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 from West Bengal
Social Map from Orissa
Social Map from Philippines