Written by: Luis Felipe Moreno and Gioel Gioacchino; Edited By: Anna Wolrhab

This exercise helps people reflect on their connection to space in the community. Participants are invited to draw the map of their neighbourhood based on their personal history. This mapping technique helps researchers, as well as participants, to understand how the physical space of a community intertwines with people’s lived experiences.

Our experience using this technique: 

This technique is a mix between a mapping exercise utilized by Recrear and  another one developed by Luis Felipe at the Institute for the Protection of Children and Youth (IDIPRON) in Bogotá, Colombia. At IDIPRON, the exercise was used in a study  researching the relationship between a Hip Hop group and a new community integration strategy called ‘Armemos Parche’.

Research and Development:

What are we trying to understand about the community?

This technique helps us understand the interconnection between the physical environment of a neighbourhood/town/city and the youths lived experience within that environment. They tell us their stories by using  their very own symbols, history and their relationship to their territory to create their individual map.

Why is it important for the community’s development?

By learning about the relationship with physical space, this exercise can be a tool to reflect on young people’s lives. It might highlight power relationships, as well as the rhetorics and stories that young people use to interpret and process their experience in a specific context.

At what stage(s) of the research cycle is this method used?
Data Collection, Community building.


What do I need?

Flipchart paper, pens and markers. Alternatively, you can use chalk and draw on the road. Ideally use a phone or camera to digitize the maps.

How long does it take?

Depending on the size of the group it can take between one hour and a half to two hours.

Step-by-step description
  1. Organize the space and prepare materials and camera;
  2. Explain that this is a mapping exercise that is useful to share stories about the personal and the group’s relationship to their neighbourhood/town/city. If this exercise is used as part of a specific research process, feel free to adapt it to include other steps/details in the mapping process.
  3. If you are working with a large group, divide in smaller sub-groups of 4 to 5 people (ideally from the same neighbourhood).
  4. Invite people to draw the map of their community ( 15 minutes);
  5. Give instructions to include the different actors that are important to the group in the map (15 minutes);
  6. Give instructions to include the locations of particular symbols that are important to them in the map(e.g. a statue, street art, etc.)  (15 minutes)
  7. Give directions to add hearts to the map to describe places where they feel good and ‘Xs’ in places in which there is conflict, tension, or violence (15 minutes).
  8. Sharing:
    1. If you are using this exercise as part of an interview process,  ask the interviewee to share their personal story in relationship to the map (who have they interacted with, where do they spend time, etc.) (15 to 30 minutes).
    2. If you are working with a larger group, allow for 5 to 10 minutes for each person in the sub-groups to share their personal story in relationship to the map. Then invite each sub-group to present their map to the larger group (10 minutes per group). Make sure to allow for a discussion after the presentations – and take notes!

Benefits and Challenges

What are the benefits of using this technique?

This is a great tool to learn about the history and the vibe of a place from a youth perspective. This tool can also spark deep conversations about divergent opinions on community dynamics.

What are the challenges of using this technique?

This technique might be hard to implement if you are working with a group of people from different geographic locations.


Tips and Traps :

If you are implementing this technique with a group, it might be helpful to assign one person per group to act as an observer and take notes. This will prevent important informations from getting lost.


Recrear goes grassroots all the way.

That’s why we need your help to meet our basic operational costs and to support our growing pool of volunteers around the world.

Thanks for your support.

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