Social map

Brief Description (including a definition if possible)

A social map of the village is a map that is drawn by the residents and which shows the social structures and institutions found in an area. It also helps us to learn about social and economic differences between the households.


History (if applicable)

When to use

  • · To learn about the social structures in the village and the differences among the households by ethnicity, religion and wealth.
  • · To learn about who is living where.
  • · To learn about the social institutions and the different views local people might have regarding those institutions.

Key Questions:

  • 1. What are the approximate boundaries of the village with regard to social interaction and social services?
  • 2. How many households are found in the village and where are they located?
  • 3. Is the number of households growing or shrinking?
  • 4. What are the social structures and institutions found in the village?
  • 5. What religious groups are found in the village? Where in the village are the different religious groups living?
  • 6. What ethnic groups are found in the village? Where in the village are the different ethnic groups living?
  • 7. Which are the female Headed Households and where are they are located?

How to facilitate

1. Ask the participants to draw a map of the village, showing all households. For orientation it will be helpful to draw roads and significant spots of the village into the map.
2. Discuss whether the total number of households has increased or shrunk during recent years. If there were any changes ask why the number has changed and whether this has caused any problem for certain families or for the community at large.
3. Ask the group to also show institutions, buildings and places that offer some kind of social service or which are popular spots to meet and discuss. Example: schools, churches, health service, traditional healers, community administration, community leaders, local shop, kindergarten, places where people frequently meet, water point etc.)
4. Encourage the group to discuss and show on the map which different ethnic groups are living in their village. Using a common symbol, mark those households in which the minority ethnic groups live.
5. Encourage the group to discuss and show on the map which different religious groups are living in their village. Using a common symbol, mark those households in which the minority religious groups live.
6. Ask the group to indicate with a symbol on the map all households that are female-headed. Make sure that everybody has the same understanding of what the characteristics of a female headed household are!
7. If time and the situation allows you should integrate the wealth ranking tool at this point which is described on a separate tool sheet!
8. Make sure that your copy of the map has a key explaining the different items and symbols used on the map

Tips and Lessons Learnt

  • If people find it difficult to understand this tool, it will be helpful to draw a simple example for them.
  • During the whole process, take care that once somebody has given a statement, you ask the others whether they agree, disagree or want to add something.
  • The notetaker must ensure that all important points of the discussion and also other information is documented.
  • The purpose of the social map must be very clear to all participants, make sure that the participants do not have wrong expectations. For example they might think that the poor households will get food donations, which is completely wrong.
  • Unlike resource mapping, social maps need good and well prepared facilitation. Be aware that some of the issues that might be discussed could be sensitive issues for the group.
  • Make sure that the objective of having all households shown on the map will be achieved.

Material needed: Documentation Sheet, this tool sheet, white paper for copying the map
1) If drawing on the ground: soft ground, sticks and local material for symbols, or
2) if drawing on a paper: BIG sheet of paper, pencils, markers
Time: 1,5-2 hours

Examples & Stories

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Who can tell me more?

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Related Methods / Tools / Practices

Participatory Rural Appraisal

Resources (add your resources)

FAO PRA ToolBox: Social Map

Keywords, Tags


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