In 2014 Missing Maps came into being we realized that we needed a website. On a layover, flying back from field mapping in Africa, I built up the first iteration of the Missing Maps website. It served us well and was great to share our mission and introduce a new generation of mappers to OSM and HOTOSM. However, after a few months we realized we needed a much stronger platform for the project.
Keeping volunteers engaged between disasters is a key focus for humanitarian organizations around the world. Remotely training a large pool of extremely diverse volunteers requires time, proper tools, and coordination. A disaster is not the time to start the process. Instead, it is imperative to have a large body of well-coordinated volunteers that are ready to assist when a disaster occurs. Part of the Missing Maps engagement strategy is to create tools that will help us identify new mappers with little experience and effectively engage them to commit more time and become long term experienced OSM volunteers who are eventually able to build their own local OSM communities.
Due to the diversity of Missing Maps volunteers, we are able to access a large pool of potential volunteers whose wealth of local knowledge enables them to help map areas that are often overlooked, thereby building stronger communities. The Missing Maps partners have years of experience recruiting and engaging volunteers. A key part of volunteer management is rewarding volunteers for their experience.
As Missing Maps grew we realized that our way of tracking users (excel) and mapping metrics wasn’t good enough to effectively manage and reward volunteers. Pascal Neis graciously built a page summarizing all contributions of Missing Maps (7000+) to date. While very useful as a tracking tool for the overall project it was never intended or capable of tracking individual volunteers as they progressed and became better mappers. Pascal’s great work did put us on the right path to think about what we could do to better understand Missing Maps mappers and OSM mappers in general. As some research has shown Missing Maps volunteers are highly engaged and have a high retention rate compared to regular OSM and HOT contributors. We leaned into this by thinking through some way we could effectively encourage more people to map a 2nd and 3rd time. Missing Maps volunteers now have their own user page where they can see and earn badges for various mapping and volunteer activities. We also created a leaderboard so users can track where they are for various projects and programs can identify and reward their best mappers more easily.
Last summer we received funding from the Cisco foundation to create an OSM volunteer tracking tool to allow us to both reward volunteers but to identify the best and brightest to receive additional training and mentoring to become local champions and event hosts. Working with Development Seed for the past few months we pioneered a new way to track users participation to Missing Maps and HOT. I’ll leave the technical details to them to explain but I think we’ve arrived at a good solution not just for Missing Maps potentially OSM as a whole. At the moment metrics are only being captured for hashtags mentioning Missing Maps. Once we work out some of the kinks it is our intention to support all hashtags for OSM in the future.
As always with work completed by the Red Cross and Missing Maps all the source code is available under an open license on github.
I wanted to give a special thanks to the many volunteers that have already pointed out bugs, made suggestions, and submitted pull requests. Missing Maps is an open collaboration and we value volunteer time and support.