Section 6. Asset mapping principles and tips

A key part of building capacity for recovery is transforming communities into asset-rich settings and environments that have a positive vision for people in recovery. Here are a few principles and tips to consider as you undertake asset mapping intended to enrich recovery support.

Asset Mapping Principles

Walk the Talk, Talk the Walk: Using the common language of capacity building and community assets can bring together entire communities and strengthen the sense of belonging within groups. Recognize that asset mapping is as much about building a sense of community and belonging as it is about finding assets.

Partner as a Person in Recovery: This is easier said than done, but capacity building is all about the fundamental shift from people working for those in recovery to people working with those in recovery. You will find invaluable assistance from invested advocates in the community. Because they are more permanent fixtures within the community and can provide access to certain assets, those who are advocating on your behalf play a critical role in your efforts. They can provide needed guidance, open doors, and create stability year-to-year as recovery communities grow and mature. The caution is not to underestimate the role you can play in cultivating relationships in your community. The easy solution is to ask others to find and assemble community assets on your behalf.

Plan and Act at the Same Time: Planning provides a road map for where you want to go, who you want to talk with. But you can get trapped spending too much time planning and never advancing. The other extreme is to jump right in without much thought or planning. The best approach, in our experience, is to do both simultaneously. Develop an immediate plan for finding connectors in your community. At the same time, devote some energy to a bigger picture outlook for finding the type of assets that can best support people in recovery. Start acting on your immediate plan right away so people can see and experience capacity building.

Think Purpose, Then Program: Relationships among all kinds of individuals and organizations are what makes any capacity-building effort unique and special. In its early stages, capacity building is more about building positive relationships among those in recovery and other community members than it is about starting new programs. This is about people and purpose first, with events and programs taking a supportive role.

Honor Anonymity: There will be cases when you feel it is important to maintain anonymity during certain asset mapping activities. While placing a focus on the development of individual recovery stories is meant to help overcome this barrier, what is most important is your engagement in the planning and evaluation process to foster a sense of connection and belonging within the community. In our experience, the “voices of those in recovery” often have the greatest influence.

Asset Mapping Tips

These are things we have learned along the way that can make for a more enjoyable and worthwhile mapping experience. Use what feels right for your own community mapping teams!

  • When conducting in-person interviews, we recommend sending two people. One person should focus on asking questions and guiding the conversation. The other person should be the note taker. More than two people going to an interview means it’s a meeting, not a conversation.
  • Before the interview starts, introduce the roles of asking questions and taking notes.
  • Schedule no more than three interviews in one day. Because asset mapping interviews involve active and empathic listening, the ability to have an engaging conversation dissipates over time.
  • We have found it is ineffective to have an agenda that you give to those you are interviewing. By its nature, asset mapping is an appreciative approach to inquiry and discovery. An agenda makes interactions feel like an evaluation and not a conversation.
  • The interview questions are a guidepost, not the objective. Take time to prepare your introduction and your first question. From there, appreciate what they are telling you and follow it. The most insightful interviews follow interesting threads of conversation and then, when that thread is done, pivot to the next question. The number one goal is to start building a relationship. Detailed data collection can come later.
  • If we were to provide one golden rule it would be this: Go to them. It is easy to fall into a routine of conducting phone interviews. Making time to go out and visit people and their places demonstrates the importance of your effort. And there will be numerous intangible pieces of information you will gather when interacting with people and touring places. Overall, practice curiosity when you visit and ask questions as you walk through places.
  • Above all, be thankful. Asset mapping has a long history in the world of building healthy and thriving communities. Embrace the opportunity to go out, share common interests, and find new ways to connect for those who need care and support in their lives.

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Permission to reproduce in whole or part for use in educational and other not-for-profit groups is granted with the acknowledgment of  Transforming Youth Recovery  as the source on all copies.The contents of this publication is based on work by sr4 Partners LLC under contract by Transforming Youth Recovery. © 2017