Group mapping is a creative
approach for collecting feedback, ideas, and information. It can help people
discover more solutions than first thought possible; it can also reveal more
conflicts. It gives people the opportunity to visualize a project in a different
way, and sometimes we find that is helpful for making a project feel more real –
which, in turn, can strengthen support.
Just the Facts
Participants create a group map with tools (markers,
pencils, colored paper) using a large-scale map of their area. A question is
asked, and instead of responding verbally, everyone responds by drawing on the
map often using a pre-defined key of colors or symbols.
There are three
common types of group maps:
- Memory maps: recording how a place used to look.
- Resource maps: identifying specific sites such as historic, geologic,
recreation facilities, etc., as the first step in conducting a thorough
- Wish list maps: drawing future desires or ideas for roadways, access
locations, facilities, and protected areas for creating a shared vision or
While both group mapping and charrettes result
in creating a map or design for an area, the two are actually very different
approaches. Charrettes bring together professionals who are experts in their
fields to focus on plans to improve an area. Group mapping involves volunteer
community members and stakeholders
who may or may not be field experts but have a valuable perspective and an
understanding of the social and political aspects of a place.
How To Do It
1. Define the need
what the purpose of the group mapping exercise will be: to collect information,
issues, to begin creating a shared vision,
or something else. The more specific the purpose is, the better the chance of
getting usable, solid feedback from the participants. Also decide how
participants should make notations on the maps; consider creating a key for them
2. Plan the meeting
facilitator who may be a civil engineer, landscape architect, planner,
historian, or resource expert or just a good facilitator.
facility. Depending upon the size of the group, it may be necessary to have
space for breakout
groups. Eight to 10 participants per group are the optimal number for
mapping. Groups should be able to work at large tables or at stations posting
maps on the wall.
Logistics: set a date, create an agenda, potentially
arrange for refreshments, etc.
Invite participants: This might be part of
regularly scheduled Citizens
Advisory Group meeting, a special meeting with key stakeholders, or part of
a larger multi-day public workshop. The more
diverse the group, the better the results.
Large-scale United States Geological Survey (USGS) maps are
most conducive for group mapping. Also consider using aerial photography and
project manuscripts if they are available. If there will be multiple small
groups or if participants will be responding to more than one question, get the
required number of maps. It may also be helpful to have local roadmaps on hand
for participants to reference. For recording, markers and pencils are necessary.
Construction paper cut into assorted shapes and colors may also be used as a
pre-defined key; the cutouts can be taped or glued into place on the
4. Get everyone going
At the beginning of the
meeting or workshop, the facilitator should carefully explain the exercise and
how the information will be used. Then give instructions including reviewing the
map; some lifelong residents may have never seen a USGS map or aerial
photography of their area before. Pose the question, or questions, give the time
allotment, divide into small groups if applicable, and get people drawing and
talking. It may be a good idea to have someone act as a recorder in each group.
5. Review together
After time is up, go over the
map. Give everyone a chance to ask questions and further elaborate. If breakout
groups were used, have all of the groups present their own maps and summarize
their conclusions, findings, or recommendations. Discuss again how the
information will be used.
A method of gathering information
and opening discussions as people express their ideas graphically on a
Use It If...
- You want to give everyone a chance to contribute to the discussion. Some who
may not be comfortable speaking in front of others may be comfortable making a
drawing on a map.
- You want to collect information in a more interactive, creative method and
open dialog among group members.
- You would like to have a graphic image that shows a group’s vision or the
long-term plan of a project to use as a poster or in another publication or for
Forget It If...
- You have already gathered the information in another means such as an
inventory, a survey, or other workshops.
- You do not have time to acquire large maps or have not developed a clear
question for participants to answer.
- Your group is too large and you do not the materials for the number of
necessary breakout groups or the facility cannot accommodate them.
Timing is Everything
Use group mapping to gather information and ideas in the
beginning of a project.
Public Concept Sketches - D6- Item
Public Corridor Suggestions
- D7- Item No. 7-249