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Mapping with migrants: providing immediate support and building lasting empathy

Venezuelan migrants & host communities in Colombia & Peru will map resources for migrants & develop storytelling projects to build empathy.

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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

The Venezuelan migration crisis is on track to dwarf the Syrian crisis as the largest migrant exodus in the world yet has received just 2% of the funding per person. In Colombia it’s common to see Venezuelans walking for weeks in search of family & work. Faces shielded from the scorching sun, they walk unsure of when they will be able to access the next WiFi point to message home, or the welcome they will receive in different towns, villages or shops. The root of this is a lack of scalable, cheap ways of creating, editing & sharing basic information. Xenophobia & hostility are increasing. Frequent claims the country is “overrun”, or Venezuelans are “stealing all the jobs”, are absorbed by young Colombians & Peruvians. The root cause of the lack of empathy between communities is a basic lack of knowledge of the realities of migrants. Our project responds to both the immediate practical needs of Venezuelan migrants, & their long-term integration into communities, as well as creating open data that can be used for better decision making. We will combine Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team’s 200,000 strong international volunteer community, GAL Peru’s expertise in Project Based Learning, & Venezuelan & host community groups in two activities: 1. Mapping refugee journeys in the open source mapping platform OpenStreetMap, creating open source digital maps of key resources which support refugees, that work offline. 2. Engaging high-school students in Colombia & Peru in storytelling investigative multimedia projects on the refugee experience to develop empathy between host communities and refugees.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Venezuelans on the move, and neighbours will generate open digital maps, providing migrants with real-time information, such as location of free WiFi, safe accommodation or reasonably priced medical care. Investigative multimedia projects in highschools will build empathy with Peruvian, and Colombian students of different socio-economic classes, as well as developing their education. This crisis is vastly underfunded, and these communities are vital in building a common future in the region.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

We are building two bridges. Firstly, a practical, short-term bridge, closing an information gap between Venezuelans on the move, Venezuelans who’ve traveled before them, and Colombian and Peruvian host communities. Our second bridge is more complex and long-term. It is between Venezuelan migrants who are settling, and Colombian and Peruvian students in the locations they settle, because poor education and a lack of understanding and empathy is driving hostility towards Venezuelans.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Mapping will empower migrants to contribute to help others in their community and prevent that feeling of despair of being lost in an unfamiliar place, with no idea of where to access basic services,. It will be a tool for the Venezuelan community to create & share information on safe routes, safe places, journey times & services. Working with high school children will develop creativity in challenging circumstances as students tell stories & develop empathy. They will develop their ability to structure ideas, document them through mapping, & learn immersive media such as 360 video & Augmented Reality, as well as more traditional media like film. As well as improving their education, students will tell their own stories; of how they feel welcoming strangers into their neighbourhoods, of how their parents feel competing against them in the job market, of how refugees integrating into a community feel & their hopes for the future.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

Venezuelan migrants will have better access to creating, structuring & sharing information that will make their journeys, & those of others on the move, easier. Instead of relying on word of mouth, people will help each other through documenting and sharing their experiences. We will know we are creating impact through numbers of people creating, updating, sharing and using information, as well as migrants views themselves. Both Venezuelan migrants & young neighbours in Peru & Colombia will have access to training & tools to investigate, document & share their stories. This process will create awareness & empathy in communities where xenophobia & hostility are rising. As well as empathising more, these communities will also have better access to technology develop related job skills and broader cognitive abilities such as critical thinking. Our impact will be measured through the number and quality of projects, and the reported impact of these on students and other community members.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

All members of this team live the experience of the crisis as Venezuelans on the move & neighbours in Colombia & Peru. We are inspired by the potential of repurposing existing technologies & methodologies to solve some of the challenges faced by people affected by this regional crisis in the short, medium & long term. In the past decades, Colombia, Peru & Venezuela have suffered different, but linked fates. Many Colombians & Peruvians fled violence & economic depression in the ‘80s & 90s to Venezuela, at the time one of the most prosperous countries in the region. With such histories of outbound migration, one would think communities would empathise & welcome Venezuelans with open arms, yet this is often not the case. Short-term we believe open mapping provides a cheap & easy way to solve information scarcity. We believe the lack of empathy is due to the ease with which refugees are classified as a faceless group & are inspired by the process of multimedia storytelling to combat this.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

As in most large migrations, Venezuelans on the move are very diverse. Broadly, the poorest move to neighbouring Colombia, where they survive hand-to-mouth. Middle-classes are more likely to move to Peru, where they face discrimination and underemployment in the increasingly hostile situation. Almost all have access to mobile phones, and use Whatsapp to share unstructured information. Many have been surprised at the way in which they have become political pawns in countries, such as Colombia and Peru, when they previously opened their own doors to them. In these countries, public opinion has shifted from the desire to help the neighbours down on their luck, to a harder tone. Media and town gossip jump on any example of negativity about Venezuelans to build further mistrust and most youth simply consume this, without being offered any channels to understand or investigate real experiences, thus further driving hostility.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

The Venezuelan community is both close and social, frequently sharing useful but unstructured information through channels such as WhatsApp and word of mouth. In the first part of our project we will provide a free, open source tool that works offline to structure this information, channelling existing knowledge and experiences into maps that will help their peers, as well as organisations aiming to help them. Youth across Latin America are keen to learn about new technologies, such as extended reality, or digital maps, yet their education is decades behind in terms of ability to teach them well. They are also capable of building empathy in themselves and others through practical investigative projects, which they later share in their communities. We have successfully used this combination to promote awareness of gender inequality and loss of intangible culture in Peru, so we have learned what does and doesn’t work (See attached video from a participant in the gender project).

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

All partners in this proposal have collaborated together for two years or more. All individuals planned to work on this project live & work in Colombia & Peru. Partners: - Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT): with 9 years experience in participatory community mapping, an open source mapping toolset, and experience working in Venezuelan, Syrian & Ugandan refugee crises, HOT will lead project management, training & mapping activities. - Fundacion OpenStreetMap Colombia (FOSMCo): coordinating OpenStreetMap in Colombia & leading refugee mapping projects presently, FOSMCo will lead mapping activities in Colombia - Global Active Learning Peru (GAL): with 25+ years experience in education and innovation & 5 years experience in participatory mapping, GAL will lead mapping activities in Peru, empathy building activities in Peru and Colombia & engagement with schools - YouthMappers: with 10 university chapters in Colombia & Peru, GIS & geography students will support mapping activities

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Early Adoption: We have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have proof of user uptake (i.e. 16% to 49% of the target population or 1,000 to 50,000 users).

Group or Organization Name

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Global Active Learning Peru Fundacion OpenStreetMap Colombia YouthMappers www.youthmappers.

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

HOT is an NGO which enables people to map their own communities, and a global leader in placing community at the heart of solutions for humanitarian crises. It has ~200,000 volunteer mappers globally, voting members in 50 countries, and 80 staff in 6 countries. HOT’s participatory mapping process is documented in the World Bank’s Open Cities Guide. It has a GuideStar Platinum rating, the highest level of non-profit transparency and accountability in the US, and manages $4M+ in annual revenue. HOT is a two-time Drucker Prize finalist and recipient of a 2017 Classy award for non-profit innovation. GAL is a Peruvian education group, including a low-cost private school, which innovates to improve education and development outcomes in Latin America. Executing projects with public authorities, as well as organisations such as USAID and CRESPIAL, GAL makes students the protagonists, combining Thinking Tools, with Project Based Learning and innovative technologies to form the citizens.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

HQ in USA, with offices/operating through local partners in: Peru, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Liberia, Indonesia, Philippines.

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Washington, D.C.


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