Community Mapping


Community Mapping is creating a visual representation of data about an area, for the purpose of linking information to geographic locations.  Community mapping is done to support social and economic change on a community level. Community Mapping is also called Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Community Mapping is a useful tool for social change for two reasons:

  1. It visually shows patterns (in resources, assets or concerns) based on location, making such patterns easier to identify and analyze. For example, you can map areas by income, as well as map grocery stores, to locate food deserts.
  2. It provides a visual way of communicating those patterns to a broad audience, quickly and dramatically. You can create interactive maps, or create screen shots to add punch to a community presentation or report.

Community mapping tells a story about what is happening in a given community or area, which informs decision-making and consensus-building, and can contribute to program design, policy development, organizing, and advocacy.


List of free and open source GIS software programs.

ArcGIS: ArcGIS from Esri is a geographic information system (GIS) for working with maps and geographic information. It is used for: creating and using maps; compiling geographic data; analyzing mapped information; sharing and discovering geographic information; using maps and geographic information in a range of applications; and managing geographic information in a database (adapted from Wikipedia).

Google Fusion Tables: A data management web service from Google. Data is collected in tables, which can be used to visualize data as various charts, graphs or geographical maps.

How to Learn Community Mapping

For HSU students: You can take a GIS course through Humboldt State University. Check the Class Schedule for courses listed under Geospatial Studies. Note that you will need to take GSP 101 in order to take GSP 270: Introduction to GIS.

YouTube has several free tutorials for learning GIS, which will show you how to use software to do Community Mapping. Once you choose a software program, you can search for a tutorial.

There are also tutorials for Google Fusion Tables on YouTube. Here is one example:

Associations and Journals

List of GIS-related Professional Associations

“The North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) is an enjoyable society of map enthusiasts. We have yearly meetings, an online discussion forum, and we work on a variety of projects and publications which promote map making. We hope you’ll drop by and be a part of our collegial community.”

Journal of Geographic Information System



Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Chronic Disease GIS Exchange

Humboldt County GIS Portal: Applications for generating and analyzing various types of maps that relate to the landscape and resources of Humboldt County.

City of Arcata Maps/GIS: Public access to maps and data from the City of Arcata, CA.

Queering the Map: The Productive Tensions of Colliding Epistemologies

More Information/Resources

Policy Link: About Community Mapping (including more examples)

National Geographic Encyclopedia: GIS

Written by: Meredith Williams
Last updated: 4 October 2014

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