Participatory Mapping for Community Engagement and Empowerment

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Mapping and spatial analysis can be powerful tools for producing knowledge and making decisions. Participatory mapping, which is a “bottom-up” form of map-making, can enable local communities to be directly involved in these processes. Participatory mapping can vary from small community workshops to online mapping applications, but whether a certain technique will be successful at engaging and empowering communities is dependent upon a variety of social, economic, and technological factors. This project explores the potential of different participatory mapping techniques for engaging and empowering local communities, particularly in small-scale asset-based planning efforts. Through a comprehensive literature review, an analysis of a set of case studies, and a survey of participatory mapping participants, I identify advantages and disadvantages of three different participatory mapping approaches. I synthesize this research into a set of best practices for selecting a participatory mapping method and conducting mapping activities, which can provide guidance for those who are hoping to use participatory mapping in their own spatial decision-making processes. While there is no single approach that will always be successful, this project can help planners and community leaders better understand the benefits and drawbacks of certain mapping techniques in order to more effectively engage and empower their communities in spatial decision-making processes.