How to make an asset map (and why)
What is an asset map?
An asset map is designed to help you conceive visually of the distributed intellectual, relational, infrastructural, and financial resources available to your organization.
How are asset maps used?
The asset mapping process can enable you to develop a clear sense of where stakeholders/resources are currently being successfully integrated into the work at your site, and where your organization might begin to find untapped stakeholders/resources.
Steps in the asset mapping process
1. Choosing an aspect of your organization. If your organization, coalition, or consortium is large, you may want to decide to focus on some pragmatically-tied subset of it for the purposes of asset mapping. In general, we map assets for pragmatic reasons; that is, we map assets that are useful in the solution of particular problems or issues.
2. Information gathering. Much of this work will be based on interviews and relational meetings with stakeholders. You may wish to ask open-ended questions that look like this: Who do you see as your most important allies in this work? (Follow up: Tell me more about how this person relates to your work? What resources does this person bring to the table? ~ Repeat as necessary) Who else has helped your organization in the past? (Follow up: What has this person brought to the table? ~ Repeat as necessary) With which organizations does your organization partner? Are there partnerships that you used to have, but don’t have any more? (Follow up: Can you tell me more about what changed?) Who have you always wished could be at the table with you, but has not yet been? (Follow up: What would they bring to the table? Why do you think they haven’t come?)
3. Structuring the asset map. An asset map can be done in many ways. We encourage you to choose a method that seems most fitting to you and the particular assets and needs of your organization. No matter which specific approach you choose, a completed asset map contains the following elements:
A) A conceptually-driven visuospatial depiction of relevant stakeholders. You may choose to overlay these stakeholders on a map (of a building, a campus, a city, a region; as in geoinformation systems modeling), or simply in a web (as in social network analysis). Feel free to get creative with this. Creative asset maps may utilize chalkboards, tinkertoys, mobiles, collages, etc. Some folks have also been quite effective cutting and pasting onto posterboard and construction paper, or just using a notepad and pen, with lots of explicit keys.
B) A mechanism for categorizing the resources a stakeholder brings to the table. Color-coding text boxes, or shaping text boxes in symbolic ways, is often useful when categorizing visuospatially. Your asset map should have at least the following categories of resources:
- cognitive resources (content or process expertise, e.g. grantwriting expertise, or songwriting ability)
- financial resources (grants, loans, seed money, or skill in procuring said resources)
- infrastructure (e.g. av equipment, medical equipment, computing resources, art materials, vehicles ~ you may want to denote such subcategories by color coding or symbolizing)
- spatial resources (physical housing for your work; a clinic, a garage to work out of)
- psychological resources (heart, passion, love for the population served, personal stake)
- relational resources (e.g. network centrality, as in mavens, connectors ~ you may choose to depict this symbolically, or simply make a much bigger map, or depict deep and broad connectedness that exists off the map)
C) A mechanism for denoting relationships among stakeholders. Minimally, your asset map should:
- make use of color-coding or symbols to distinguish family relationships, financial relationships (eg between you and a granting agency), effective professional relationships, ineffective professional relationships, broken relationships, possible new relationships, etc. Different kinds of lines, or colors of lines, are often useful in this regard.
- make note of structural holes (places where there are no relationships but where creating relationships would further the mission)
- note the directionality of relationships (often using arrows: <--, -->, or <-->)
4. Narrating the asset map. In addition to the asset map itself, it is also useful to provide annotations and a summary narrative. This should minimally include:
A) A brief introduction to the organization, to the particular aspect of the organization you are mapping, and to the particular problem or issue you are intending the asset map to be useful for.
B) A detailed key that will enable a total outsider to easily and quickly gain a thorough understanding of the symbols used in your particular asset map.