Pod-mapping: An Exercise In Mapping Care

As we discuss the ideas of care and connection, the concept of ‘community’ is bound to come up. After all, it is within our communities that the sparks of care and connection ignite. Yet community is an amorphous and large word and often in situations of vulnerability it is useful to specifically recognise who and what consists of our support system – the intimate networks we feel comfortable reaching out to, the institutions that might lend us a hand. For example, in situations of loneliness or sickness, considering Covid-19 times, who would we reach out to? From this need for specificity evolved the term ‘pod’ to signify those people and systems that not only support us but also have the capacity to hold us accountable. People might have different pods to address different vulnerabilities. 

The idea of pod-mapping, was first introduced and created by the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC) to specifically address violence – who would you call if you were in a situation of receiving violence or abuse or wanting to be held accountable for violence or abuse you might have done. Since then its use has been expanded to map and understand support systems across multiple vulnerable situations. 

Pod-mapping exercise

This exercise has been sourced from BATJC’s resource. For how BATJC evolved and thought about this exercise you can look it up in detail here.

Photo credit: BATJC
  1. Write your name in the middle grey circle.
  2. The surrounding bold-outlined circles are your pod. Write the names of the people who are in your pod. We encourage people to write the names of actual individuals, instead of things such as “my church group” or “my neighbors.”
  3. The dotted lines surrounding your pod are people who are “movable.” They are people that could be moved into your pod, but need a little more work. For example, you might need to build more relationship or trust with them. 
  4. The larger circles at the edge of the page are for networks, communities or groups that could be resources for you. It could be your local domestic violence direct service organization, or your cohort in nursing school, or your youth group, or a transformative justice group.

Using pod-mapping

As an exercise, pod-mapping helps you recognise: 

  • The specifics of your care pod which is useful in times of distress.
  • How care functions. By the process of mapping you begin to see how care is practiced in a much larger network across individuals, collectives, organisations, institutions etc.
  • The gaps you might have in your care network. Recognising the gaps then helps us begin to address them with appropriate action. 
  • That care can be enhanced in our lives by extending our vulnerabilities and support to others and in that manner expanding our own network of care.