OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Community mapping to make a positive difference

We aim to connect refugees through mapping community resources, and through this, gain teamwork, technology and interpersonal skills.

Photo of DFA NYU

Written by


Based on some of the inspirations from the research, we realize that people in refugee camps often have some skills that they might not be aware of or unable to articulate. Moreover, there is a need for skilled individuals, and sometimes it's hard to know who knows what. Even if people are skilled and willing to help, they might not have the right channels to do so. NGO volunteers in the camp also have a difficult time keeping track of inventory, let alone the skill set of the displaced population. To bridge this gap, we propose creating a mapping program. We were inspired by Imap, a program that was originally created by a group of active youth in New Orleans to help young people become aware of community resources, and connects them to a larger network. "Mappers" will be responsible for discovering, recording, keeping track of, and sharing information about the resources available to the community. Through the training and mapping activities, they are trained in invaluable skills such as research and interviewing skills, as well as computer skills to do data-entry. The mapping will unveil (for all in the community) ressources and needs, and potentially create opportunities.


The volunteer refugees will be able to learn vocational skills that also has values when they reintegrate into mainstream society. The staff working in the camp are able to get a better understanding the needs of the people in the camps, and how to tackle problems. The community benefits since their needs can be met when time and resources are distributed in a more efficient manner.


We will first start with a small pilot (involving 4-6 mappers in 2 teams) in a refugee camp in Jordan. They will be given a small two-day training in basic communication and interviewing skills, as well as collaboration and team work exercises, and how to map resources. Initially, one square mile will be selected, and the teams will spend three days for mapping the resources. After six hours of mapping, they will do a two hour debrief with the mentors. They will also be taught basic computer and data entry skills to record the data.At the end of the prototype, the community will be invited to give feedback on the findings, as well as invite them to participate in the project and to connect them to locations where certain resources are needed. Using this feedback, we can iterate the prototype and this time, we can also test the extent to which the trainees are willing and able to become the trainers for the next batch.


One of our friends is currently working in a refugee camp on the border of Jordan and Syria. This idea was inspired by the insights she gave us regarding her role of inventory manager in the camp, the challenges she faced, and the opportunities that were present. We will update this field as we get more feedback from her. We would love to hear from the community, especially people in the field who can provide us with some more contextual knowledge. We also plan to send it to people who are experts in particular aspects of this issue to ask them for some feedback.

SKILL SHARE (optional)

We need some help in understanding the particular context of refugee camps. Though we have a friend who works in one, she has spotty internet connection and it is hard to reach her at all times. Thus, we would like to invite members with contextual knowledge to help us refine the idea. We would also like to get feedback from people active in their local communities to learn if this idea can be implemented with refugees outside camps. Anyone with experience in mapping activities is welcome too!


We're a student club at NYU and use design thinking to tackle social problems. We love participating to openIDEO challenges, and we organize NYU OpenIDEO meet ups. We are currently working with an NGO in Nepal on "community concierge", an openIDEO idea from the women safety challenge.


  • Yes, and I am looking for a partner working with refugee communities to implement this idea.


Join the conversation:

Photo of adham sannaa

thanks guys . i like the project. it,s very important to involve the refugees in any innovative idea inserted in the camp. i am a Syrian urban planner and currently doing my master thesis about Innovations in refugee camps.difficulties that would faces such project is the constant need for external fund. refugees wont do the mapping for free. any innovation would start with identifying the problem, which you already did, the phase of testing the project is accrual and i hope it will work successfully. but to scale the solution up that would requires partnering up with exciting stakeholder.. did you contact the RESCH initiative maybe they can help?

View all comments