More Simple Tactics for Mapping Cities

January 1, 0001

This week, I had a deep-dive interview about urbanization with DE, a leader in a large mission.

One of the markers of a ‘strategic city’ he suggested: a significant diaspora community with links “back home” over which the Gospel could easily flow.“With DMM, I’ve seen something change,” he told me.

“I see the possibility–the idea of a faith community being mobile.

The old brick-and-mortar, come-with-me-to-church was very hard to transport.

Hard to take home in your suitcase.

Hard to bring with you and leave behind when you went back home for weddings and holidays.

Now there’s something you could leave in your wake.

[It’s easier to put it on the back of a camel.

-Me.] So the diaspora connections might make a place more strategic.” He’s not the only one to think such things, but the statement concisely illustrates the importance of finding large diaspora communities in more open places that have links to less open places. Here in Dallas I am working with a few people on the idea of quickly mapping a city’s diaspora, to find its unreached populations.

I have written about this before: read my simple, low-tech way of mapping here. Since writing that piece, I’ve continued to ponder the challenge of identifying communities of unreached peoples in Western cities.

Given the conversation I had with DE, I’ve been thinking and theorizing about what kinds of diaspora would have links.

What might be a “correlation” sign? There are different types of diaspora individual - people who are here for a short time, people who are here not intending to go back.

People who assimilate and people who don’t.

Who might be more likely to have links back home? I have developed a rough-draft theory: it’s more likely that large communities of a minority, concentrated together, maintaining culture and language, would have ties “back home” then would more isolated, distributed, diverse, “pockets” of minorities.

The more isolated and distributed a group is, the more likely (I theorize) that it is assimilating into the larger group.

Larger minority communities ought to be more easily detectable by simple drive throughs, because they are a large enough market to support things common to their culture.

So, if you go back to the map of DFW I showed in the article, a fairly rough approach suggests itself.

Simply drive down the main thoroughfares that “surround” the residential sections.

These “edge” areas are more likely to be zoned commercial–where stores, strip malls, and religious buildings will be found.

In communities featuring minorities, isn’t it more likely that at the edge/intersection points, markers of the community will be found? What I’m searching for here is a simple way to quickly identify concentrations of peoples without resorting to complex databases or driving through every community or door to door canvassing.

By identifying where residents congregate to do business, to be entertained, and to perform religious ceremonies may be the simplest way to do that.

Might you try this in your own town and see what you find?