Many of you may be wondering, how do I connect my community with resources for doing and support individuals engage in their meaningful occupations amid all the barriers? Internet access is a challenge that many people experience and they are often also disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone should have access to resources for their health and wellbeing. In community-centered occupational therapy, occupational therapists use community maps to map out existing resources, partnerships, and opportunities.
As our team is spread all around the world and we’re not in all your local communities, we hope to provide you with a brief how-to-guide on creating a community map that you can share with your neighbours and fellow community members who may or may not have internet access. We hope that you can utilise this information to help to connect your fellow community members with the occupations that they find meaningful for their wellbeing.
What is a community map?
Community maps are used to illustrate the strengths, connections, characteristics and needs of a community to promote community wellbeing (Melcher, Groop, Keith, & Rozdilsky, 1998). They can be used by communities to determine the existing resources and what resources they still need to reach their goals, both in the present and for the future (Roaf, 2005). Community maps can also be used to inform community members of the opportunities and resources available to them.
Maps can be presented in many ways: a resource list is one example; other examples are apps, stickers or posters on business and organisation windows, handouts, resource binders, open-source mapping applications and more. For examples, see Access Now and Pathways Community Map (which can be printed as a PDF).
Here are four steps for creating a community map for your community:
Step 1: Get to know the community and what they need/want; this involves understanding your area, knowing what amenities are available, and what local businesses are offering. You should partner with the individuals residing in their community to ensure you get an accurate picture of their community. You could create surveys to determine what people engage with, check out your local council’s website, or look at local statistics.
Following this, create a list of resources available in your community. Ideas for resources that may be meaningful for you to include in your community’s map:
- Food resources- free meal kits for older adults and families, meals for students and kids.
- Local organisations offering baby formula, children’s clothing, and nappies for babies.
- Free activities or games available for families while they social distance.
- Organisations offering financial support for families.
- Community organisations offering free wifi that can be utilised from the car or from a safe distance outside of the building (some local libraries may do this).
- Local public transportation and modified hours (if applicable).
- Modified shopping hours and designated hours for vulnerable populations or key workers.
- Local libraries to see if they are still offering book services.
- Local restaurants may be delivering pre-prepared meals or groceries to make your own meals from their house favourites (with locally-sourced ingredients); they may also have road side pick-ups or delivery options for cooked meals.
- Local gyms and crossfit boxes may be renting out gym equipment that you can use at home – stay fit and support small businesses.
- Local businesses may have come together with initiatives to support their sustainability – if you have the financial means, see if they have gift cards available that you can buy now to use later.
- Local therapists or therapy centers may be offering free or reduced cost/sliding scale therapy options at this time.
Step 2: Reach out for help and assess more. Connect with existing community organisations and residents to share resources and get a better idea of some of the community needs. Check if your resource list matches their needs.
Step 3: Make your map! Consider what way would be the easiest way for people to connect with the information you wish to present offline. How are you going to get it to them? Do what you can to collaborate with people with lived experience in the process. When describing resources, be sure to include:
- Resource/Site name,
- a short blurb about the resource and what is offered, and
- contact information including a phone number, named individual to contact, email address, and website (if applicable).
Step 4: To make your community map accessible, remember:
- Use clear, simple language.
- Use a simple font set at a minimum of size 12 to make it easier for individuals to read. Verdana or Arial are recommended.
- Be sure to add accurate and current contact information for the resources local to your community.
- Use images for those who may find reading difficult.
***It could be really difficult to cover every single resource available in your community. All you can do is your best and if you don’t get everything covered, that’s okay.
Delivering your community map while physically distancing:
- Ask local organisations if they would be willing to display a printed version of your community map at their organisation.
- Place printed versions in commonly visited areas within your community – these could be posters, pamphlets or booklets.
- Distribute via local newspapers.
- Share your community map via email and ask community members to share digital and printed versions.
- Build partnerships: First, connect with members of marginalised communities directly; then write letters to MPs and government officials for your area advocating for improved services. Look for community initiatives that may be in place already where members of marginalised communities are in power – only those with lived experience can speak to their lived experiences with marginalisation.
- Deliver food to your local food bank or a community drop-off location that is set up for physical distancing.
- Make care packages.
- Coordinate personal protective equipment resource acquisition and delivery in your community.
We would love to know how you manage creating your community map. Please comment below or e-mail us at [email protected]
Melcher, J., Groop, R. E., Keith, J. G., & Rozdilsky, J. L. (1998). The several forms of
community mapping. Best Practice Briefs, 3, 1-4. Retrieved on February 13, 2017 from http://outreach.msu.edu/bpbriefs/issues/brief3.pdf
Roaf, V. (2005). Community Mapping: A tool for community organising. London, UK:
Author: Queeny Brown & Anna Braunizer
Twitter Handle: @ABraunizer
Queeny is an occupational therapist and doula in the U.S. Her favorite occupations include journaling, exploring matcha recipes, and listening to podcasts.
Anna is an occupational therapist working in community-based occupational therapy services in Canada. She loves working with people so they can figure out how to do what is most important to them. She is also passionate and curious about what we can do at the community-level so that people have more choices for participation and community mobility, and to promote belonging.