Community Mapping to Build Recovery Capacity

Community Mapping is a dynamic discipline for creating an inventory of individual, organizational and physical assets that can inform and shape the practices of local place-based recovery efforts. The idea of mapping has roots in the community development process of uncovering local talents and gifts that can contribute to a healthy and thriving recovery community.

The true value of the mapping discipline, and why it is promoted as a keystone activity for capacity building, is the promotion of an ongoing process of outreach and relationship-building. Just as every recovery path is unique, so is every recovery community. It is the act of mapping that will reveal the unique characteristics and associations that can be brought to bear on helping you, as a person in recovery, to thrive in the fullness of your recovery journey.

Every community is rich in the life experiences it has to offer. Typically, only a fraction of a community’s assets are accessed fully by people – whether they are in recovery or not. What we have found interesting is that recovery can open wide the doors to experiences that have long remained hidden. Providing access to and encouraging new relationships, support systems, life skills and educational resources is the intent behind any mapping effort – a discipline that yields those assets capable of providing access to the fullness of life. 

Based on community-based asset research supported by Transforming Youth Recovery, potential community assets for building recovery capacity are a composite of eight categories that can combine to protect, support and serve young people and students in recovery.

8 Categories of Community-based Assets for Building Recovery Capacity:

  • Advocacy and Public Policy
  • Community College Recovery Support
  • Collegiate Recovery Programs and Efforts
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Prevention and Family Support
  • Recovery Support
  • School-Based Recovery Support
  • Treatment and Substance Use Counseling

Community Asset Mapping

A key part of the capacity-building approach is transforming place-based settings and environments into asset-rich communities that have a positive vision for young people and students in recovery. Here are a few principles to consider as you begin your mapping process:

  1. Walk the Talk; Talk the Walk: Using the common language of capacity building and community-based assets can bring together entire communities and strengthen the sense of belonging within groups. Recognize that this activity is as much about finding your assets as it is about building a sense of community and belonging.
  2. Partner as a Person in Recovery: This is easier said than done, but capacity building is all about the fundamental shift from people working for those in recovery to people working with those in recovery. You will find invaluable assistance from invested leaders in your community. Because they are more permanent fixtures within the community and can provide access to certain assets, those who are advocating on your behalf play a critical role in your efforts. They can provide needed guidance, open doors and create stability year-to-year as recovery communities grow and mature. The caution is not to underestimate the role you must play in cultivating relationships in your community. The easy solution is to ask others to find and mobilize community assets on your behalf.
  3. Plan and Act at the Same Time:Planning provides a road map for where you want to go, who you want to talk with. But you can get trapped spending too much time planning and never advancing. The other extreme is to jump right in without much thought or planning. The best approach, in our experience, is to do both simultaneously. Develop an immediate plan for finding and mapping your community assets. At the same time, devote some energy to a bigger picture outlook for finding the type of assets that can best support for young people in recovery. Start acting on your immediate plan right away so people can see and experience capacity building.
  4. Think Purpose, Then Program:Relationships among all kinds of individuals and associations are what makes any capacity-building effort unique and special. In its early stages, capacity building is more about building positive relationships among young people and other community members than it is about starting new programs. This is about people and purpose first, with events and programs taking a supportive role.
  5. Honor Anonymity:There will be cases when you feel it is important to maintain anonymity during the mapping process. While placing a focus on the development of individual recovery stories is meant to help overcome this barrier, what is most important is your engagement in the planning and evaluation process to foster a sense of connection and belonging within the community. In our experience, the “voice of the young person” often has the greatest influence.

Community Asset Mapping Platform

The Capacitype asset mapping platform provides the tools for your community mapping. As with any tool of capacity building, it is designed to complement the face-to-face interactions that are expected during the process.

When you first visit the Asset Map, you can register to create an account that will allow you to add assets from your local community. To record any asset, you can enter data directly into the online form that is also mobile-phone friendly (Add to the map), or you can use the Community Asset Form to record information and enter it at a later date.

Beyond the convenience of one location where your assets can be catalogued and accessed, every asset mapped will be represented by a dot on a map of the United States. As clusters of assets begin to emerge, you will be able to see where capacity is building and look in on those capacitypes that may be similar to your own efforts. This is a critical point in any capacity building approach – when those leading the efforts can look out, find and learn from what others are doing to build similar capacities in like communities. 

The day will come when the dots will be contiguous from coast to coast, and they will form the footprint of a national movement for recovery.

A Good Starting Point for Asset Mapping

There is no magic formula for when or how to best start other than just starting. You will quickly find the value in the conversations you start having, and the stories you start sharing. We have found it helpful to initially consider approaching those individuals and groups that you believe will be most receptive to your idea of capacity building for recovery in your community.

As you begin acquiring asset information, stay mindful of three questions:

  • Which factors seem to make an individual or group receptive to your efforts?
  • How might they help others become more receptive to the importance of your recovery support efforts for young people, students and families?
  • Which stories and methods seem to be most effective in getting individuals and groups on board with your capacity building effort?

The answers to these three questions provide you with the insights that can help enhance your ongoing community mapping activities. They also form the basis for the final activity in early stage capacity building – mobilizing your assets into recovery practices.

Chris @ sr4