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University Outreach and Extension
University of Missouri System and Lincoln University



University Outreach is committed to designing and conducting educational programs that address priority concerns and issues of Missouri citizens at the local level (neighborhoods, communities, counties). This community-based, or community building, approach is "the authentic involvement of people, over time, in their community as co-creators and co-learners in defining the desired outcomes of the community, discovery and definition of the issues to be addressed, and creating and implementing solutions to the issues of concern". The community-based or community building approach is applicable to issues and concerns across the spectrum of educational programming in which University Outreach and Extension is involved.

Not all of the resources to accomplish the community-based approach are within University Outreach and Extension. But there are resources, "assets", at the local level and within many other organizations we partner with in carrying out our mission. To discover those assets is to do "asset mapping".

Asset Mapping

"Asset Mapping" is derived from an "asset-based" approach to community development, and refers to a range of approaches that work from the principle that a community can be built only by focusing on the strengths and capacities of the citizens and associations that call a neighborhood, community or county "home".

As described by Kretzmann and McKnight1, there are three levels of assets to be considered. The first is the "gifts, skills and capacities" of the individuals living in the community. The second level of assets includes "citizen associations" through which local people come together to pursue common goals. The third level of assets is those institutions present in community, such as local government, hospitals, education, and human service agencies.

University Outreach and Extension is unique in using individual assets (of volunteers, council members, and staff), being a part of numerous citizen associations, and being one of several institutions present in all communities of the state on a county-wide basis.

 Asset Mapping and the County Program Plan

When the County Extension Council has determined the program priorities to be included in the County Program Plan, the next step is to create educational programs to address the priorities. Every County Program Plan will include several educational programs.

One part of designing and implementing an educational program is to identify the resources available. Those resources, or assets, include key leaders, individuals within the target audience that have relevant expertise and knowledge, citizen associations, and professionals from agencies and organizations who have expertise relevant to the issue. In some instances the primary role of the regional specialists/CPD in designing and implementing educational programs may be to help identify and broker the involvement of resources outside of University Outreach and Extension.

Format for Asset Mapping

There is no one way to do asset mapping. Every regional specialist already does asset mapping now. We typically ask the question in the framework of identifying "resources", such as sources of funding, sources of expertise, partnerships, volunteers, etc. The 4-H Youth program has a long history of identifying local resource people to serve as project leaders, club leaders, provide support for awards, and the like. Other areas of programming also engage numerous local (as well as external) resources to help carry out extension educational programs. All of these resources are "assets". When staff and councils know who to go to for what, they are operating with an "asset map", though they may not have thought about it in those terms.

The "newness" we want to achieve by doing asset mapping is not just to adopt another name for resources, but to also adopt a strategy of identifying assets (or "gifts", "talents") that are available from within the community as co-learners and co-creators in the discovery of solutions to the problems. Asset mapping is about opening up and engaging the community and acknowledging and using the talents of people to help solve the problems that they own and live with every day. Asset mapping goes beyond our tradition of serving as the "answer person". It is also beyond our traditional use of "advisory committees", though there is an element of asset-based approach embodied in the use of advisory committees. Used properly, advisory committees can be a central part of a co-learning, co-creating approach.

Asset mapping becomes extremely important when we are confronting a new issue or concern in which we have little or no prior experience. Kretzmann and McKnight start with a "community asset" map. For our purposes, such a map might look like Figure 1. This broad-based schematic can help us think through the information we need to gather to complete our map. It should also be noted that no community asset map is ever complete – it is a work in progress updated and revised as more information is available.

We start the asset mapping process by identifying the "gifts of individuals". This refers to such things as their monetary resources, skills, training/education, specific talents (artistic for example), networks, and the like.

Citizen associations range from the fairly informal (e.g., the 5th Street Cribbage Club) to the formal (Lions, Rotary). The objective is to get as complete an inventory as possible, whether at a neighborhood level, community or county wide – whatever the geographic focus of the program happens to be.

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Figure 1. Community Asset Map (source:  Kretzmann and McKnight)

The institutions that reach into the community (county) will also include a long list of public and private organizations and agencies. Some will have local representatives living and working in the community (such as University Outreach and Extension, Social Service agencies) and others will have regional or state level personnel only, but still have responsibility to respond and work with local communities.

In practice one would essentially create an "asset map" for each major area of educational programming, looking for the gifts of individuals, citizen associations and local institutions that are most relevant to the program being developed. The good news is, there would be considerable overlap from one type of program to another within such areas as agriculture, natural resources, family and youth, or economic development.

Developing an Asset Map

Assume a priority concern in the county, such as "reducing teenage pregnancy". Begin the asset mapping by identifying the "individual gifts, talents, skills" that can help with this program priority. Next, inventory the citizen associations that are relevant to the issue. Finally, identify the institutions present in the community.

At the most complete application of asset mapping one would literally survey individuals within the geographic area (neighborhood, small town, school district, etc.) to find out what skills, gifts, capacities people have related to this issue. Alternatively, one can list the key skills, talents, and capabilities needed within the community to design and implement an effective educational program to reduce teenage pregnancy. That list can be circulated to all kinds of group or organizational meetings as a means of identifying individuals who can assist in the co-learning and co-creating that will be necessary to design and implement an effective program to reduce teenage pregnancy. Churches often do a "talent and gifts" survey to find people who can help with the numerous tasks of the church.

The next step would be an "inventory" of the citizen associations (formal and informal) that could be helpful in creating and implementing a program to reduce teenage pregnancy in the relevant geographic area. Sources for identifying such groups include checking the phone book, visiting with members of known neighborhood and community groups, the newspaper (especially those local newspapers that report local group meetings and the like) and general interaction with people in various localities within the community. The counties that have already undertaken the development of the "COMMUNITY CONNECTION" data base will have a head start on a part of this inventory, both for local citizen associations and for institutions serving the community. Many counties and/or communities will have a printed directory that can be helpful.

Finally, the listing of institutions serving the community that have relevance to the teenage pregnancy issue can also be garnered from phone books, knowledgeable leaders, and often from "directories" that have been developed in the community.

Application of Asset Mapping

University Outreach and Extension has a limited number of professional staff and educational assistants to respond to the many, many issues of high priority and concern to citizens throughout the state. We have a good track record of establishing partnerships with others to respond to local needs. We’ve done a lot to help bring together individuals and groups with resources at the local level. We will need to do more of this and do it in a more efficient manner.

Moving from Figure 1, which is an abstract representation of a community asset map to a format that can be used in extension educational program development is fairly simple. One option to consider is shown below (and available as a Template).

 Template for Community Asset Inventory:  An example for Horizon County

Problem, Issue or Concern Being Addressed Geographic Area of the Community Assets (resources) Needed Individuals (with note about talent, skill, gifts) Citizen associations in the "Community" Institutions in the Community
Reduction of teenage pregnancy in Horizon County












Entire county, which includes open country and six towns Support of the faith communities, health care professionals, schools, mass media, social services, youth professionals and volunteers, youth groups, money, training for individual and group counseling, places to meet in groups and one-on-one, educational materials, time of people, mentors for teens. Reverend Smith – chair of Ministerial Alliance in county

Sara Parsons – volunteer who works with limited resource households

James Tarver – youth counselor in school system, has high respect of youth

Meredith Goodson – knows everybody in the county, networked with many organizations and associations

PTAs in all six school districts

Taylor township community club

Smithland Volunteer Fire Department

Horizon County Human Services Coalition

Horizon County Ministerial Alliance

Orange City United Way



Missouri Department of Social Services

University Outreach

and Extension

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Girl Scouts of America

Missouri Department of Mental Health

Missouri Department of Health

University of Missouri Hospitals and Clinics



For almost every issue or concern, our ideal level of involvement for any program priority can be reflected graphically as shown in Figure 2:

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Figure 2. Ideal UOE Involvement in a Priority Issue

This suggests a high level of involvement when educational programming is initiated with an aim towards decreasing the commitment of UOE resources over time, either to a fairly low level or getting out of the issue almost entirely. If the issue (problem) continues for a long time, the key to sustained effort is the assumption of responsibility for continued programming by the community, with minimal ongoing input by UOE.

The ideal desired involvement of community-based assets in addressing priority issues over time is graphically portrayed in Figure 3:

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Figure 3. Ideal Involvement of Community-Based Assets over Time


Asset mapping is an extension of the basic notion of identifying and mobilizing the available resources needed to design and implement extension educational programs. Asset mapping emphasizes the idea of starting with the positive, i.e., what is available from within the community (county) to address the issue or concern rather than starting with a list of what isn’t available.

Asset mapping also includes the key point of a community-based approach to issues and concerns, namely, that community members are co-learners and co-creators of the entire process, all the way from identifying and defining the issue to identifying the assets available and discovering, designing and implementing the solutions.

As county extension councils and regional specialists prepare the final county program plan, all the high priority issues should be included. Whenever there is an issue that is not currently being addressed by University Outreach and Extension, or it does not immediately appear that it can be addressed by UOE, it is appropriate to indicate that the "planned action" for that issue in the first year will be to do a thorough analysis of the kinds of resources (assets) needed and an analysis of the assets available , both within the community and externally. University Outreach and Extension is able to assist in that process, and often will be able to identify resources within the University of Missouri and Lincoln University that can be of assistance, in addition to the assets that will be discovered within the community (county) in question.


1Kretzmann, John P. and McKnight, John L.  Building Communities from the Inside Out:  A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets.   Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research, Neighborhood Innovations Network, Northwestern University, 2040 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL.  1993.