Inclusive Research Project: Community Mapping

This Entry has been submitted.

Inclusive Research Project: Community Mapping

Vancouver, Vernon, Victoria , CanadaVancouver, Vernon, Victoria (?), Canada
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

People with intellectual disabilities will map their places and ways of belonging and being valued in ways that can be easily shared.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

People with intellectual disabilities form about 1% of our citizens and are very often segregated by a service sector based on needs, rather than strengths, and their attempts to break free of such service directed orientation are met with confusion: don't we all want more support? However, such supports often duplicate what is normative in their communities, and allow an "easy out" in that service providers who might be able to support inclusion can simply make an other, segregated choice, without realizing that what seem like choices of the moment are themselves "other"ing by virtue of being segregated, and limit potential connections and citizenship as they accrue. Without other options, services to support people instead communicate to communities that they are different and needy.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

A self advocate named Ted shared this idea with us: what if we closed down all the local programs for a day, gathered self advocates in a room and got them to share stories of where they are welcomed and share their gifts and with whom. This proposal is for three events, tentatively in Vancouver, Vernon and Victoria. Ted, and the self advocate group he is part of, suggested that this would be great information to share with service providers so that they know there are other options and, also, so they might start thinking of where and how they and their staff might share their own gifts. Given that some of this messaging comes directly out of school systems where parents are not made aware of the potential richness of the lives of people with disabilities, these events would also provide information to teachers, schools and parents.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

After creating an open invitation to self advocates (people with intellectual disabilities), about fifty persons would come together in a room and be facilitated to "map" their communities in terms of where they are made to feel welcome and where they are able to share their gifts. Two co-facilitators, one a person with a disability themselves, would lead discussions about places and people in the community who have been welcoming and who have benefited by their presence. A graphic facilitator would then draw these "stories" as they emerge and in the last part of the day, a map of the community would be made which would incorporate and celebrate the places, people and methods (what they do there) of how people are already included, welcomed and valued. The documents from the day would be gathered on a website and shared around the province, and contributors, as well as local organizations and schools, would each receive a copy of the "map" that they were part of making.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

PLAN has been in operation for many years and does a great job of providing network facilitator to families and individuals who want to strengthen their connections; C.L.B.C. is the government agency which publicly represents, more than ever before, the strengths and abilities of self advocates. Smaller advocacy organizations are more focused on distinct specialised populations (autism, Down Syndrome, Special Olympics athletes) but while the need for community development around people with disabilities is often discussed the skills necessary to gather, facilitate and celebrate interdependence in an appreciative place-making way are not currently occurring.

Founding Story

Over the past five years we have done more than 100 workshops on personal support networks and conducted research on self determination and interdependence. Our earliest "aha" moment was when we gave people with intellectual disabilities cameras and they came back with photos of friends we hadn't heard of and new stories. We realized that services and systems have few ways to "catch" community and belonging, even those with the best intentions, and that there was huge potential for better lives through better supports of networks. Our most recent "aha" moment was while meeting with a group of self advocates who had this idea of mapping their community in ways that demonstrate what they are already involved in, to give them a tool to take to organizations and support those agencies to become themselves better connected and more able to share their own strengths. Their concern was that everyone seems to have good intentions, but need a vehicle for the conversation.
About You
Spectrum Society / Spectrum Learning
About You
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Spectrum Society / Spectrum Learning

Organization Country

, BC, Vancouver, Vernon, Victoria (?)

Country where this solution is creating social impact

, BC, Vancouver, Vernon, Victoria

Region in BC where your solution creates social impact

Vancouver, Coast and Mountains, Vancouver Island.

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your solution addresses? Choose up to two

Access, Equity.

Social Impact
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve

We would like people with intellectual disabilities to have more holistic access to their communities, and particularly to places and situations in which they are perceived as valued collaborators and community members. We would hope that this mapping process would be seized by community members, service organizations and self advocates as a way to demonstrate and build on strengths to expand community capacity.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

While we have not yet conducted a mapping session per se, we have been involved in many other projects. The impact of our early "aha" moment has been projects leading to five different research focii, more than 100 workshops for 5 - 120 groups of individuals, the hosting of about five leaders concerned with interdependence each year, the establishment of a social enterprise which in its third year will publish 8 books which involve people with disabilities as colleagues, co-researchers, writers and book sales staff, a monthly e-newsletter based on the idea of interdependence for people with intellectual disabilities that that has had more than 40,000 hits and most recently the leadership of a well received webinar series, "Dancing With Community," which is being viewed around North America as a fund-raiser for

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

If this idea of strengths and inclusion based community mapping is successful it could be a model to expand to other communities, and may also lead to a book, video, interviews, presentations by local self advocates, etc..

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Often service providers and sometimes the parents of people with disabilities are perceived as barriers, but we've found that they aren't saying "no" so much as wanting to have a sense of the implications and methods so they understand what they're getting behind. Once good communication has been established they, too, have so far consistently shared that interdependence is the goal for all of us.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Book spaces and find "ambassadors" in three communities. Communicate the intentions of our project in public forums.

Task 2

Conduct first community mapping session. Upload to website and distribute information. Debrief.

Task 3

Be open to communication from first community and other stakeholders; focus on an emergent design for our project.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Hold community mapping session #2. Distribute documentation, upload to site, debrief.

Task 2

Hold community mapping session #3. Distribute documentation, upload to site, debrief.

Task 3

Create a presentation about our project and share at a major conference; debrief with stakeholders and consider implications.

Tell us about your partnerships

We have excellent partnerships with our peer organizations, the umbrella advocacy groups BCACL, BCCPD and BC People First, as well as Community Living B.C. and U.B.C.'s Centre for Inclusion and Citizenship. Our webinar series was done through TASH (, which is the largest international advocacy and education organization in North America. Partnerships, and the possibility of growing networks of interdependence for those we support and for organizations, is a focus area of our strategic plan.

Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your solution? If so, where and why?

Our concern at this time is people with intellectual disabilities, or those with an intellectual disability and concurrent diagnosis (mental health, physical disability, etc.).

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

Our organization is led by three people who share accountability for the whole, but bring different strengths to a dynamic cooperative. The "good idea" of one of us, or in this case Ted's good idea, can quickly be mapped out as we each contribute strengths around project planning, leadership, communication and research. We are well supported by a long-term infrastructure created when we were only focused on service delivery but excited about our new directions and innovation in general. Many of these are family members and friends of people with disabilities.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

We have sought out and accomplished some great learning around entrepreneurship but have been challenged to find ways to continue those relationships. We have and will always make ourselves available to anyone concerned with innovative ideas around interdependence and intellectual disability.


I really like the idea of self-advocates determining what they perceive as the assets in their own communities. Another big step forward!

Really excited about this!
All the great stuff that has come out of the Spectrum Press has had such a big impact on the Community Living Community.

Thanks for your comment, Gary. After so many years of not being heard from, it shows a lot of resilience that self advocates with developmental disabilities want to share what they know. Aaron

Asset mapping + research that will benefit everyone in the community... I like it!

thanks for your feeback! :) it's kind of exciting eh?

Tamara Hurtado's picture

This has so much potential to make a difference in people's lives! Great work Aaron and SPECTRUM.