Insights from our partners Asset Mapping for Engagement Readiness

Blue-green starry sky.

Asset mapping is the process of identifying, documenting and systematizing the existing resources, strengths, and benefits of an entity, such as an organization or a community, to incorporate them into the decision making and development work (Baird, n.d.; What is Asset Mapping?, 2004; Shahid, Vaska & Turin 2019). It is a “capacity-focused” and “strength-based” approach towards development (Baird, n.d.; What is Asset Mapping?, 2004) in contrary to the traditional “need-driven” model (Shahid, Vaska & Turin 2019).

Asset mapping could be applied for increasing of engagement readiness in many ways. Firstly, as engagement is related to the external actors, society and businesses, community asset mapping could be used. By this, the higher education institution (HEI) and its staff could become more aware of the existing partnerships and their extent, as well as identify the opportunities for contribution to the local community, the region, the surrounding businesses, etc. The concept of community asset mapping is researched and developed extensively, and relevant materials could be found, among others, from the following sources:

  • Asset Mapping as a Tool for Identifying Resources in Community Health: A Methodological Overview (Shahid, Vaska & Turin 2019) – The paper contains a step-by-step model of asset mapping, which application is not only limited to the topic of community health.
  • Asset Mapping Toolkit (Duncan 2016) – The toolkit provides a clear framework of the process, examples, and fill-in forms.
  • Participatory Asset Mapping (Burns, Paul & Paz 2012) – The toolkit contains a methodology, case studies and checklists for participatory asset mapping.
  • CASE programme: mapping asset guidance (2010) – A policy paper of the UK Government containing a physical asset mapping toolkit for culture and sport, describing the mapping process in detail, and providing checklists, models, and examples.
  • Identifying Community Assets and Resources (2014) – A learning material with checklists, examples and tools.

The assets of an HEI could also be identified and organized, or ”mapped” in a way, internally. In this context the term “assets” refers also to the education field specific research and educational resources. By being aware of the existence and extent of these assets and being able to facilitate them in the university-business cooperation or the interaction with society, an HEI maintains a level of engagement readiness.

Asset mapping needs an investment and commitment by the management to support grassroot initiatives that foster engagement (Généreux, Tracey & O’Sullivan 2020), regardless of whether the assets are being assessed within an organization or a community.


Asset literacy

Asset literacy is both a measure for increasing engagement and an outcome of strategies and intervention aiming at better engagement readiness. This is valid in a broader sense than the one offered by WHO (Généreux, Tracey & O’Sullivan 2020), where it is referred to only in terms of community participation.

Asset literacy contains four main components (Généreux, Tracey & O’Sullivan 2020):

  1. Building awareness – being able to identify internal and external assets and to categorize them.
  2. Foster empowerment – recognizing the potential value of different types of assets for the community / organization.
  3. Support participation – stakeholder engagement and other opportunities for social participation expand the asset literacy to an actionable level, on which people know how to get involved in contributing to their own assets in support of their community or organization.
  4. Innovation and engagement – supported when people have self-efficiency and motivation to act on their knowledge of assets.

Figure 1. The elements of asset literacy (source: Généreux, Tracey & O’Sullivan 2020)


What could be counted as an asset?

The definition of the term ”asset” depends on the context and limitations of the examined entity – a community or an organization such as HEI. Most authors suggest a broad definition (e.g., Identifying Community Assets and Resources 2014; Shahid, Vaska and Turin 2019), according to which a community asset could be ”anything that can be used to improve the quality of community life”, including:

  • individuals with their skills, talents, competences
  • physical structures and places
  • services
  • businesses and associations
  • stories
  • exchange between neighbors / local economy (events and other support structures).

Généreux, Tracey and O’Sullivan (2020) conclude that ”there is better understanding of the need to engage […] in identifying not only physical resources […], but also social assets across multiple ecological levels”, such as:

  • person
  • interpersonal
  • institutional
  • community
  • broader society.

Within the HEI there are also different levels of assets related to engagement readiness, as indicated in the Engagement Readiness Investigation Report (Demir & Collins 2021):

  • individuals as an asset: staff with engagement-specific skills and networks of communication
  • institutional assets: engagement-supporting structures, such as KTOs, TTOs, partnership offices and joint institutes, networks of communication (including relationships with partners, alumni, etc.)
  • physical assets; campuses, laboratories, platforms, etc.
  • financial assets: budgets and mechanisms for acquiring funding
  • educational asses: programmes and curricula, challenge-based learning, students, etc.
  • research: research results, research groups, researchers, students, etc.

All these categories should be taken into consideration, but not automatically included in the asset mapping. It is important to keep the asset mapping flexible to retain its relevancy (Shahid, Vaska & Turin 2019).

Students are a unique asset to the HEI, but at the same time they are its clients (Röntynen 2021). In community asset mapping the residents are seen to an increasing extent as co-creators rather than just clients (Duncan 2016). In a similar way, in an HEI students could be involved in the process of asset mapping, in which they can contribute to the assets of the institution and also realize their own role as an asset.


Does asset mapping require an actual map?

When it comes to community asset mapping, many of the models suggest an actual geographical placement of the assets on a map. In some cases, when the infrastructure or services of a community need to be developed or reorganized, this practice could be beneficial. Nowadays such an exercise is easy to implement in interactive mapping tools, such as Google Maps.

Figure 2. Community assets placed on an actual map (source: Burns, Paul & Paz 2012)


Sometimes, however, it is not the geographical location that is important in the context of the assets, but the relations between different parts of the whole. In these cases, the function of asset mapping could be, e.g.:

  • to discover the relations between actors
  • to present the level of activeness of an actor
  • to reveal how different assets relate to each other
  • to categorize assets (according to factors like topic, scope, duration, size, etc.).

For such purposes, a variety of tools and methods could be used, starting with simple drawings and diagrams all the way to multi-functional interactive online mind maps and network maps such as

Figure 3. Example of an asset map presented as a mind map: the themes and courses of the Steps towards Responsible Tourism online educational programme offered jointly by five HEIs (source: Koulutussisällöt, n.d., in Finnish)


While many of the asset maps are created in a very visual digital environment starting from their scratch phase, some authors still suggest that the step of visualizing the asset map is not compulsory and mainly serves dissemination purposes, while the focus should be on designing the data collection and involving stakeholders (Shahid, Vaska and Turin 2019).

Figure 4. Steps in creating of an asset map (source: Shahid, Vaska and Turin 2019)


Case: A network map of ongoing projects in Central Finland

Watch the following video to find out a practical application of asset mapping from Central Finland.

This YouTube video is 3:56 min long and contains on-off subtitles in English.

The interactive map from the video is available from the following link (in Finnish):


The author Rositsa Röntynen works as a project manager, tourism and R&D specialist at Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences, Finland.



Baird, L. n.d. Introduction to Community Asset Mapping. Center for Court Innovation. Retrieved 18.7.2022 from

Burns, J.C., Paul, D. P. & Paz, S.R. 2012. Participatory Asset Mapping. Advancement Project. Retrieved 18.7.2022 from

CASE programme: mapping asset guidance, 2010. Policy paper. UK Government publication. Published 15.8.2010. Retrieved 18.7.2022 from

Demir, E. & Collins, M.H. 2021. The Engagement Readiness Investigation Report. Engagement Readiness Monitor Project. Retrieved 18.7.2022 from

Duncan, D. 2016. Asset Mapping Toolkit. Clear Impact. Retrieved 18.7.2022 from

Généreux, M., Tracey, S. & O’Sullivan, T. 2020. In book: WHO Guidance on Research Methods for Health and Disaster Risk Management. Retrieved 18.7.2022 from

Identifying Community Assets and Resources, 2014. Community Toolbox, Workgroup for community health and development – University of Kansas. Retrieved 18.7.2022 from

Koulutussisällöt, n.d. A webpage on The Steps towards Responsible Tourism / Vastuullisen matkailun portaat educational programme’s website. Retrieved 18.7.2022 from

Röntynen, R. 2021. Measuring the Engagement of Higher Education Institutions in Finland. Engagement Readiness Monitor blog. Published 25.8.2021. Retrieved 18.7.2022 from

Shahid, M., Vaska, M. & Turin, T.C. 2019. Asset Mapping as a Tool for Identifying Resources in Community Health: A Methodological Overview. Jurnal of Biomedical Analytics, Vol. 2, No. 1 (2019), pp. 13-25. Retrieved 18.7.2022 from

What is Asset Mapping?, 2004. An article on Backspace website’s Social Design Notes blog. Published 23.6.2004. Retrieved 18.7.2022 from



Blog editors: Fleur Schellekens & Alexandra Zinovyeva

Header photo by Philip Myrtorp on Unsplash

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