Bolstering Resources, Partnerships, and Community Engagement for Career Practitioners through Community Asset Mapping

By Christopher T. Belser

“It takes a village to raise a child.” Whereas this African proverb spoke specifically of the role of communities in child development, today’s globally oriented, tech-driven society allows us to replace the raise a child phrase with a variety of activities that necessitate community participation. This sentiment is not lost on career practitioners, who regularly rely on partnerships in the process of connecting clients to internships, jobs, vocational training, social services, etc. Community asset mapping (CAM) provides a strategy for taking inventory of various resources and skilled individuals available within the community (Jasek-Rysdahl, 2001; Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993). This article introduces CAM and provide application ideas for career centers, private practitioners, school counselors, government and workforce development, and state career development associations (CDAs).

Community Asset Mapping

Community asset mapping (CAM) originated as a strategy that utilizes a strengths-based approach by harnessing the collective capital that community stakeholders can contribute to developing services and initiatives (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993). Government agencies, municipalities, and private organizations have implemented this strategy. Specifically, school counselors have leveraged CAM as a tool to identify stakeholders and partners who can contribute to programming salient to a particular school (Arriero & Griffin, 2019; Griffin & Farris, 2010).

Although different strategies and specific procedures for implementing CAM exist (Dorfman, 1998; Kerka, 2003), developing a community asset map typically involves identifying potential partners at three levels (a) individual people, (b) community-level organizations, and (c) institutions. At each level, the particular expertise, materials, capital, and other resources can be noted as they may be able to contribute to your efforts. The individual level can include local experts on various topics or individuals with specific skills and talents. Community-level organizations might include civic groups, local chapters of larger organizations, or faith groups. Institutions would include government agencies (at various levels), libraries, colleges and universities, and business and industry partners. While developing your list, note any existing partnerships or collaborations and then identify a priority list of which potential partners might be most pertinent to contact. Griffin and Farris (2010) then recommend contacting potential partners to identify if and how they are willing to support your efforts, a task that can be divided among your team members. In addition to examining external partners, it is also helpful to take inventory of your internal resources and to identify facilities and spaces (e.g., meeting spaces, expo halls, technology labs, green spaces) that may be useful. Your final list serves as a web of available resources and willing partners that you can use in driving your programming efforts.

Applying CAM to Career Work

Community asset mapping can be a useful practice for career practitioners across workplace settings. Employing this strategy can allow professionals to identify resources and expand the resource network to support career initiatives. The following sections will provide examples of how CAM can be useful in several different career settings.

Career Centers
Career centers are vital institutions in which stakeholders can access career information and career professionals. They vary in their purpose and service offerings based on whether they are located in a public community setting, a public or private post-secondary institution, or another location. Although they might utilize CAM to identify some similar resources (e.g., career center employees with unique expertise, meeting or event spaces, external sponsors), they can also seek and utilize resources and partners unique to their respective settings. For example, using CAM in a university career center may help identify industry partners for student internship and co-op experiences, alumni networks, university support services for students, and industry-specific student organizations, whereas a public community career center may focus more on identifying partners in workforce development agencies, social services, vocational training programs, and job placement services.

Independent Practice and K-12 Education
Individual career practitioners, both in private practice settings and K-12 settings, can also utilize CAM as a strategy for developing referral networks and partners for programming. Private practice career counselors and coaches may want to identify partners in workforce development, job placement, mental health care, post-secondary education, and social services. School counselors and career practitioners in K-12 settings may desire partners in post-secondary education and training programs, private practice providers, district/state career and technical education partners, and community members to serve as industry-specific guest speakers.

State Career Development Associations
State CDAs can also benefit from implementing CAM as an organizational strategy. This approach can help identify counselor education partners to engage student members, organization members and other individuals who possess unique skills and expertise for workshops and webinars, facilities and spaces to hold events and meetings, and other state, local, and regional resources.

Workplace Settings
Career professionals in various workplace settings similarly can leverage CAM to identify both internal and external resources to aid with staff development and employee recruitment, retention, and onboarding. Additionally, the strategy can be useful in finding partners for employee assistance programs, workforce training, recognizing and supporting differences in the workplace, leadership development, as well as resources to support special populations in the workplace (e.g., veterans, individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ+).


A Fluid Tool for Different Settings

Community asset mapping can be a very useful and fluid tool to help career professionals in various settings identify partners and resources that will be salient to their mission and services. Because CAM seeks to identify existing strengths rather than deficits, this approach can help generate ideas that career professionals are more equipped to readily enact.


Arriero, E., & Griffin, D. (2019). Adelante! A community asset mapping approach to increase college and career readiness for rural Latinx high school students. Professional School Counseling, 22(1), 1-9. doi:10.1177/2156759X18800279

Dorfman, D. (1998). Mapping community assets workbook: Strengthening community education: The basis for sustainable renewal. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED426499).

Griffin, D., & Farris, A. (2010). School counselors and school-family-community collaboration: Finding resources through community asset mapping. Professional School Counseling, 13, 248-256. doi:10.1177/2F2156759X1001300501

Jasek-Rysdahl, K. (2001). Applying Sen’s capabilities framework to neighborhoods: Using local asset maps to deepen our understanding of well-being. Review of Social Economy, 59, 313-329. doi:10.1080/00346760122948

Kerka, S. (2003). Community asset mapping: Trends and issues alert. Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED481324).

Kretzmann, J. P., & McKnight, J. L. (1993). Building communities from the inside out: A path toward finding and mobilizing a community’s assets. Evanston, IL: Asset-Based Community Development Institute, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University.



Christopher BelserChristopher T. Belser, Ph.D., NCC is an Assistant Professor in the Counselor Education Program at the University of New Orleans where he teaches master’s and doctoral students. Career development and career planning have been embedded within his prior work as a middle school counselor, a high school career coach, and an instructor for an undergraduate career planning course. His scholarly research centers around K-16 career planning initiatives in STEM, which has led to numerous scholarly publications and presentations. He also serves as the President-Elect of the Louisiana Career Development Association. He can be reached at ctbelser@uno.edu and www.linkedin.com/in/christopherbelser-phd.

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