The third module provides all the instructions to organise and realise participatory mapping workshops to co-design thematic orienteering routes with young people. In the first part, the potential of participatory mapping in enabling young people to build collective and more conscious interpretations of their city is explained. In the second part, the future trainers will go through all the steps needed to arrange and implement mapping workshops: from creating inclusive environments where participants can openly discuss what to put on the map to fieldwork and map design and drawing.

By the end of the module, sports trainers and CSOs workers will be able to understand the key principles and the benefits of participatory mapping, they will learn new tools and techniques for mapping and will be able to support vulnerable young people in the map-making process.

Learning outcomes to be reached by young people

Moving in their cities without the aid of technology will help young people to discover unknown angles and observe known places from a different perspective. Thanks to the participatory mapping workshops, youngsters will learn to notice what surrounds them, to recognise the characteristics, strengths and flaws of the place where they live, and eventually work to find possible solutions to overcome the problems. By doing this, they will gain a stronger sense of ownership over the place they live in and contribute to its improvement.

As young people will be actively involved in all the stages of the mapping process, they will:

  • Build new relationships and networks with their peers and other community members.
  • Develop a wide range of skills within the group, such as team work, communication, listening skills, decision making, leadership and problem solving.
  • Discover the naturalistic features and the cultural and historical context of the place they live in.
  • Explore social needs and opportunities within their community and reflect on possible solutions that can make it a better place to live.
  • Learn mapmaking techniques and develop basic cartography skills to create their own orienteering maps.

Mapping to learn: understanding the connection between places and people

Maps are indispensable tools that help us navigate our world. Unlike topographic maps, which focus only on physical aspects, participatory maps, by representing heritage assets, help to define our history, culture and thus our identity.

Cultural heritage is broadly interpreted as a system of values in continuous transformation and extended to a region which is recognised as a cultural landscape and carries values inextricably linked to the population’s perception” (Casonato, Greppi & Vedoà, 2020)

Maps often represent a community’s cultural heritage, which may include tangible elements like monuments, streets, gathering places, as well as intangible heritage features, such as traditions, various forms of art, practices, anything that is a significant reflection and expression of the community that live or lived in that territory. Intangible heritage cannot be physically located or perceived, but it is an important expression of human creativity. Moreover, it is interconnected with the tangible heritage and together they make up a community’s cultural asset. Is it inevitable, however, that tangible and intangible features interfere with one another. Monuments and meeting places mirror the history, the culture and the habits of a community and, at the same time, cultural heritage draws vital lymph from the physical places it lives and proliferates in. 

The map produced by the Eco-museum of Orobie is a good example of community map: it shows the natural, cultural and social aspects of the territory

Participatory mapping is the process of mapping community’s assets and “creating a tangible display of the people, places, and experiences that make up a community, through community members themselves identifying them on a map” (Burns, Paul & Paz; 2012). Thanks to participatory mapping, members of the community are given the role “to identify those material and immaterial cultural assets that are a reflection and expression of their constantly evolving values, beliefs, knowledge and traditions” (Council of Europe, 2021). It is a process that enables participants to work together to co-create a visual representation of their own community’s assets on a map.

The particular aspect distinguishing a participatory map from an ordinary cartography map is that the former makes visible the connections between a place and people. A participatory map, in fact, has the power to display not only physical places but also people’s interpretations of these places. This kind of map provides a unique visual representation of what a community perceives as their place: the places that are highlighted in the map are those that are important for the people who made it. A location can be inserted in the map because, for instance, it is a meeting place, one that brings back some memories or one that is meaningful from a cultural or historic point of view. Participatory maps help to build a more comprehensive picture of the whole community and enable people to visualize/situate themselves in it. Reflecting on where they live gives people a strong sense of who they are, what the values they believe in are, what their background is and what experiences they share as a community.

Through participatory mapping, young people can express how they feel about their community and which places feel significant to them, becoming aware of the social, cultural and historical context of their communities and strengthening their sense of belonging to such places. This process facilitates also an understanding of what these places mean to others and allows to “gain insight into the specific value granted to community assets by different community members” (Council of Europe, 2021).


Are these tangible or intangible heritage?


What makes a participatory map unique? What would you include in yours?



Mapping for inclusion

The potential of participatory mapping is to create a platform where people can communicate, share and collaborate, bringing knowledge “outside the circle”. Due to its openness and inclusiveness, the use of collaborative mapping processes can be the key to engaging youth in a collective reflection and fostering intergenerational and intercultural dialogue, thus promoting understanding and integration among different cultural and social groups. When carried out in a group setting, the mapmaking process fosters relationship building, strengthen existing networks and creates new connections among different groups of the same community who may not usually work together (Ralls and Pottinger 2021).

Building a map as a community is a form of recognition and inclusive representation, as everyone is free to express themselves and all the participants are involved in the process of negotiating the meaning and making decisions about the common cultural heritage (Council of Europe, 2021).

An example of urban Participatory 3D Modelling by residents of the Barangay Commonwealth as part of the USAID-funded project Strengthening Public-Private Partnership on Disaster Risk Reduction to Build Resilient Communities

“Participatory mapping supports communities to articulate and communicate their knowledge, record and archive local knowledge, advocate for change and address communities’ issues”
(Burns, Paul, Paz ; 2012)

Participatory mapping brings new knowledge, skills and resources together, in a cooperative effort to protect the cultural landscape as a common good. Additionally, the mapping process can raise awareness of local issues, as for example abandoned housing, accessibility and walkability. Once the problems are identified, a variety of new ideas may follow: participants can come up with new approaches to address and overcome existing issues.

The co-creation process turns young people from passive users to active citizens: while creating their map, they explore social problems and barriers present in their places, coming up with bottom-up ideas and new joint solutions to improve the community’s wellbeing. As identifying community assets can reveal new ways to access and leverage resources, community mapping can empower people to develop strategies to make their communities better places to live as well as to advocate for change.

Planning with youth: participatory mapping


In which way do young people become active citizens by practicing participatory mapping?



Community mapping

In order to create an orienteering map that also performs a function of social inclusion and knowledge of a specific territory, with its traditions, its places of interest and culture, it is necessary to adequately identify the points to be included in the map. It can be useful to work with young people on the following questions:

  • Where do I go in my neighbourhood and why?
  • What are the places that are important to me?
  • What places do I try to avoid? What makes me avoid them?
  • What tangible/intangible assets are defining features of my community (arts, language, craftsmanship, etc.)?
  • What type of diversity is present within the community (ethnic, cultural, etc.)?
  • Are there places people get together in large groups? What do they do here?
  • What is my relationship with the community? How am I perceived in the community?
  • Which are the places I feel represented by the most?
  • What positive activities already happening in my community would I like to see more of?
  • What would I like to see in your community that doesn’t exist now?

(Chicago Community Climate Action Toolkit 2021) (Cleveland, Maring & Backhaus 2021)

Based on the answers given, it is possible to draw up a first draft that takes into account the places most frequented by the participants and the whole community, as well as those spaces that are perceived as dangerous and on which it is possible to intervene to make them safer and welcoming. Once a base map has been drawn up, it is possible to add further elements. These can be the most varied, but they must all have one characteristic: to be easily identifiable. The places where the control points will be positioned, in fact, must be easily recognisable and detectable. They cannot be particularly hidden or in dangerous places because orienteering is not a treasure hunt but a tool for learning to orient yourself and to strengthen the bond with the places.

The participatory mapping led by Map Me Happy

The mural of Saint Erasmus in Palermo, painted by Igor Palmintieri

What are the places worthy of being included on a map? A central role is played by all those monuments that represent the heritage of that community: from places of worship to statues, from fountains to historic buildings, from squares to museums. 

However, there are also other places of informal culture, which make the community as it is, such as gardens and graffiti, cloisters, alleys and crossings that have a particular meaning and are often more symbolic than the most well-known places. 

The schools in that area can also be excellent places to be included among the control points because they are the places of formation of the young people who live in that area par excellence: many of the children who live there have shared the common experience of attending those schools. Other meeting places can serve as a control point: recreational and cultural centres, places where people meet, sports fields, restaurants that serve typical dishes, libraries, coworking spaces and pubs. Once a more detailed map has been drawn up, it is time to walk around the neighbourhood in search of hidden gems that escape at first glance and which, in reality, constitute the pulsating soul of certain areas.

The historic centre of the cities, for example, is often dotted with numerous workshops of artisans and small entrepreneurs who make sustainable products and represent the highest form of craftsmanship, using prime quality raw materials, or who provide fundamental services for the community for which they operate. They are the sign of that healthy entrepreneurship that does not exploit the territory but enhances its merits, characteristics and qualities. Furthermore, places that can be identified as control points are those that tell stories of success, of redemption: stories of men and women who managed to realize the dreams they believed in, even though they didn’t leave their neighbourhood. They are places where young people can go to meet adults who have lived their own situation and who certainly represent role models for the whole community.

In Palermo, for example, such a place is the shop that a trans woman opened in Ballarò to sell the leather products she makes. Despite the discrimination suffered over the years, she never gave up and continued to work every day, showing the children and young people of the neighbourhood that the tools of oppression and intimidation cannot win over determination and dreams.

Quir fattoamano, a handcrafted shop in Palermo

What matters the most during community mapping activities is that those who join the conversation can give their inputs and points of view about different socially significant places or even the same one. In fact, there are some buildings or natural places, some areas that can mean different things to different people. An example could be an oratory where children go to study and play during the week, but on the weekends it becomes a place of worship for various religious professions: Muslims pray in the wide courtyard, while Christians attend Mass (example from Palermo, Italy). Thanks to the dialogue between people who have different experiences about the same place it is possible to give them a deeper value and meaning, making it a place recognisable to everyone and significant to the whole community.

Santa Chiara oratory in Palermo


Answer the questionsat the beginning of the chapter/section. Grab a piece of paper and draft your own map!





Behind the map

Realising orienteering maps is not as easy as it may seem. Producing high quality orienteering maps requires a lot of fieldwork on the terrain to interpret and represent the reality at the scale of orienteering maps as well as the cartographic knowledge and tradition of generalisation (Zentaj 2018).  It is estimated that mapmakers regularly spend 20-30 hours on every square kilometre (Mee, 2013).

For the sake of the ORIENT project, the mapping process will be implemented in a simplified way, in order to ensure youth involvement throughout all the process. When planning the mapmaking workshop, it is important to keep in mind that the ultimate goal of the ORIENT approach is the design of routes related to the topic of social inclusion. Therefore, realising professional competitive orienteering maps is not essential for the objective we aim to achieve. The ORIENT methodology can be used to work with young people who have little to no prior experience with maps. For this reason, the ORIENT maps might be less accurate and geospatially precise than those used for orienteering competitions, which are realised thanks to the aid of specific software[1].

In fact, an official orienteering map should contain all the following elements (Mee, 2013):

  • Well defined length scale and equidistance: the map scales used in the orienteering races are usually 1: 10.0000 1: 15.000.
  • Correct use of the colours and symbols.
  • Correct positioning of conventional signs, which constitute reference points.
  • Appropriate level curves, ideal lines that connect all the points of the ground that are at the same height.

The map must contain all the relevant information without being redundant.

The map drafting process can be simplified by using free open-source tools. Trainers and young people could use, for instance, applications they are already familiar with, such as Google maps or Google Earth. The process of creating an orienteering map with these simple and common instruments follows the following steps:

1° method: Google Maps and Purple Pen

1. Open Google Maps and select ‘Satellite’ as map type.
2. Identify on the map the specific area of interest. Then disable the labels.
3. Capture the screen and save the screenshot.
4. Open Purple Pen, a free software that can be downloaded in any computer.
5. Add the starting point, the controls and create different paths depending on the categories that are going to join the competition. You just need to ‘create a new event’, select the scale and place the symbols of the controls with their numbers. Once you add the legend, the map will be ready. 

2° method: Google Earth and Word

1.       Open Google Earth and select the area of interest.
2.       Turn off labels, thanks to the CLEAN key in the menu under map styles.
3.       Use the snipping tool that comes with your computer to crop the area image you want to work with.
4.       Once you snip the picture you need, paste it into a Word document. Now you can add the object you want to use for your activity: arrows, circles for control points, textboxes, etc.

* Visual instructions at the following

3° method: OpenStreetMap and OpenOrienteeringMapper 

1. Use OpenStreetMap to find the area where the race is going to take place and save the file in a folder.

2. Open the program OpenOrienteering Mapper, a free software that helps with the creation of orienteering maps and the organization of orienteering events.

3. Select ‘Create a new map’ and follow the preliminary steps the program asks you to. The map is going to look something like this:

4. Once You delete all the superfluous elements, you need to convert the map symbols to orienteering symbols. When the map orientation is rotated to magnetic north the map is ready for fieldwork.  

* Visual instruction at the following link.

4° method: hand-write maps

1. Find an aerial photograph of the area they want to set the orienteering race in.

2. Trace the key elements onto the paper thanks to the tracing paper.

3. Walking around the selected space while reading the first draft of the map will help you to notice and add other elements.

4. Once completed their fieldwork review, you can use a new piece of tracing paper and redraw the map, using a ruler and a pen and adding a legend.

* Visual instruction at the following link (pag.15-18).

[1] The most popular software for Cartography and Orienteering is OCAD, which already has the symbols needed in order to realize a map.

This methodology is not suitable for complex orienteering routes but hands-drawn maps are easy to make.

Based on the type of orienteering race and course, the level of approximation changes. When in urban contexts, young people are going to need just a few elements to orient themselves: some lines, few symbols and the control points. In case the race takes place in a natural environment, the map has to be as precise and detailed as possible: trees, bushes, bridges, fences and sources of water must be represented.

More recently, participatory mapping has begun to use geographic information technologies including Global Positioning Systems (GPS) (Cochrane & Corbett 2018). Although this alternative method allows to save time, coordinates are not usually indicated in orienteering maps and GPS does not have a role in classic orienteering (according to the competition rules, external help during the events is prohibited for the competitors) (Zentaj, 2018).  A possible solution is adapting orienteering to geocaching, an outdoor recreational activity in which participants use a GPS device to hide and seek objects at specific locations marked by coordinates. A geocaching session is very similar to a treasure hunt and geocachers do not need a physical map (at most they can use the digital map of their smartphone). During the fieldwork, young people can hide a small object and use GPS to track the coordinates, which will then be entered into a Geocaching online platform. In this way, the item becomes a geocache that can be searched by a large number of participants.

Even if geocaching varies considerably from orienteering, it is an interesting recreational sport activity that requires less planning time and effort and that can ensure the sustainability of the ORIENT project.


Choose one of the methods above and try creating your own map based on your draft.

From theory to practice: tips and tools to develop an orienteering programme for young people

The ORIENT Curriculum would ideally require 6 to 8 sessions to be fully implemented. Taking into consideration that Module 3 has more content than the previous modules, it is strongly recommended to dedicate more time to deepen this part. When planning the sessions with young people, facilitators should include the following activities:

  • Basics of orienteering: practical exercises work particularly well when it comes to teaching the fundamentals of orienteering. HERE is a list of preparatory exercises that can help young people to familiarise with the rules and regulations of the game.
  • Participatory mapping: mapping for inclusion is not only about reflection. Field work covers an important aspect when creating the “routes to inclusion”. For this reason, facilitators are strongly encouraged to include outdoor activities such as site inspection to select the location of the control points.
  • Map creation: maps can sometimes be difficult to realise but they play a fundamental role in the ORIENT methodology. Therefore, facilitators should spend enough time to explain the map making process and assist young people with the digitisation of the routes.
  • Orienteering race: organising an orienteering contest is a good way to put all the work that has been previously done into practice. Participants can be divided into groups and each team need to discover the control points selected by the others.

A wrap-up session might be also necessary at the end of the programme.
You can find a lot of debriefing activities in Module 2!








Module 1

Module 2

Module 3