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MW Article - Asset Mapping

MW Article - Asset Mapping

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Published by: robert voigt on Feb 23, 2011
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by Robert Voigt and Greg Baeker

Putting Culture on the Map

1he South Georgian Bay Cultural Mapping Project

Robert Voigt is a sculptor, blogger, and Planner (RPP, MCIP). He recently completed the Town of Collingwood's Urban Design Manual and is developing their Active Transportation Plan. He also lead a project for subdivision standards which earned a 2010 Washington APA award.

Dr. Greg Baeker is a regular contributor to Municipal World. Greg is a Senior Consultant and Founder of AuthentiCity. He is author of Rediscovering the Wealth of Places: A Municipal Cultural Planning Handbook for Canadian Communities. Greg can be reached at <greg@mappingauthenticity.com> •

The pages of Municipal World over the past five years have borne witness to the converging worlds of planning, culture, and economic development. Cultural mapping and municipal cultural plann.ing are essential tools in dismantling the silos that too often have separated these spheres of decision making. More and more municipalities understand their effective integration to be key to liveability, prosperity, and sustai.nability.

This article describes a collaborative cultural mapping project undertaken by four municipalities that offers lessons for other smaller communities. Putting Culture on the Map: The South Georgian Bay Cultural Mapping Project' was a collaboration among

the Town of Collingwood, Town of The Blue Mountains, Clearview Township, and Town ofWasaga Beach (total population approximately 52,000). The project formed one component of a regional economic development strategy intended to: build on the assets of the four communities; guide economic development decision making; and facilitate investment attraction and economic growth in the region.

Workshop participants provide critical information linked to a community's cultural identity; here Erika Brady adds a note to a working map at the Wasaga Beach workshop.

The challenges facing the four municipalities are, in many ways, no different than those facing hundreds of small cities and towns across North America. The region's manufacturing jobs have largely relocated, with a significant shift to tourism and service-based employment. The population is evolving to have more

seniors. Recent years of major economic upheaval have drove home the need to rethink traditional economic development assumptions and strategies. There is growing understanding of creativity, culture, and quality of place as important drivers in local economies.

The geographic area for the present project includes the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve of the Niagara Escarpment; the world's longest freshwater beach of Wasaga Beach; the waters of Georgian Bay; and all

.I. See <www.georgianbaymappingculture.com>.




While the four commurntics share a geography, an underlying premise of the cultural mapping project was acknowledging - indeed celebrating - their distinct identities.

within a two-hour drive from the metropolitan Toronto area. While the four communities share a geography, an underlying premise of the cultural mapping project was acknowledging - indeed celebrating - their distinct identities.

Project Origins

Roots of the project can be traced to a community workshop in which the Town of ColLingwood's planning department invited participants to explore the potential for integrating spatial data about heritage resources as a cultural component of the town's new ground breaking urban design manual. This event brought together key stakeholders from the community

and the worlds of planning, culture, and economic development. The workshop pointed to the power of better information on cultural assets in land use planning and the need for improved collaboration between professions that directly influence community prosperity and livability.

Collingwood's arts and culture advisory committee had been a strong advocate for cultural mapping and municipal cultural planning for several years, reflecting growing interest across the province. A local conference focused on the connections between community identity, sense of place, and economic development had recently raised the profile of mapping in the region, as well as its potential

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for the urban design manual. This eventually led to the workshop that brought together the key stakeholders that would launch the project.

A steering committee of representatives from the four municipalities including planners, economic development officers, librarians (public libraries are emerging as powerful supporters of cultural mapping), and others developed the terms of reference, guided the project" and provided direction to the consulting team. The intent was to combine the interests of the stakeholders and constituencies

to develop a regional cultural mapping system - as both a planning and policy tool, and an opportunity to create a dynamic way of accessing and understanding local culture.

Cultural Asset Mapping Story

As the importance of place-making and culture-led economic development becomes better understood,

a growing number of cities across North America are turning to cultural asset mapping as an essential planning and economic development tool. While smaller municipalities have serious challenges competing with their larger urban cousins, cultural asset mapping is a versatile and scaleable tool.

The myth is that municipalities lack information on cultural resources. The reverse is true. The problem

is that information is collected by different people, for different reasons, and exists in different locations. Cultural asset mapping begins by consolidating existing information in a consistent way. For this project, information came from familiar sources:

Statistics Canada, local Yellow Pages, tourism databases of festivals and events, municipal heritage inventories, and other data held by planning departments.

Data was collected for six categories of cultural assets: creative cultural industries, community cultural organizations, festivals and events, cultural spaces and facilities, cultural heritage, and natural heritage. Combined, the project identified a baseline of more than 700 cultural assets. These numbers represent the beginning, not the end, of mapping efforts, and provide an impressive result to report to municipal council and staff across the region.

The project also made important advances in using the cultural information for planning and economic development purposes by integrating it into the municipal GIS systems. Internally, the result is the ability to identify and analyze previously unseen interrelationships that combine cultural information with various other land use data through GIS data queries. Externally, the project generated a powerful interactive GIS map that forms part of the cultural portal, enhancing access to information on cultural assets for both residents and visitors.

Community Engagement Story

The second half of the Putting Culture on the Map story is the attention given to communications and community engagement. Cultural mapping systems are only as strong as the community's ongoing participation in contributing and accessing cultural information. A project brand was developed and a website created to support the mapping project. The website provided regular project updates, set out definitions of cultural asset mapping and community identity mapping, announced community workshops and workshop findings, and provided access to final reports, including the economic analysis.

The original intent of the project was to undertake mapping of both tangible and intangible cultural assets. With finite resources, the decision was made to focus on tangible assets to establish a solid foundation for future work. Far from minimizing the importance of the intangibles, the

view was that they were too important to rush, and deserved equal attention and as much careful planning as the tangibles. However, to seed interest

in future work, part of the community engagement process was given over

to mapping intangibles.

Four community workshops were held to: report on [IDdings from the asset mapping process; identify additional sources of cultural information; and explore opportunities presented by mapping in the four communities. One part of the workshop was given over to asking participants to identify (as individuals) the most important tangible cultural assets, as well as the most important intangible assets and stories, that contributed to defining the unique identity and sense of p.lace of their community.

Economic Analysis

An analysis of the cultural economy in the region was an important component of the cultural mapping project. A strong theme

in the regional economic development strategy was the importance of small businesses and enterprises, and the need for strategies to strengthen entrepreneurship and connectivity among these enterprises. Because the creative cultural sector is largely one of small enterprises, this focus will greatly support and benefit cultural development in the region.

In Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has designed a tool called the Competitive Advantage Analysis (CAA) Creative Economy Tool to assist municipalities with identifying the relative size and performance of their creative economy.

Among the highlights from the quantitative analysis are the followmg.

Creative Economy - Creative occupations in the region represent 28.3 percent of the economy compared to a provincial average of 34.7 percent (2006). Creative industries are 9.8 percent compared to a provincial

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average of 14.4 percent (2006). The highest numbers of creative industries or businesses are in consulting, engineering, web and software design, advertising and publishing; these are broadly similar to provincial figures (2009).

Creative Cultural Economy - The four highest numbers of creative cultural industries in the region are in design, performing arts, advertising, motion picture and video industries, and publishing (2009).2 In creative

cultural occupations, the highest growth in percentage terms has been found in authors and writers, journalists, and library and archival technicians and assistants; the greatest decline in percentage terms has been in editors and graphic arts technicians (2009). In terms of actual growth in numbers of creative cultural occupations (versus percent growth/decline), the six highest areas of growth were in authors and writers, journalists, graphic designers and illustrators,

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artisans and craftspeople, musicians and singers, and painters, sculptors, and other visual artists.

Reflections on the Process

Canadian media analyst Marshal McLuhan said, "The solution always lies inside the problem, not outside."

It can be said that this perspective

has been the experience with the success of the Southern Georgian Bay Cultural Mapping Project. Beyond the highly refined technical and procedural aspects of the work, the project was characterized by a spirit of openness, curiosity, and innovation. The process and end-product was successful because it emerged organically, and was guided by continuous reflection by the stakeholders, steering committee, and consultants, and not based on a problem-solving framework. These same attitudes and perspectives will guide how the project evolves and should be explored by others undertaking similar work. To maximize the potential of their cultural assets, sense of place, unique identity, and project outcomes, communities undertaking cultural asset mapping should begin with inwardly peering questions that are focused on possibilities, such as: "What do we need to know about our identity and culture to be successful, complete, inspired, and vibrant communities?"

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Next Steps

The final project report summarizes findings and contains a series of recommendations about building and continuing the cultural mapping process. These recommendations include: launching a systematic approach to mapping intangibles and community identity; establishing both a technical working group and a partnership/governance body to support the ongoing work; continued work on the interactive map; and continuing a strong focus on community awareness and engagement using traditional and social media tools and strategies. M.W

2 These conclusions were drawn from formal statistical data and do not represent the full range of artists and creators in the region, who may not be registered and captured in formal government data.

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