From Social Mapping to Crisis Mapping

I recently came across the topic of social mapping thanks to a former student who is now doing some excellent people-centered development work in Haiti. Social mapping is about participatory mapping but the purpose of social mapping is not to build exact replicas of one’s environment albeit at a smaller scale. Social mapping is carried out without any rulers; simply with some pens or crayons and whatever paper is available.

The goal of social mapping is to capture local knowledge and social perceptions on a map:

The map will contain information both about physical features of the locality and about people’s attitudes to their community. Often the process of making the map – finding out about the local context and different views on what should go on the map – is just as important as the information the map contains.

Maps can also be used as simple planning. monitoring and evaluation tools. ‘Before’ and ‘after’ maps can be used to record what existed in a community at the beginning of a project and what changes occurred a year later (1).

Social maps are not drawn to scale and are not meant to be complete. The relative size of the symbols  representing available resources and infrastructure may denote their importance to a community. Likewise, the relative distance on the map of these assets may also denote how accessible or inaccessible they are to the local community.

Social mapping excercises may capture tacit knowledge of conflict triggers that would simply not surface clearly using a computer-designed map. These maps provide “The View From Below” as opposed to the top-down myopic perspective of “Seeing Like A State.” Below are a few examples of social maps that I have recently come across.

Social Map from Sudan

social map Sudan

Social Map from West Bengal

Social Map West Bengal

Social Map from Orissa

Social Map Orissa

Social Map from Philippines

Social Map Philippines

Patrick Philippe Meier

16 responses to “From Social Mapping to Crisis Mapping

  1. Thats really cool. Is that related to psychology? I would think so. Anyway, I always like to learn little todbits and this was definitely a gem. kudos

  2. “Likewise, the relative distance on the map of these assets may also denote how accessible or inaccessible they are to the local community.” This is interesting…

  3. I’ve always been very interested in how mapping is seen from people’s perspectives who aren’t used to maps. I’m sure there is someone doing a study on this type of thing already, but I find it completely fascinating looking at those hand-drawn maps.

  4. Its good to see that indeed organizations and individuals are taking time offto do mappoing and especially for projects in development since there has been arbitarary allocation of resources without really first looking at the need. Am currently trying to map Kenya in terms of need for civic education for the next year and any communication will be highly appreciated.

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  11. This is a very good effort to make map useful for mass. It helps people to understand their resoucefulness and to pave the way to make those accessible.

  12. Pingback: Social Mapping Thoughts from Patrick Meier |

  13. Hi, i’m santi. I’m student come in at from University of Jakarta, Indonesia. Mayoring Sociology. currently I’m learning about social mapping. This is very interesting. Able to proclaim a state of social map surrounding communities. However, I have difficulty in drawing. Do you have a method?

  14. Pingback: Map or Be Mapped: Otherwise You Don’t Exist | iRevolution

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