Call for Feedback: How-To Note on Community Mapping for Better Services


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The review process for this How-to Note has ended. The paper has been downloaded 36 times and we received 5 comments.

We are grateful to the many reviewers for their valuable comments. The author will carefully review and consider all comments when finalizing the note. The final version of the How-To Note will be published on the Open Development Technology Alliance website and announced in the World Bank blog forum

Meanwhile, we invite you to review and comment on the new How-To Note "Using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to Improve Transparency in Bank-Financed Projects", available here.


The Open Development Technology Alliance (ODTA), in collaboration with the World Bank's OPCS' Governance and Anticorruption Team (GAC) and the Social Development Network (SDV), is holding a consultation period to invite feedback on four short How-To reports. These draft papers explore the role information and communication technologies (ICTs) can play to enhance governance, strengthen social accountability mechanism and ultimately improve development outcomes.

You are invited to download and review the how-to note, "Getting on the Map- A Community’s Path to Better Services," and submit your feedback in the comments section below.

Getting on the Map - A Community's Path to Better Services

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About the note: Maps have the ability to tell a story that becomes very compelling and hard to argue with,” as noted by Aleem Walji, Innovation Practice Manager at the World Bank. This note sheds light on "interactive community maps"-- an innovative development tool for marginalized communities that have appeared as blank spots on traditional maps. The idea of these maps is to harness the collective wisdom and knowledge of local communities to become drivers of development and improve the provision of public services. As part of the mapping process, local residents use basic GPS devices to map roads, pathways, and points of interest in their communities, and generate publicly available and multipurpose maps. On top of geospatial data, these maps also contain local news, reports, and stories shared by community members. Relying on best practice examples, the note walks through the design and implementation of the mapping process.


To learn more about this How-To series, click here.


Mikel Maron
June 18, 2012

This is a good, useful piece, thank you! Already shared with a few folks during our trip in East Africa...

Here's some feedback:

* Needs more emphasis on the need of continuation beyond project. Community will definitely want to continue, and that must be a top priority. This includes provision and arrangement for equipment, proper institutional housing. Really emphasize the responsibility to not just jump in and out of the grassroots.

* Another motivation for communities is simply pure expression, and enjoyment of learning, and for their own increased visibility. Just because people are poor does not mean they don't have other motivations besides improving their lot.

* A major and crucial player and context is the global and local open technical communities. Linking the community work to technical communities provides both networking opportunities for participants, and increased understanding of the needs of communities among technical people. Just the fact that someone from Kibera is editing the same database as someone from Washington DC is a powerful notion for both. And in a very tangible way, Map Kibera was made possible by the Nairobi technical community, especially colleagues at Ushahidi and the iHub, as well as the global OpenStreetMap community.

* Implementers (and everyone) should be encouraged to share openly their experiences as much as possible, through blogs, in order to increase attention on the project, and help inform what is still a young practice. TTLs should be encouraged to reach out even in the planning stages to the mapping community, which values freely sharing knowledge above all.

* The people actually doing the activity, the community, should be given the driver's seat to determine mapping priorities. Goals of other actors are for sure going to be among the same priorities (if everyone has done their homework). It's then the job of the implementer to facilitate towards shared goals. This subtle point places ownership among the community actors.

* Government will need a lot of hand holding and help to keep involved ... key role of the World Bank :)

* Correction: Map Mathare was actually led by Map Kibera itself (at that point, a registered Trust). Map Kibera itself was started by GroundTruth. Tandale was also implemented by GroundTruth, with support from the World Bank and Twaweza. Other community groups besides those listed played a key role in Mathare, including "Community Transformers" ... name a few, but indicate there are more. Also, from the folks that trained, finally a core group of a couple dozen have stuck with it.

* As for timelines, yes the initial mapping in Kibera was 3-4 weeks. The second phase of thematic mapping was 3-4 months. Mathare actually took 3-4 months, but is was not constant everyday work. Tandale was a solid month. If possible, it's good to give the process some breathing room; people have other commitments, they can tire of the activity,...

* As for price of equipment, "should", better is "probably about 4-5000USD". The venue should ideally also have power. Also need Internet, either wifi at the venue, or 3G modems. Also need to consider security of the equipment, and management schemes, if equipment is left in the community.

* Training: this is usually not separated from actually doing. They produce real data and stories right away. This is great for motivation, but does take some extra effort on part of implementor to monitor the work.

* "Mapping with their feet" doesn't refer to mapping with GPS, but is a group facilitation technique. For a workshop, it's a warm up where participants place themselves around the room "geographically" in relation to each other. This gets people moving around and talking to each other, as well as starting to think geographically.

* Satellite imagery can be used in a lot of ways in JOSM, or in Walking Papers. It's not directly "fed in OSM database". The example is particular to Indonesia, but imagery can be used in many other ways too.

* More detailed on how reporting happens would be useful. Erica has more thoughts...

* Rather than talking about "scaling up", in community mapping with think more about "networked growth". Communities can't be "industrialized" but take intensive engagement. That doesn't mean that things don't grow ... they can grow very fast as evidenced by the OSM community as a whole. But the growth happens through building relationships, not multiplying.

Jennifer Shkabatur
June 19, 2012

Dear Mikel,

Thank you so much for your great and detailed feedback! It is incredibly helpful to get the perspective of an insider, and all your suggestions will all make their way into the final version of the "How To Note."

Best wishes,

John Crowley
June 23, 2012

I've had a few folks in the US Government ask for just such a piece, so it is both timely and useful. A few comments:

1. I emphatically second Mikel's comment on setting up a sustainable model for the teams that come together around mapping. All too frequently, the work in a community is viewed as a product rather than a process, with a measurable outcome and a checkmark at the end. The work of mapping is that of giving voice. The process of completing the first map is just the beginning of a process, not the completion of a product. These teams can themselves become leaders and help other communities. Mutual need not happen only sovereignty to sovereignty, or IFI to government, but also community to community. That distributed network of trained hands at the local level helping others at the local level is the future of problem solving.

2. Imagery v Field Mapping. As OSM experience showed in Indonesia, community mapping can start from imagery or from field work with GPS units. Imagery can be obtained in from other sources than those listed. If for humanitarian purposes, from US Dept of State Humanitarian Information Unit and USAID can access imagery via the NEXTVIEW license (at 1m resolution); tracing (aka, derived vector data) is considered to be compatible with OSM for emergency response, humanitarian action, and potentially other applications. Imagery can also be collected at low cost via balloon and aircraft, and might also catalyze other industries. See the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) and Grassrootsmapping. Note that collecting imagery in other bandwidths (like infrared) can help with tracking the health of crops (knowing where to water) as well as pinpointing sources of pollution. Some imagery collection kits are less than $100USD to assemble. Look at the examples from Lima, Peru from PLOTS and Jeff Warren.

Would love to meet up when we are both back in Cambridge,

John Crowley
Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Greta Byrum
July 12, 2012

This guide is an important resource for citizen mapping, unlocking the potential of the process for communities not only to understand and document local issues, but to provide essential baseline information to governments and civil society organizations who want to improve conditions or initiate projects. Unlike the other handbooks, this one talks specifically about how to integrate residents in the projects, building capacity in valuable digital skills while also working toward specific goals. It also talks about the importance of robust partnerships and trust relationships as essential elements of community mapping, whether for the purpose of improving service distribution or for building community through storytelling.

Our suggestions:

Incorporate multiple technological and non-technological platforms in mapping processes. The guide suggests using GPS units and digital cameras, but feature phones can also be used for this process when combined with SMS platforms; storytelling or cognitive maps can be made at community meetings or charrettes using markers and glue-sticks.
Train participants not only in the surveying stage of mapping, but in the use of other open geographic tools in the process, such as OpenStreetMap and Walking Papers. Capacity-building can be sustained throughout the process.
Integrate the mapping work with the Open Government Data initiative. Encourage governments to release base maps and geospecific census data, which provide an important supplement to crowdsourced maps

You can read our blogpost for more comments and suggestions:…

Erica Hagen
July 19, 2012

The piece is very nicely done. I would like to comment on the aspect of community reporting.

Reporting might be de-coupled from mapping in activities that can be considered "community mapping". However, I believe that the strength of Map Kibera rests on the intersection between geographic mapping and community-based reporting and media. This is one answer to the question of how communities continue to use the map and related information and keep things current. It also helps contextualize data and to advocate for particular issues. Including the mapping into processes of local development is very important, but sharing online through reporting or social media can have a big effect.

You do mention that there can be reporting elements such as Voice of Kibera, but not much detail is given about the process for creation and sustaining these sites. Perhaps that's outside the scope of this report. However, I would not want to leave readers with the impression that there is not much involved in making such a reporting platform take off. (Minor correction: Flip is a video camera).

The community members who engage in mapping may be left at the end with a desire to "say more" about what is going on in their community. I believe one primary motivation for any of this work, for the community members, is to become visible and take charge of their public image, so to speak. This is an incentive for participation for many people. This is their chance to “own” their community and take responsibility for it as well. The reasons people participate are complex and varied, but when this is a motive, they become very interested in “saying something” about where they live after (or while) engaging in the mapping process. This way they can both show off aspects of pride, and demand attention to issues with the bonus of having good location data to back it up.

The reporting can be done by either those involved in mapping, or another specialized group. If it’s another group, they should also be chosen from the community and ideally have been part of mapping to some extent ie, explored the community. If people begin with mapping alongside reporting, specialization is useful after a while because mastery of all the tools is not common. Different people will be attracted to different tasks. Allowing natural affinity to motivate also helps in later sustainability.

Reporting itself is not totally intuitive. People can improve reports and learn to report, much like a journalist learns. They can take ownership for the platform itself, encouraging others to submit and becoming editors. They become the link between raw data and geographic detail, and what happens next. They interpret the location and write it into stories. Using a blog allows for more detailed reports and for personalization, also for the individual to be highlighted and get credit (while Ushahidi anonymizes). Each is useful for a different purpose. It is important to allow people to try out and select the reporting methods they prefer, if possible, including the types of media.

Connection between reports and outcomes is not always direct. A big mistake is to imply that by reporting a problem, it will be fixed. Even if that is the intention or promise, it may not happen or not in a time frame which makes it apparent. However, when there is freedom to build ownership of the reporting tools there is still incentive to keep reporting. Acknowledgment also helps. A process which demonstrates that at least people who matter are watching (from responsible agencies, to an international audience, to neighbors) is important. Even better, commitments to respond, comment and dialogue from authorities or NGOs. Keeping this dialogue channel alive also boosts motivation to maintain the map and allows unexpected linkages to arise by publicizing the activity and information well.

Adarsh Desai
July 12, 2012

This How-to Note has been reviewed by New America Foundation independently. Overall the review is positive with some good suggestions. It's available on their blog titled, "Development as Freedom: The World Bank’s how-to series “Amplifying Citizen Voices through Technology” (PART 2 OF 2)", at the URL below.…

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