Participatory methods: Scale Mapping

Another section about participatory methods will focus on Scale mapping, which is a method of plotting information to already existing basic maps of the area, where the basemap is serving only as background information. Local spatial knowledge can be collected via interviews or can be recorded directly on the map. Locating is done by observing the surroundings, but can involve other (exact) instruments – compass or GPS measurements.

Plotting can take place either on tracing paper or transparencies, which for practical reasons seems to be a much better solution (Panek & Vlok, 2013), or directly on the base map. When using tracing paper, which is not absolutely clear, there is a continual need to uncover the map to improve readability, and returning the paper back. During this process there may be a shift. When using the transparent film it is not needed to uncover the map all the time and thus the accuracy of the resulting output is significantly increased. It is also possible to draw information directly on the map, but in this case it is not possible to use the map for another task and thus it increases the costs.

Difficulty: moderately difficult (facilitator should help to create a pleasant atmosphere and encourage participants to break down shyness while representing their own work)

Group size: small – up to 10 participants (otherwise split into several smaller groups)

Time required: 2-3 hours (including discussion)

Links to other methods: Typically, you can use it as a method that builds on the Ground mapping or Sketch mapping. It can be used and independent method or in combination with Photo mapping.

The aim of this method is that with the help of base maps users can create a new map using community spatial knowledge. Created maps will be containing additional (thematic) information. This is a group work, which however can be divided into several smaller groups (division may be accidental, but also intentional). In the case of dividing people one needs to think ahead to ensure a sufficient number of base maps – ideally the same for each group. Subsequent discussions when presenting maps of individual groups can serve as a good introduction for the next steps in solving spatial problems in the community.

If necessary, it is possible to use several sheets, one for each topic and then stacked on each other and look for intersections between drawn locations.

History and Present

People are used to draw their own notes to the maps and therefore it is understandable that the use of classic maps as a base maps for gathering further information about the area was just a natural part of development.

The advantage of the use of maps is their accuracy and the ability to measure distances and areas on the map. Maps are created based on cartographic rules and therefore are accessible to a wide audience. Maps are also usually considered objective output in communication with persons outside the community.

The disadvantage may be more difficult access to basic maps in certain areas and their technical demands in the form of already standardized map-language, which can reduce the level of participation of some members of the group. It can sometimes be difficult to draw a subjective understanding in the area on the map that was created and imposed on community by representatives of (post) or (neo) colonial government.

Another obstacle may be the shift of discussion about the map content to the technological aspects of her work – especially when using maps as a tool in the decision-making process (Flavell, 2010).


  1. Clearly define the scope of the area, i.e. the area which will be mapped.
  2. Deciding what base map used and how it’ll record information (directly on the map, on tracing paper or on transparencies).
  3. Invite the selected group to the meeting place or public meeting.
  4. Present the objectives of the project and the mapping method – explain why it is the most appropriate method chosen and how the results will be used further.
  5. Explain the principle Scale Mapping.
  6. Provide plenty of time to record the knowledge to the map by different groups.
  7. Process/record information arising from maps, observations and suggestions arising during the mapping and/or group discussions. For example, in the form of photographs or writings.
  8. Map may remain in the community, in memory of the whole process mapping.

Resources and tools

  • Space, where each group will be able to work.
  • The base map at a sufficient scale, size, and quantity.
  • Sufficient material for scraps and drowings on a map.
  • Paper for notes – refers to the facilitator.

Examples experiences, literature, etc.

CTA & IFAD. (2010). Training Kit on Participatory Spatial Information Management and Communication. Retrieved November 20, 2013.

Flavell, A. (2010). Introduction to Scale Maps and Basic Cartography. CTA, The Netherlands and IFAD, Italy.

IFAD. (2009). Good practices in participatory mapping (p. 59). Rome: International Fund for Agriculture Development.

Panek, J., & Vlok, C. (2013). Participatory mapping as a tool for community empowerment – a case study of community engagement in Koffiekraal,South Africa. In MF Buchroithner (Ed.), 26th International Cartographic Conference (p. 26). Dresden.


One thought on “Participatory methods: Scale Mapping

  1. Pingback: Participatory methods: Photo Mapping | geoparticipation

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