I attended the Royal Society of Art’s Traveling Pantry workshop today in Glasgow designed by Fellows Tessy Britton and David Gauntlett to test whether giving ideas, methods and tools to small groups of people can encourage them to start new community projects. This post shares what we created in one of the workshops when Tessy provided us with an asset mapping tool.
As a little bit of a description before hand, assets mapping means looking at your surroundings using a different perspective, allowing you to see your environment in a different way. For example in L.A. where there are lots of orchards, a lot of the fruit on the trees overhangs the orchard boundaries, falling onto the pavement, which = waste. So people are regularly getting together to go fruit picking (legally), making jam and sharing it with everyone involved. Tessy described this as a lightweight opportunity for people to connect. Getting different people together in their communities to share their time and knowledge, make connections and get something out of the activity for themselves.
In the workshop we had a go at assets mapping an area in our local community. Our group chose Maryhill.
What I really liked about our groups approach was that we chose not to draw the streets or street names. We approached it by identifying particular buildings, open areas, areas to play, meet people and the people we knew in the area that were real catalysts or connectors between others in the community. Some of the assets we chose to add in were empty shops and derelict spaces; assets than can turn into opportunities.
However my favourite bit of this task was when we started to map where people connect up naturally. The two local primary schools in Maryhill have closed down, so parents meet at the bus stops that take their children to school in the morning, rather than the school gates (2). Also we were aware that the council would like to build a bridge over the canal and the locals are not keen on the idea, so we placed groups of people with lightening symbols next to them around the canal to represent this unease or friction (1).
I found this task created deeper conversations than we may have had, had we not worked through the asset landscape in terms of buildings, places, people, movement and emotions. It was also useful to learn about other people’s perspectives on the area as each person at the table had a different type and depth of knowledge. More interesting would be doing this piece of work with people in communities to see what they consider assets and to think about how these could be used in different ways, or to connecting people who have different assets together, to strengthen and build on what already exists in communities.