Mapping for a resilient community

Dunoon, Scotland

We approached Dunoon from the sea – a 20 minute ferry crossing from Gourock, west of Glasgow. It was a short, atmospheric trip – a dolphin playing in the stern wave for a few seconds and disappearing, a layer of cloud hovering halfway up the hills.

As we docked in Dunoon, Marie Stonehouse from the Scottish Communities Climate Action Network met us. She was our guide for the day, generously taking us to meet people in Dunoon and eventually driving us to Campbeltown.

Marie stood beside her electric vehicle, sporting wellingtons, a warm circular-yoke style jumper and a wide smile.

The first person Marie lined up for us to talk with was Hannah Clinch, who runs a design service and POP shop enterprises – ‘assisting community based organisations design and develop products and services that have a positive impact’. Hannah told us about a project she was contributing to, green icon mapping. Wendy Brewer started Green Maps in New York in 1995. It is a way of making maps that indicated was is truly happening in that space.

‘The maps tell the full story of a place in a complex way’, says Hannah. ‘For example, a church may have icons indicating that it is also a community centre and a site of volunteering, giving a much richer and in-depth idea of place’.

People have been making maps for centuries, and in this case, a Greenmap is a visual, fun and inclusive way of knowing what is in any community.

I asked if Greenmaps would someday give google maps a run for its money – but Hannah says this is a different concept; Google maps is based on commercially-led ideas of what is in place, but Greenmaps aim is to create a visual picture of a community from the perspective of those who live in it.

‘In Dunoon we have created a map that is useful, practical and informs people’, says Hannah. It also can facilitate a discussion and share information and perspectives across different shareholders. It can also be a safe way of having a discussion with others in a community who may see a place differently. To some, a piece of land which is a haven for wild birds and insects is a rubbish dump in other people’s eyes. The mapping process allows for those different viewpoints to be explored.

As a designer, Hannah has not only encouraged populating the Greenmap with the current icons, she has also designed new ones around the theme of diversity. ‘The hope is that we will create a visual language that people can share and adapt’.

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