Map of Kirkintilloch

Interactive assets map

The project created an online visualised interactive map which details the assets of the community through the eyes of the people who have experience of, and who live within, the community.

www.iriss.org.uk/kirkintilloch

The people involved in the project categorised assets using their own language. The following categories were identified:

  • Food
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Organisation
  • Outdoor space
  • Physical exercise
  • Religion/spiritual
  • Shopping
  • Social Space
  • Volunteering

Rather than being static moments in time it is important that the map changes to reflect the group of people who are using it. This map can be explored, added to and rearranged by people in the community. In addition, the assets defined by the people involved in the project have been tagged according to categories that they came up with and are therefore more meaningful to them.

The interface allows individuals to add assets as they go, comment on other assets (through a moderator) and also upload pictures (especially useful when people are new to an area). We have also linked the map so that there is a mobile application, which is freely downloadable to all smart phones. This means that people can view and add to the map when they are out and about in the community.

The map itself will continue to be a work in progress, with more and more people adding to it and changing the shape of what it looks like.  By doing this, we can gather insights into how things are changing over time and hopefully keep the energy and enthusiasm of the project alive.

Beyond developing a map, the process was designed to promote connections or relationships between individuals, between individuals and organisations and between organisations. Commonly people (practitioners and people who use services) talked about being inspired to try out new things and of being inspired by listening and working together with others.

The assets of individuals

Many times in trying to solve a problem, we start with a ‘needs assessment’. This will generally identify the problem that exists and will set about a way to finding a route for which to meet the identified needs. Using this approach means that there is a tendency to focus on the shortcomings of individuals, since it identifies the problems before the strengths.

A needs focus can sometimes make us feel overwhelmed, resigned, hopeless. Focusing on the positive – on people’s strengths can allow us to feel energised and hopeful, even.

Over the course of the project we’ve been speaking to people who have experienced mental health problems on a 1-1* basis – asking them what exisits in their lives that helps their well-being. We did this because we wanted to help them to map the assets that they had within themselves, and within their networks that might help them to keep well.

We did this using many of the same techniques described in previous posts for community asset mapping – but with a definite focus on the individual, their likes and dislikes, their friends and family and their situation overall. This links very much into the Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) idea of creating a ‘wellness toolkit’.

I was quite weary of undertaking these exercises at first, because I was worried that people might not be able to see the positive things that they had in their life, and that going through the process might be upsetting. I was wrong.

Having conducted 10 of these discussions with a range of different people, the view is that people found it overwhelmingly positive. There was nothing new to the types of conversations that the practitioner and I were having with them, but mapping things out in a visual way that could be recorded and considered had some really encouraging effects.

Practitioners were able to tackle problems that they’d been discussing for quite some time in a new way and were able to identify factors/issues that they could work on with the individuals quite readily. Service users noted that the process was useful in really thinking about what is important and recording it so that it could be reflected upon at a later date when they were feeling less well (or indeed more well). They were also clear that the visual aspect of it was really good – to be able to literally see what they have (and how much they have) was really powerful.

Here are some examples of the maps we created (highlighting the different methods that we used):

 

Reflections

This type of planning won’t be suitable for everyone, all of the time. For the use of the tool/process to be effective, it will need to be done when the person is feeling well.
What worked best was when there was a good relationship with the practitioner and the service user – it meant that people really thought through the process, rather than coming up with superficial answers.

It also worked well when we tried out these approaches in a group – people were able to spark ideas off of one another and to think about different areas of their lives by being prompted by their peers. Some people were quite overwhelmed by the experience, though, and it is important to ensure that people are comfortable and made aware of what the activity is and how it can help them.

All thoughts welcome.

*1-1 basis isn’t strictly true, because many of the discussions we had for the project were helpfully facilitated by trained practitioners. Many thanks to the staff who helped facilitate these discussions!