Mapping for Change

Exploring the justice related impacts of participatory mapping

PROJECT GOALS

Four areas of focus

Identify exemplars

Through consultation with international experts, we will identify three participatory mapping projects that are considered the most influential throughout the world over the past 40 years. We refer to these significant projects as exemplars. We will then explore how social justice impacts are recognized and communicated by these exemplars through articles, reports and other project-related documents.

Field based research

We will conduct site visits to the three exemplars. We will identify and interview key individuals involved in the projects and compare the social justice impact written about them with change that is recognizable in those communities today. We will explore the obvious and disguised, the positive and negative as well as the direct and indirect outcomes of the participatory mapping process.

Reflect on our practice

Our fieldwork will be grounded within the principles of Community Based Participatory Research. The research process will give interviewees the opportunity to reflect on and re-examine their own practice. They will also be invited to participate in other project knowledge mobilization activities beyond their communities.

Improve our research and practice

We will create a body of knowledge based on our findings to guide communities, funding agencies, development practitioners and researchers across Canada and around the globe as they undertake participatory mapping projects. Our research will directly contribute to making participatory mapping practice more impactful. This will create lasting positive changes through giving individuals and communities a greater voice in influencing positive social and political change.

Participatory mapping is a process that supports local stakeholders to create maps. These maps are used to communicate a community's knowledge, relationship and experiences of a place. The practice of participatory mapping recognizes that community members are the best source of knowledge about the historical, contemporary and cultural use of their lands and how changes to these lands impact their livelihoods. Participatory mapping is a widely embraced practice used throughout the world by a broad range of actors, including researchers, government and community development practitioners. Over the past 40 years, it has become a vibrant area of practice, a well-used research method and is increasingly seen as an area of interdisciplinary study in its own right.

To date, research that critically examines the benefits of participatory mapping has been anecdotal, short-term or concurrent with the mapping project. Beyond the immediate project activities and outcomes, little is known about the long-term social justice impacts, as well as the sustainability of projects and their unanticipated outcomes. We propose to examine the social justice impacts of participatory mapping to better understand how its practice can create lasting changes in addressing inequity, overcoming structural barriers and contributing to individual rights and collective good.