Social mapping

Wellbeing ranking

Social mapping, or 'wellbeing ranking', is used to identify households using pre-determined indicators based on socio-economic factors.

It works to determine a relative ranking of socio-economic status of the household rather than an absolute ranking. It can help determine which households are benefiting from an assessment and whether or not they belong to the target group.

Social mapping is used to identify households based on predefined indicators relating to socio-economic conditions (e.g. status, skills, property, education, income, etc.). The population’s wellbeing is then ranked (by those living there) according to which household is better or worse off in terms of the selected indicators. This method therefore results in information about households’ relative wellbeing, rather than an absolute assessment.

For social mapping: Use the results from the participatory ranking process to make a base map of the area under analysis. Use codes (symbols) to represent relative indicators (or ranking) of the households in the area under analysis. This can be used to monitor the households' wellbeing over time and evaluate how a project affects different social groups.

For wellbeing ranking: Use cards to sort households, ordered from worse-off to better-off, according to a participatory ranking process. Divide the ranked cards into groups where there is a clear cluster of scores in order to define your target group.

These methods are useful for tracking change over time, and for assessing which households benefit from a project and whether they belong to the intended target group. Both methods are most useful when ranking households in areas limited in size, such as in a neighbourhood or small village.

Outline of a social mapping exercise

  1. "Prepare a base map on which all the households of the area being analysed are located (e.g., a village, a neighbourhood, a rural zone, etc.).
  2. Ask the participants to code each household according to its level of well-being in comparison to others. Each level can be given its own symbol or colour code. Make sure you crosscheck the coding of each household by ensuring there is consensus about the code. In this way, a base map can be made in which households are clustered according to different rankings of well-being. Include a legend on the map that explains the symbols and codes.
  3. Now focus on the indicators in which you are interested (e.g., "school attendance of children", "involved in a certain project activity", "member of a micro-credit group"). Code each household according to its status.
  4. The base map can then be used to monitor the well-being of each household from year to year and to relate the households to changes introduced by a project. This makes it possible to examine whether there are any impacts occurring on well-being or other socio-economic indicators in focus and, if so, how the impacts may affect different social groups" (Guijt & Woodhill, 2002).


Below is an example of a well-being ranking exercise in an IFAD-supported project in a village in Laos.

A rubric for ranking well-being, including items such as how many months rice supply the person has, and whether they own a vehicle

Source: International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) (2002)



Guijt, I., & Woodhill, J. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Office of Evaluation Studies. (2002). Managing for impact in rural development: A guide for project M & E, Annex D. Retrieved from website:

'Social mapping' is referenced in: