natural heritage features (such as a river, a park or beach), as well as built features (such as an old bridge, a historic building or a long-time favorite coffee shop). Almost anything from the landscape can be part of a community's heritage, if the people who live and work there feel it is significant to them.

Summary of Costs

Associated Costs
  • Consulting
  • Facilitation
  • Project Management


  • Asset mapping can be adapted in many ways for different types of communities, budgets, timelines, and to include other tools.
  • Asset mapping may yield more comprehensive results than similar tools like Capacity Inventrories or Needs Assessments, because it doesn't focus on one type of community asset.
  • Asset mapping can be a great tool for a struggling community because it forces people to start thinking about positive aspects.


  • Certain elements of character or community issues may not be considered assets and may be overlooked; processes like visioning are better able to describe what the community would like to become.
  • Good asset mapping requires a significant amount of creativity and organization, which can take time and money.
  • Sometimes problems do legitimately need to be addressed, and asset mapping can be viewed as unrealistic for leaving them out.
Submitted By: svannostrand
Last Updated: August 17, 2012, 10:08 am

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