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janabau's Diary

Recent diary entries

I started to map in OSM at a mapathon in Prague, Czech Republic, in November 2019. Little did I know then that I was lucky to integrate an already existing, well organized Missing Maps Czech & Slovak community. I joined the Missing Maps project with the Médecins Sans Frontières in January 2020 and since then engaged with many more mapping communities - Missing Maps London, the Missing Maps members, HOT community working group, OSM RDC and OSM Uganda, to name a few.

When we discussed the OSM Diary with @ODULANA_OLUWATOYIN and @JaphetMasunzu, I knew I ought to try as well. When I reflected on topics, community building was a top choice among the six ideas I came up with - I will return to the others at the end. Listed in no particular order, these actions will help: 1. Announce next opportunities We always do that at a wrap-up at the end of a mapathon. This means, that you check in with the community members before what events they are planning before your mapathon. Ideally, you already plan the date and format of the next mapathon. A certain regularity of events is helpful to keep people coming back. Typically, we create a slide that we show, whether online or in-person event, that way people can remember better than if they only heard it.

2. Invite the participants of past mapathons

Eventbrite is a helpful tool to set up and keep track of the registrations. You can download a list of registered participants after the event under the Manage event menu, Dashboard section, and set up an email campaign for the next event under the Marketing section. Make sure to send email invitations to those, who registered for your mapathons in the past 6-12 monts. The click-through rate of the invitation email is the highest, compared to the other communication channels, because these people already know what they are in for!

3. Reach existing supporters through e-newsletter

Make use of the newsletters of the organizations coordinating the event. For a couple of the mapathons this year, we have made special newsletters explaining the context of the country where we were going to map and the need for the mapping, encouraging them to help. Thanks to this, more diverse participants showed up and we had new mappers from Malta and Spain. If the mapathon is held at a university, the faculty newsletter is a good way to reach the students.

4. Set up an online community space

A platform to converge & exchange can be slack, Facebook or telegram, for example. The above mentioned communities use a slack channel (OSM RDC, Missing Maps members, Community WG), a Facebook community page (OSM Uganda) or group (Missing Maps CZ SK); telegram was used at the State of the Map 2022 by organizers and participants. Post events and opportunities to join there, as well as highlights and interesting links, such as media articles.

5. Have a channel to address key members

This is a subgroup of the above, that could be termed the ‘core team’, e.g. community leaders, long-terms volunteers, trainers and validators. MM London and MM CZ SK have a trello board for ‘core team’, where they coordinate tasks and roles for mapathons. While the coordination can start via email, some Missing Maps mapathon organizer teams use Facebook Messenger, some whatsapp and some Microsoft Teams for instant exchange to update members and resolve issues. If you are a manager under an organization on the HOT Tasking Manager, you can also set up a team under Manage/Teams. We have for mappers of special projects, and many organizations have teams for validators.

6. Loop in mappers with a potential

Such participants can be those who pick up the mapping quickly. Thus, you can involve them in helping their fellow mappers. It can be recommended to them to go on and learn JOSM, and then learn validation. Or it can be those who manage to engage others - they might be potential co-facilitators. Or those who ask the right questions and whose field of study or work is related to humanitarian mapping. If you meet in person, a good opportunity to find out a little more about their interests is during a break for pizza or during socializing after the mapathon. You can personally invite them to join the next opportunities and plant the idea of taking up a small role.

7. Recognize remarkable contributors

This could be mappers who are contributing the lion’s share, for instance most days in the year mapped, top validators to HOT TM overall, or to a specific organization, or even an outstanding number of buildings mapped. I loved the interviews with 3 outstanding female mappers on the occasion of the Women’s day 2022, published on the Missing Maps blog here and separately as Facebook posts as well. Some communities declare a mapper of the month, which makes a social media content inspiring for other members of the broader community.

8. Build capacity of the community members/leaders

One such brilliant example is the HOT Data Quality Internship 2022 programme, successfuly repeated for a second time. Building capacity also crucially takes place internally within organizations and communities. In the last 3 years, I have invested time and efforts empowering MSF colleagues who lead mapathons and Missing Maps activities in their countries through different online thematic and training sessions, useful resources as well as tailored advice. Exchange among us and learning from other contexts is an important aspect, and each of us can contribute to build local community. There were successful trainings of trainers in person held before the pandemic (see photos from Beirut) by @AtomicBohm and @Jorieke_V, and now we can plan for 2023!

9. Explain why we map

Commmunicating the need and the impact is key to make the engagement meaningful. From explaining in mapathon presentations the context and the humanitarian needs, over videos with the field colleagues requesting the mapping (see the latest on the GIS @ MSF Missing Maps playlist) to talks about how the data is used at conferences, or explaning what the data will be used for in project descriptions or thank you messages to the HOT TM contributors, this has become a red thread through much of the MSF communication and community interaction.

10. Ask for help

I marveled at how well-oiled machine the training and organization is at my visit to a MM London mapathon in February 2020 (still in person!). A simple, but powerful action, is to ask for help. I was told that they said that at the end of the mapathon:”We need new members of the team to help organize next mapathons. If you are interested, join us on trello (fill in the platform from point 4.).”

What do you do to build community? Please let me know in a comment :)

Location: Libeň, Prague, obvod Praha 8, Capital City of Prague, Prague, Czechia