Co-designing asset mapping: comparative approaches

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Engineering & Innovation

Abstract

Asset based community development (ABCD) is a powerful approach being used with a diverse network of communities and community organizations across the Connected Communities programme to help uncover and utilize their hidden potential, their tangible resources (such as spaces, services and infrastructures) and intangible qualities (such as creative talents, skills, knowledge and social capital). Asset mapping has been deployed as a community engagement, research methodology and co-design tool seeking to enable groups to communicate stories, concerns and achievements but also to generate a shared vision and identify areas for development (personal, economic, environmental, cultural and social). Through a combination of discussion methods with creative techniques (participatory cartography, filmaking, visual art and storytelling, gaming, digital media and theatre performance), asset mapping has been used to trigger creative responses as well as creatively document, visualize and enable collective action, which could potentially improve the livelihoods of groups and communities, their spaces, services and environments.
In this context, the scope and possible meanings of 'mapping' drives central effort into the understanding of the different modes of exploration and representation of, and engagement with, communities. A number of questions direct this: What are the different meanings of mapping? What types of assets are captured by different approaches? What are the social, cultural, psychological, ethical, logistical contexts involved in different asset mapping approaches? How can we creatively analyse and reflect on insights gained from asset mapping methodologies? How can the different asset based methodology be communicated, expressed and represented more effectively to enhance their availability as a resource to the wider community?
It is thus necessary to develop knowledge that comes from comparison, collaborative reflection and evaluation, and, cross-pollination of approaches, and, to develop useful methods and strategies form meaningful analysis, as well as representation and dissemination that will advance academic research, community practice and policy debates.
Our collaboration and approach in this project is unique in that it seeks to advance the exchange of perspectives adopted by the different approaches and to promote an agenda for the evaluation of asset mapping across the humanities, arts and social sciences, both as a research methodology and as a co-design/coproduction tool supporting collective/community engagement and action.
Our collaboration brings together Connected Communities projects from the Open University and the Royal College of Art, and the Universities of Keele, Leicester and Brunel and community partners The Glass-House, Young Vic Theatre and Atenistas Group in Greece. Our methodologies have tapped into narrative and theatre, cultural animation and digital story-telling, group discussion and creative visualisation, participatory chartography and game-playing and brings together philosophical perspectives from American Pragmatism, design studies and informatics, community media and citizen journalism, and fields of action in relation to placemaking and neighbourhood planning, creative networks and volunteerism. The project's innovative mode of delivery includes sharing knowledge and resources among existing CC projects through - field research trips, knowledge exchange with other research projects and experiential workshops where we will co-design approaches for exploring the application of asset mapping in wider and transnational contexts.
We will disseminate our findings in workshops, through a visual website and collaborative report and will feed our lessons into the teaching curricula of the seven universities taking part in the project. Our ultimate aim is to develop the meaningful syntheses, processes and tools around asset mapping approaches that can be sustained and developed.

Planned Impact

The impact strategy of this project is tightly intertwined with its research aims and objectives. The project's aims are three-fold: a) to develop a network of community-academic partnerships engaged in asset mapping approaches, within and outside the CC programme, b) to creatively and collectively map and reflect upon the different asset mapping approaches deployed by existing projects, and c) to co-design asset mapping approaches by acting upon existing challenges and opportunities. The identified beneficiaries of the project are local communities and communities of interest, community-based organizations, research institutions, individuals working with communities and policy makers. The project activities and insights are expected to have impact on the social, economic and cultural making of communities in the UK and Greece, on the innovation capacity of community-based organizations and on policy-making.

We have engaged with representatives of direct beneficiaries (project partners) from the start to prepare the proposal in order to ensure that our project will deliver useful and practical outcomes that fit their needs. Our UK community partners are The Glass-House with an experience in working with communities engaged in design and placemaking and The New Vic Theatre with an extensive track record on working with communities that are marginalised. Moreover, our international community partners are Atenistas an open community of citizens organising local actions for transforming cities with local interventions. Community representatives from communities of place and/or communities of interest will be also identified from seven Connected Communities projects and two related research projects.

The activities proposed (field trips, reflective synthesis, co-designing new applications of asset mapping) will lead to the development of a shared understanding of the conditions under which the different tools, methods and contexts can be communicated and represented. This will allow the application of asset mapping approaches in the practice of community organizations and/or build the capacity for a more diversified and informed offering of asset based approaches. It has been postulated that our community partners will benefit for learning on 'how to' apply certain asset-based approaches but also understand their implications and conditions of use. Ideas from this shared understanding will also be cross-fertilised, and further expanded by testing the applicability of various approaches to different contexts in Greece, while learning from the different approaches to mapping and cultural engagement in that context.

In sum expected areas of impact are to:

1. Provide practical and analytical guidelines for academics who engage with local communities and community based organisations
2. develop further effective methods for capturing community level ideas, stories and assets, to improve targeted and sustainable action development by non-profit and supporting organizations
3. Develop public outputs from community achievements and encourage sustained community engagement with academics through co-learning persistent knowledge sharing
4. Contribute to debates about public connection and regeneration by providing a showcase platform and forum for academics, local community groups and community based organisations (CBOs)
5. improve teaching curriculum in areas of design innovation and informatics, community studies, media and communications, management, cultural geography and research methodology.

The deliverables are intertwined with the delivery of the research activities. Data collection, analysis and reflections about the impact of the project are will be communicated in a final report, in a conference paper and in an end of project event. All other activities will be communicated in the project's and community partner's websites.
 
Title A Hive of Actions 
Description A 25 minute documentary film (with subtitles in English) capturing insights about our engagement with the solidarity movement and grassroot routs in Athens. It offers offer snap-shots of the discussion and creative activities during the networking event and workshop at the Kypseli Cultural Centre (an event attended by more than 50 people) and from narratives as well as debate among community groups, the research team and other stakeholders. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact Editing the film together with filmaker, the PI (Giota Alevizou) engaged with a new avenue for communicating research to non-academic audiences and in creative pedagogical ways. Since it's release in February 2015, the film has been screened in community events in Greece, enabling the participants within the initial event to further network and learn from creative methods and discussions. Coinciding with a turbulent time in Greece during the austerity /debt crisis, the film (and its contents) have inspired other academics /public scholars in the UK to connect with specific groups and groups solidarity movement who participated. It has fuelled further networking with academics in the UK working with solidarity movements in Greece and Southern Europe (e.g. Dr Lee Salter, Senior Lecturer in Media and Film at Sussex University. Dr Salter used the PI's knowledge, research contacts and this film for further research in Greece during the austerity Crisis, backing a new documentary: See more https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/lee-salter/live-from-greece-money-puzzles-and-documenting-of-austerity) In addition to the link below the film can be accessed on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqePybFFacA 
URL http://comparativeassetmapping.org/?p=699&mo=31
 
Description Asset based community mapping and related approaches can serve as powerful research method and co-production tools. A set of diverse, yet interrelated approaches have been used by teams within Connected Communities programme and beyond this. They have helped communities uncover and utilize their hidden potential, tangible resources (such as spaces, services and infrastructures) and intangible qualities (such as talents, skills, knowledge, social, emotional and creative capital) to unlock civic aspirations.

The project set out to build upon existing collaborations from Connected Communities projects and to expand the network of community-academic partnerships engaged in asset based approaches to creatively and collectively map, reflect upon, and evaluate different dimensions of assets and the affordances of asset mapping approaches and to expand collaborations with organizations and community groups in the UK and Greece.

Through fieldwork and networking activities, we gained insights that that creative methods can enhance self-confidence, break down hierarchical barriers for participation and fuel positive attitudes for action and sustained engagement, in marginalized, at risk and youth groups. We reflected upon the affordances of asset mapping for unlocking perceptions of value about places and communication infrastructures within localities through geographical field trips and for the co-creation of visual, playful and interactive narratives.

Although some asset based approaches work better with groups come together with a shared aspiration or purpose, the process of coming together through creative asset-based and co-design workshops, can fuel focused thinking and creative experimentation that can inspire specific and tangible outcomes.

We have translated and adapted instruments from asset based methodologies used by respective partners in the UK, in Greek and used them in respective workshops during September and October 2014. We have learned from, and exchanged knowledge with, new collaborators in the UK and Greece and are in the process of analysing rich data collected from insights about perceptions of assets, and asset-based methodologies for civic action in Greece.

Although asset based methodologies present interesting ways to unlock community assets and narratives in the process of engagement or co-design, more can be done to further utilise the value of these creative methods as a research/analytical tools. While some techniques lead to creative outputs (e.g. documentary theatre scripts, sculptures, diagrams, etc), we conclude that the combination of traditional analytical approaches (e.g. thematic or discourse analysis) and diagrammatic visualisations can provide a rich account that can be reported back to diverse publics and academic communities. The use of guidelines, handbooks or simply communicated documentation of approaches in a variety of outputs (blogs, website, booklets) can be used to stimulate further appropriations of methods by community groups. Several tensions and ethical considerations exist revolving around asset-based or asset mapping approaches, including: a) lifespan of activities versus community groups' priorities and researchers'/facilitators' schedules b) getting adequate representation for all stakeholders individuals engaged c) although insights about processes are generally positive, recording, representing, analysing and reporting back all data is exceptionally complex d) ethical considerations regarding community anonymity and the need for visibility to fuel action e) gaining trust of community groups and engage individuals as peer collaborators' involves developing reporting guidelines and negotiating division of labour regularly f) enough contextual information (about group's history, relationships and civic practices, issues around areas/localities) may be needed (using interviews and participatory ethnography approaches) and insights analysed to identify ways to build capacity and influence.
Exploitation Route Stories we have collected about assets, unearth various perceptions or aspects surrounding the idea of 'value', to the extent that we can point to potentially credible injection points for investment in civic culture and volunteerism in Greece and the UK, particularly in urban centres, that have been affected by economic, refugee and housing crises respectively. Likewise, the idea of several insights and contextual questions about the relationship of people and place focusing on: a) identity and belonging; b) connection and representation; c) perceptions and aspirations about the modes, modalities and models of participation for a public purpose; d) civic creativity: ideas about tangible ways relating to small actions, and critical reflections about opportunities and challenges in engaging with authorities in localities or for excreting influence in decision making.

The findings have been made available on the project's and Connected Communities websites, and on a number of project partners' websites and publicity materials and through prospective academic papers. In the website we have provided some case study materials which we hope to could help inspire other communities to explore how aspects around asset-based approaches could be used to help them achieve their aspirations. A raised interest has been expressed from communities and local authorities in Athens who have participated in this study for sharing expertise and knowledge about the instruments and the approaches to asset-based methodologies beyond the confines of the project.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://comparativeassetmapping.org
 
Description Our work on this project has been used in one principal way: For the benefit of academic and community partners, with whom we have worked in reflective, inquisitive and experiential activities in the UK and Greece. We will seek impact by direct engagement in a very wide range of dimensions, spanning from the level of UK and Greek local authorities, third sector organizations and civic groups, through seeking additional funding and collaborative activities. A raised interest has been expressed from communities and local authorities in Athens who have participated in this study for sharing expertise and knowledge beyond the confines of the project. The findings have also been used by Living Maps Network to inform funding bids and events (http://www.livingmaps.org.uk) and organise workshops around community engagement and regeneration. The final report of the project has been commended by Miriam Levin, Mobilisation Manager for Community Rights and Neighbourhood Planning at DCLG who noted in personal email 'this is a particularly useful and interesting piece of work, packed with knowledge from case studies and creative tools for community engagement'. The findings will be made available on the project and AHRC websites, and on a number of project partners' websites and publicity materials (additional funding will be sought for the AHRC Connected Communities Showcase) and through prospective academic papers. In the website we have provided some case study materials which we hope to could help inspire other communities to explore how aspects around asset-based approaches could be used to help them achieve their aspirations.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Interest from Connected Communities Policy Review (Led by Dr Stephen Connelly) with respect to DCLG and DCMS
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Interest on Asset Mapping and Capacity Building from deputy mayor for Civil Society (Athens, Greece)
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Knowledge Exchange regarding Cultural Animation 
Organisation Arts Council England
Department New Vic Theatre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Exposure to a range of different approaches to asset mapping, and activities surrounding community groups and civil society organisations. An opportunity to engage with a large network of academics and practitioners; an opportunity to reflect on their own methods and practices and learn from others and new action research activities. The opportunity to engage in, and contribute to, international research and networking activities.
Collaborator Contribution Practitioner perspective and insight about practical ideas/tools in cultural animation. Sue Moffat (director at the New Vic) delivered cultural animation activities in two workshops and participated in some research activities in Greece.
Impact As of early November 2014, the outputs and outcomes include: Participation in workshops and some international activities. Contribution to the development of the evaluation and comparative aspects of asset based approaches. Contribution to the delivery of cultural animation activities in Greece.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Knowledge Exchange with The Glass-House Community Led Design 
Organisation Glass-House Community Led Design
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Exposure to a range of different approaches to asset mapping, and activities surrounding community groups and civil society organisations. An opportunity to engage with a large network of academics and practitioners; an opportunity to reflect on their own methods and practices and learn from others and new action research activities. The opportunity to engage in, and contribute to, international research and networking activities.
Collaborator Contribution Practitioner perspective and insight about practical ideas/tools in place-making. Opportunity to co-develop and disseminate research findings /insights in wider public networks.
Impact As of early November 2014, the outputs and outcomes include: Participation in team meetings and workshops and some international activities. Contribution to the development of the evaluation and comparative aspects of asset based approaches. Contribution to the planning of international activities.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Network with civil society organisations and chart asset based approaches in Greece 
Organisation Atenistas
Country Greece 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The Open University team contributed to the Atenistas group (http://atenistas.org) and a former member of the Reactivate Athens (http://www.reactivate-athens.com) research team, Lina Liakou (www.http://linaliakou.me), through helping them to understand asset based methodologies as well as creative techniques surrounding place-making and civic engagement and to think about their own role and activities.
Collaborator Contribution The partners contributed by helping by exchanging knowledge and expertise about creative and civic activities in Athens, to create links with place-making communities and civic society groups and think about about ways for disseminating outputs. Partners also participated in the research including taking part in workshop, interviews, and provided some input on identifying contacts and framing interview material for fieldwork activities in Greece.
Impact Contributions to the project website, Assistance in the planning of workshops.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Network with civil society organisations and chart asset based approaches in Greece 
Organisation Reactivate Athens
Country Greece 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The Open University team contributed to the Atenistas group (http://atenistas.org) and a former member of the Reactivate Athens (http://www.reactivate-athens.com) research team, Lina Liakou (www.http://linaliakou.me), through helping them to understand asset based methodologies as well as creative techniques surrounding place-making and civic engagement and to think about their own role and activities.
Collaborator Contribution The partners contributed by helping by exchanging knowledge and expertise about creative and civic activities in Athens, to create links with place-making communities and civic society groups and think about about ways for disseminating outputs. Partners also participated in the research including taking part in workshop, interviews, and provided some input on identifying contacts and framing interview material for fieldwork activities in Greece.
Impact Contributions to the project website, Assistance in the planning of workshops.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Asset mapping workshop with Atenistas group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact The purpose of the activity was three-fold; a) to use asset based methodologies and spark discussion that would shed more light in the way that the Atenistas group - a voluntary organisation with the purpose to improve the quality of life in Athens, through atheistic interventions in parks, schools, street and through social actions for inclusion and regeneration - is organised and map their aspirations; b) showcase asset based methodologies and fuel ideas for further action.

The group reflected positively on activity and expressed the desire to use and adapt the methodologies used a) for periodically reflect upon the make-up of the group itself; b) for deceiving more participatory approaches in the planning and delivering actions with other groups and other relevant stakeholders within Athens.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://comparativeassetmapping.org
 
Description Civic Hives: Showcasing asset based methodologies and networking civic organisations in Athens 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The event generated a lot of insights about the ideas and aspirations of a notable segment of civil society in Athens. It stimulated a lively discussion and debate about the issues and aspirations expressed by participants as well as a creative exchange of best practices and challenges. It generated a lot of interest for sharing best practices about asset based methodologies, but also the desire to network with groups that have shared aspirations in improving quality of life in the localities.

The workshop generated positive responses from the participants. Several participants commented that the workshop helped them think positively and constructively about their areas of action, and some delegates participated in adapting and co-developing: a version of the Glossopoly game, the' tree of life' an installation used in cultural animation techniques from the New Vic Theatre and other aspects from asset /idea /action mapping. The deputy mayor as well as other participants expressed a liv
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://comparativeassetmapping.org/?p=699
 
Description Co-Design and co-production workshop: Shinfield Rise Community Flat 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The event created positive responses from the young people involved in the community and generated creative outputs for the design of an under-utilised community garden. The creative activities used (drawing, lego, and monopoly board) during the event helped young people think more positively about their area, by enacting their desires through imaginative play.

The activity gave important insights about the dynamics of young people's participation in co-designing activities. Peer pressure and self-image influence appear to influence the way that young people engage with their communities.

At the practical level the activity also offered some insights about the power of creative methodologies and the affordances of play in stimulating desires for civic engagement at the local level.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Communication Infrastructures and asset mapping with residents of Haringey (Green Lanes Ward) (2 activities) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Our engagement with these different approaches has brought forward a number of critical questions about the strengths and weaknesses of asset mapping approaches when studying communication infrastructure and community. The PI utilised the asset mapping approach from the creative citizen in a different context and also learned how adapted elements of the communication asset mapping approach developed by colleagues of the Metamorphosis project at the University of Southern California, who collaborate with the LSE research team.

Our engagement with asset mapping also inspired us in experimenting with innovative methodological approaches during the fieldwork with the LSE/USC project, which were further developed in a public engagement event, and has brought forward a number of critical questions about the strengths and weaknesses of asset mapping approaches when studying communication infrastructure and community. Crucially, the following questions emerged from this collaboration and will be further fleshed out in a pers
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://comparativeassetmapping.org/?p=317
 
Description Cultural Animation: Pictures of Health 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The event encouraged participants to achieve personal and collective goals by articulating ideas and experiences through dramaturgical play and the development of narratives through artefacts, rather than the written word. Participants were immersed into creative thinking around challenges surrounding surrounding health services and worked out pathways to solidarity.

The activity offered a hands on insight about the benefits (and shortcomings) of cultural animation in community settings, and gave the PI (Giota Alevizou) a rich perspective on cultural animation via participant observation.

The approach aimed to create an environment in which community members, academics and other participants co-design and co-produce shared themes around health services' crises and create artistic outputs based on the themes emerging . These techniques included the development of artistic narratives such as poems, songs, and other outs puppets, tableaux as well stimulate mini performances enacting the themes explored.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://comparativeassetmapping.org/?p=243
 
Description Encouraging the development of new actions (in Greek: ???a??????ta? t? d?ยต??????a ???? d??se??) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The press release contributed in sparking interest for international collaborations and sharing knowledge around asset based methodologies for civil society groups in Greece.

Not known so far.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.enet.gr/?i=news.el.article&id=450742
 
Description Engagement with Dourgouti Island Hotel Project (In Athens Greece) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Following up from the networking event, conducted in Athens on 4th October 2014, Dr Martin Phillips (Co investigator), engaged further with the Dourgouti Island hotel project, interested in processes of phsychogeorgraphy, affective mapping and community story-telling. During 2 days of events on 6 and 7 December 2014, Dr Phyllips conducted a series of workshops to adapt and co-design a version of Glossopoly, aka Dourgoutopoli, with 40 children and other members of the local neighbourhood. The first event was facilitated by the Athens arts based organisation Oxi paizoume within the Dourgouti project (http://www.dourgouti.gr/); Results of the intervention, which had a popular response and yielded important questions about home, identity, belonging and spheres of cooperation, were presented the following day of the workshop at Panteion University in Athens (Depts of Geography and Cultural Policy) in an event that was attended by students, academic and other local stakeholders.

Some insights are reported in the URL below. Additional materials (In greek): http://6okynosarges.blogspot.gr/2014/12/blog-post.html
http://www.dourgouti.gr/#!dourgoutopoly/cvj0 And also https://www.facebook.com/events/1502811589985922/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://comparativeassetmapping.org/?p=604
 
Description Engagement with Living Maps Network 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Share and showcase knowledge and learn new approaches by engaging with a network of academics and practitioners in the field of asset mapping and creative critical chartography. As result of a series of meetings and discussions with Living Maps Network (http://www.livingmaps.org.uk/wordpress/) , the PI (Giota Alevizou) has been invited to serve in an expert participant /consultant in a forthcoming grant to Trust for London, surrounding capacity building in participatory planning, and has invited to talk about the results of the asset mapping project in the Living Maps Network events series (July 2016).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
URL http://www.livingmaps.org.uk/wordpress/
 
Description Showcasing assets from asset based methodologies: knowledge exchange, reflections and planning of Greek fieldwork 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact The event also provided a useful basis for 'experiencing' the assets of asset based approaches used by some of the connected communities projects and offered a space for the Greek community partners to showcase their knowledge, discuss challenges of community action and brainstorm on ideas about ways to approach civil society groups and directions for further research and engagement activities.

The activities and discussions resulted in further adding evaluations within a matrix of asset based approaches, which was developed by the PI (via input from the research team and partners) and sparked a lot of reflections about the strengths and weakness of community research, the importance of communication infrastructures and plans surrounding the 'applicability' of asset based methodologies to direct research and practical approaches for fieldwork activities in Greece.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://comparativeassetmapping.org