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.
RICH = 2 people MEDIUM = 33 POOR = 18 VERY POOR = 7
Enough rice for 12 months Enough rice for 8-12 months Enough rice for 3-6 months Enough rice for 3 months
Large amount of paddy land in valley (up to 5 ha) Little paddy land (up to 0.5 ha with 2-3 ha upland cultivation) Small extent of land to
cultivate in upland (0.5-1.5 ha)
Little upland rice cultivation
(less than 0.5 ha)
More than 10-15 cows and buffaloes and 50-60 poultry Elephant or hand tractor Enough bullock power Around 5-10 cows and buffaloes, 5 pigs and 20-30 poultry
Sometimes elephant
Bullocks for land preparation


Less than 2 cows and buffaloes, 1 or 2 pigs, and 15 chickens
Sometimes an elephant
Usually no bullocks for land preparation


A few chickens, occasionally pigs
No plough/bullocks for land preparation


Permanent brick house with field roof Wooden house with galvanised iron or aluminium sheet roof Bamboo house with thatched roof Poor condition bamboo house with thatch
Owns two- or four-wheel vehicle Owns two-wheel vehicle Sometimes owns bicycle Has no assets
Sometimes rice mills Occasional rice mill No rice mill No rice mill
Able to hire labour Does not work as labour and
occasionally hires labour
Cannot hire labour Mainly sells labour
Has no deficit Makes up deficit by sale of
livestock and business.
Occasionally goes to forest
Always has deficit
Depends on forest and
sale of labour
Always depends on selling
labour and forest
Good health Occasional health problems Sick often Poor health

Source: Adapted from a table (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:

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