Participatory mapping relies on indigenous knowledge and perceptions about the physical and social environment in a community.  Respondents from a community are asked to draw or build maps of their community, using flipcharts and markers or locally available materials (including sticks, stones, grass, wood, leaves, sand, etc.).   Different interest groups (men, women, young, old, poor, wealthy) can work in teams to illustrate their particular viewpoints and interests about the local distribution of demographic, social, economic, or environmental features of their community. (CARE 1998)


This form of participatory mapping starts with collective discussions among groups of community members and then proceeds to drawing maps of their perceptions about the distribution of services (of any specific kind) available to residents inside and outside their specific community.  The participants are usually requested to draw their own map, e.g., on a flip-chart or on the ground, plotting features with symbols that are understood and accepted by all members of the group, regardless of literacy. (CARE 1998)


Historical mapping uses a series of participatory mapping exercises to portray the demographic and natural resources situation of the community at different moments of its history.  Up to three maps can be drawn showing the situation as it existed at a specific time in the past (e.g., five years ago, one generation ago), at the present time, and what is expected after some time in the future (e.g., five years, or one generation). (CARE 1998)


Social Network Mapping shows the economic, social and cultural ties and relationships that people have within a community or that exist between people from different communities. Maps of social networks can indicate ways in which different social groups benefit from these linkages. (WFP M&E)


  • Objective: To gain a better understanding of the geographic spread, natural resources, access to infrastructure and the dynamics of inclusion/exclusion from development and decision-making.
  • Materials/Preparation: flipchart paper, colored pens or markers, tape.
    In Tanzania and Uganda, the team found a large space for the mapping, sticks to draw into the earth for the map, idea cards, markers, stones and other materials to hold idea cards in place.
  • Participants: Members from across the community (young and old, women and men, different ethnic groups, etc.)


Following introductions, the facilitator asked participants to draw an approximate sketch of their community map (or from a bird’s eye view). In the map area, participants drew all resources within the community. This may include:

  • Roads
  • Houses
  • Health facilities or schools
  • Religious buildings or leaders
  • Water sources or sanitation facilities
  • Markets, factories or quarries
  • Rivers, community forests, fields or oxen
  • Midwives, social workers, doctors, teachers, etc.

For each household in the map, the research team worked with participants to mark the names of household heads, the number of people within the household as well as the number of working individuals within the household.

Once the community was sketched, the facilitator asked the teams to mark where different groups in the community live: the wealthy, formal and informal leaders, laborers, religious groups, ethnic groups, clans, pastoralists, settlers, labor groups, immigrants, polygamous households, sex workers, etc.
After returning from the community, research teams worked to reconstruct the map on paper, using various colored stickers or symbols to label key community resources and household characteristics.

During analysis, teams discuss:

  • What are the resource (physical and human) patterns that have been mapped?
  • Which neighborhoods have less resources and which have more?
  • Is there a correlation between human resources (powerful persons) and apparent resource allocation?
  • Can you identify well-off neighborhoods and the poor ones?  What is different about these?
  • Is there a core part (the oldest part of the community)? Who lives there?
  • Who are the people who live at the margins? What are their characteristics? Are there any values, beliefs that explain this?
  • Are the residential patterns different in the areas that are better off, as compared to those that are not?

If you have done more than one social map, you can compare the maps of different communities, those that are better off, with more resources and a larger number of powerful persons. What does it tell you about the larger locality?

Source: CARE. Gender Toolkit: Dependency Mapping. (online resource) Accessible here.


  • Objective: To know how class and castes of people depend on other classes, reasons for this dependency and results of this dependency.
  • Materials/Preparation: idea cards, markers, stones.
  • Participants: a group or interviews of men and women in the poor and very poor well-being rankings.


Following introductions, facilitators introduce the exercise and use idea cards to create a matrix:

Very Poor  Poor  Medium  Rich
Very Poor     i.e. Rely on rich for wages, food in time of shortages.
Rich  i.e. Rely on poor and very poor to provide labor. i.e. Rely on poor and very poor to provide labor.

Building in the matrix, the research team facilitates a discussion on how each class depends on the other. To begin the discussion, the facilitator asks how the poor or very poor classes depend on the rich classes. One example to trigger the conversation may be: with whom do you (the poor and very poor) depend upon for financial support or loans? In the discussion, the lead facilitator should also probe into underlying causes of dependency, in terms of economic, social and cultural factors.

Some questions that helped deepen discussions are:

  • What are the provisions of services and facilities provided instead of depending upon certain pieces of work?
  • Are these provisions fixed unilaterally or bilaterally? (If the very rich families are dependent on labor for the agricultural work, how consensus is reached between two parties for agricultural labor? What are the conditions for services and facilities? Who fixes the terms and conditions? Are the laborers free to take the wages either in cash or kind?)

This discussion also probes into how justifiable specific relationships of dependency are, and the dynamics of relationships between rich and poor. However, the research team must be sensitive to the power dynamics underlying these conversations and the appropriateness of such topics for the exercise.

Source: CARE. Gender Toolkit: Dependency Mapping. (online resource) Accessible here.


A transect walk is a tool for describing and showing the location and distribution of resources, features, landscape, main land uses along a given transect.

What can it be used for?

  • identifying and explaining the cause and effect relationships among topography, soils, natural vegetation, cultivation, and other production activities and human settlement patterns
  • identifying major problems and possibilities perceived by different groups of local analysts in relation to features or areas along the transect
  • learning about local technology and practices
  • contributing as a tool for site selection
  • triangulating data collected through other tools

What does it tell you?

  • Natural resources, present land use, vegetation, changes in the physical features and cropping systems, and so on in villages
  • Public resources, land use, social differentiation and mobility in urban communities

How to do it?

Discuss with the local analysts the route they would like to follow on the walk. This decision could be based on the community resource map if one has already been produced. Ask the analysts to think carefully and plan a route that covers the main variations in topography and other features they want to see and show during the walk. Explain that the route does not have to be straight, but can meander if necessary.

  1. With the local analysts, start at the edge of the area and begin the walk. As the walk progresses, stop at key features or borders of a new zone (such as residential, topographic, land usage, and so forth) and record the distance from the last zone. As an alternative, stop every 100 paces (or another suitable interval).
  2. Ask the local analysts to discuss and describe everything encountered or noticed and to explain the key characteristics of areas/features they see. Facilitate this discussion by asking questions about the details (along the same lines as the community resource map) and by making observations. Observe and record the details that the local analysts encounter. Make notes of all vital information gathered and draw sketches where necessary.
  3. It is not necessary to stick to the original planned route. Deviate when useful or interesting, or even at random, to observe the surrounding area and to gather relevant and useful information. Walk slowly with the local analysts and try to understand the physical features in the village from different perspectives. Interview people met along the way to obtain local perspectives from people who might not have been able, or felt able, to join the original local analysts (these interviews might provide interesting perspectives from people usually marginalized during formal activities).
  4. After the transect walk has finished, sit down in a suitable place with the local analysts to discuss and record the information and data collected. Prepare an illustrative diagram of the transect walk using the information. Where more than one transect walk has been completed, prepare a combined chart and compare results.
  5. The diagrams can be prepared on a large sheet of paper (or on the ground). On the top line, illustrate the different zones that the local analysts visited. Down the side, list headings of the areas of interest (plants, land use, problems, drainage system, and so on) and then fill in the details of what was observed in each zone.

Source: World Bank. Transect Walk and Diagramming: Procedures and Examples. (online resource) Accessible here.


Part 1: Documents Describing the Techniques

CARE. Gender Toolkit. (online resource) Accessible here.

CARE. Barton, Tom (1998). Program Impact Evaluation Process, Module 2: M&E Toolbox. CARE Uganda. Accessible here.

WFPChoosing Methods & Tools for Data Collection: Monitoring & Evaluation Guidelines. United Nations World Food Programme Office of Evaluation. Rome, Italy. Accessible here.

WV. Rapid Assessment Procedures (RAP): Addressing the Perceived Needs of Internally Displaced Persons in Gulu District, Uganda. World Vision 14 September 2000. Accessible here.

UNHCR. A Community-based approach in UNHCR operations, First Edition. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Geneva, Switzerland. January 2008.Accessible here.

Part 2: Documents Utilizing the Techniques

CRS. Livelihoods in Malawi: A livelihoods rapid assessment using the Integral Human Development conceptual framework. Catholic Relief Services. Baltimore, MD. 2010. Accessible here.


PolicyLink. Community Mapping – What is it? (online resource) 2002. Accessible here.

Academy for Educational Development, Population Communication Services (AED/PCS). CAFS Handbook: Participatory Techniques. 2002. Accessible here.