I think that there is something about maps that ropes all of us in.  Especially Google’s maps!  They are easy to use, have such a range of options (look at all of the different layers you can view in Google Earth!), and with the satellite (and now Street) view we can really see what we are looking at.

Pete Forsyth, a good friend of mine, has been working in his neighborhood of Portland, OR, on a year-long planning process for a redesign of Portland Parks & Recreation’s central maintenance facility and nursery.  The architect involved recently presented six concept plans as reference points during the proposal development.  Pete took these concept plans and mapped them out using Google Maps, and posted them for the community’s use as conversations and decision-making takes place building the proposal.  As Pete explains, “These concepts make it possible for the public to see the current status of our work, and some of the directions we’re moving in. The Google Map format gives them a friendly presentation, that allows the viewer to click on an object to see notes relevant to it, etc.”

I think it’s an awesome way of leveraging free tools to help convey ideas and stories to your community in a way that does not require you to have a conversation yourself with all those you want to reach.

If you want to try it out for yourself, log in to a Google account and visit http://maps.google.com.  In the ‘my maps’ area, click on ‘create new map’ and get started!  Pete says that the point-and-click tools are very intuitive.  You can even invite others to collaborate on a map with you!

How do you think your organization could use a map in its storytelling? Have you used maps in the past?  What successes did you have?

Maps: what we need for conversations?
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  • Thanks for the linkage, Amy!

    I’m really excited about this tool. It’s very easy to use, there’s room for improvement, but knowing Google’s approach I suspect the improvements are already in the works.

    I think any kind of land use public process should involve tools like this. But I’m really interested to see what others come up with, too. Just today, I was working with a client who farms a number of sites out by Damascus; I showed her the “My maps” feature, and she was really excited about being able to track what was planted where, at what time. I suspect the possibilities are endless…

  • I think the possibilities are endless, too, Pete!

    In the realm of nonprofits, think of the kind of service-area-based maps that could be created and included on web sites, for example, to show which services are provided to which areas of the county, with overlaps and descriptions, etc.

    Have I mentioned before that I love maps? 🙂