Community Brokering: The MAPS Approach

This is a continuation of a series of blogs describing the Community Broker Process. Here is a recap of some background from the July 16, 2013 Blog. In the spring of 2011, The Arcadia Institute in partnership with Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services decided to move forward to work with individuals with developmental disabilities through Community Brokering. Allison Hammond, The Arcadia Institute Program Director, traveled to Toronto, Canada to participate in the PATH and MAPS training with Jack Pearpoint and Linda Kahn. These techniques have been developed over 30 years by Jack and Linda as well as Marsha Forest, John O’Brien, Beth Mount and others.

The focus of this blog will be the MAPS approach.

Preparation for the MAPS approach is very similar to the PATH approach described in the July 16, 2013 Blog. Following a period of time building a relationship with a person who has agreed to participate in Community Brokering, a decision is made whether the person’s futures planning meeting will use the PATH or MAP approach The MAPS approach is more relevant if the person is preparing for a transition. The MAPS approach is described simply by “Don’t just do things, sit there and tell your story.” (The PATH and MAPS Handbook, 2010). By that we mean there is time for some thoughtful planning about how the person will share their gifts with the community in a meaningful way that leads toward their dreams.

As with the PATH process, leading up to the MAPS meeting, with support of the Community Broker the focus person identifies who is in his community circle. The person’s dream is explored in preparation for the MAPS meeting. The Community Broker spends whatever time is necessary to get to the know person well. The Community Brokers does this through a variety of activities. Some examples are: • Spending time with the person in various places • Taking the person to visit possible places to spend time in meaningful activity • Learning how to communicate with the person • Understanding the person’s gifts • Finding out what activities a person prefers

Again as with the PATH approach, the Community Broker invites the people in the person’s community circle, on behalf of the person, to the MAPS meeting. This is important because the Community Broker is responsible for coordinating and facilitating the meeting. The idea is not to place another activity to be coordinated by the person or the person’s community circle. We need people to attend and be ready to participate – not to worry about the details.

The place for the MAPS meeting should be in a place where people are comfortable, but must have space for the large paper graphic of the MAPS that will be created. We have held meetings in churches, libraries, neighborhood associations, and homes.

There are always two facilitators for the MAPS meeting. One is the process facilitator and the other is the graphic facilitator. These facilitators play two distinct roles. The process facilitator asks questions and generates input from all of the people present. The graphic facilitator captures what is being said during the process by drawing on the large piece of paper. It usually takes two hours to complete the steps in the process:

1. Telling the story of the person up until now using these questions: a. What does my past teach me about my gifts? b. What has happened in my recent past that can teach me about my gifts? 2. Honoring the dream 3. Recognizing there are nightmares or worries about what might happen 4. Naming the person’s gifts 5. Where can the person share their gifts in the community that would lead toward the dream 6. Making action agreements between the person and the community

During this process, the process facilitator helps to keep the focus on the person and the dream. We have yet to have a MAPS meeting and not have amazing surprises arise. Since the MAPS approach is more future focused that PATH approach we have done this more frequently with young adults who may be in school. Thinking about the person living independently and not having the level of constant support that the schools provide is quite scary for close family members. This is where the people in the community circle are vitally important. Often it is other family and friends see possibilities for the person’s gifts to be shared in the broader community. The process facilitator may have to consistently bring the focus to the person’s dream and away from close families worries. Again, in the MAPS approach, we have witnessed mothers and fathers learn to trust that through Community Brokering and the community circle support the person can do much more than they believed could happen.

Again when a group experiences some tension between the person’s dreams and what others think the future holds, having the graphic facilitator creates a common picture that brings attention back to the dream and gifts. The picture also moves the group past the worries to looking closely at the person’s gifts. As the meeting culminates in the Action Agreements, everyone becomes inspired that the person will reach the dream AND that the people in the community circle will truly be important allies to make that happen.

Ron's Map

Again, while the MAPS approach is exhilarating and the graphic may be pretty, it is the Community Broker’s responsibility to follow up frequently and consistently after the meeting. Only if we hold the person and the community accountable for the Action Agreements will real movement toward the Positive Possible Future be possible.

For more information about PATH and MAPS you can visit