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Understanding a community is not just about examining data and statistics. While these elements provide critical insights, they often lack the human touch, personal experiences, and shared emotions that make up the real fabric of a community. That’s where the innovative approach of persona mapping comes in, a technique we showcase in our recent case study.
Persona mapping is a step taken after the community has completed a process called supply mapping. Supply mapping is the creation of a comprehensive inventory of all the services, organizations, and programs that exist within the social infrastructure of a community. It gives us the “what” – what resources are available. But it doesn’t answer the more nuanced questions about who might use these resources, how they would navigate the system, or where they might encounter difficulties.
This is where persona mapping takes the reins. It involves creating a ‘persona’ – a representation of a typical community member, complete with their experiences, struggles, and triumphs. We then walk this persona through our previously mapped social infrastructure. This exercise allows us to identify potential gaps in the system, and understand from a first-person perspective how easy or difficult it is to navigate the services.
Our case study illustrates the power of persona mapping in a real-world context. We use it to examine the complexities of individual needs, which are often multifaceted and layered. By focusing on how individuals navigate through the system, we gain a more holistic understanding than what we could achieve by focusing solely on single issues, such as homelessness.
But persona mapping is not just about identifying gaps. It’s about empathy. It’s about better understanding the human beings who live in our communities, who rely on these services, and who are more than just a statistic on a chart. It’s about making our social infrastructure planning more human-centric, ensuring that we provide services that truly resonate with the people we serve.
For a deeper understanding of persona mapping, we invite you to dive into our detailed case study. This case study not only presents a real-world application of persona mapping, but also includes guiding questions that can be used by providers and social experts to enrich their social infrastructure planning.