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

EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

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.

WHO BENEFITS?

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.

PROTOTYPE

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.

FEEDBACK

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!

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

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.

IS THIS AN IDEA THAT YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION WOULD LIKE TO TAKE FORWARD?

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

22 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of adham sannaa
Team

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?

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congrats on this post being featured in this week's highlights! https://openideo.com/blog/refugee-education-weekly-highlights-may-8-2015

Photo of DFA NYU
Team

Thanks for featuring our idea in the week highlight!

Photo of DFA NYU
Team

thanks! we just posted our experience map + 2 points we think we should prototype. Sorry for the delay.

Photo of Heidi McKinnon
Team

This is a wonderful concept. Do you mention GIS training anywhere? If appropriate, it would be a great vocational skill to teach in the program, as it is so highly marketable.

Photo of DFA NYU
Team

Thanks Heidi. We did not think of Geographic Information Science (GIS). We could definitely add this although the mapping would be about small areas in the camps. If you have any suggestions on how to incorporate this, please let us know as we are not very familiar with GIS. Thanks!

Photo of Heidi McKinnon
Team

GIS mapping might be an interesting technique to explore. It requires certain software, although I am sure you could find a partner to provide software and training. Mapping skills are highly marketable, so any of these GIS techniques, even if people are not trained in the software, would be valuable.

Here is a link to some general information on community mapping and GIS.

http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/assessment/assessing-community-needs-and-resources/geographic-information-systems/main

Photo of DFA NYU
Team

thanks! very useful and indeed relevant.

Photo of Hugh Bosely
Team

Neato. Looking forward to following this as we will be building a mobile app to connect health related services in Za'atari and the much larger refugee community outside the camp. Do you have a health care category as one of your data sets?

Photo of DFA NYU
Team

Hi Hugh, we started brainstorming some of the categories and definitely resources related to health was an idea we thought of. Do you know people at Za'atari who might be interested in piloting this mapping program?

Photo of André Fernandes
Team

Hi, I knew about this idea by Cíntia.

Check with Mirette, who works with refugees in Egypt, she can give feedbacks. https://openideo.com/profiles/5652151781

I posted another idea about what kind of educational program could empower refugees on their circumstances. The idea of map out the community resources is interesting. The idea: https://openideo.com/challenge/refugee-education/ideas/kaospilots-inspiration-to-a-hybrid-school-for-refugees/comments#c-bff4bf4a78a62227896e6b77ef750bbb

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Thanks Andre for mentioning Mirette. Her idea is very relevant to ours. I just left her a message.
I'll read your idea too.

Photo of Mirette Bahgat Eskaros
Team

I read the idea and I feel it's more relevant to refugees in camp settings. In Egypt, refugees live in urban situation, so we can definitely use mapping on a local level, but it gets a bit tricky to do it on a national level. However, I believe mapping is always a good first step before starting any action "to know what's already there"

But my question here is "What is the innovative approach that this prototype offers compared to traditional mapping techniques?"

Photo of DFA NYU
Team

Thanks André. We will definitely check your idea and thanks for pointing to Mirette's idea and expertise.
Mirette, thanks for your feedback. We can see how in a camp, it might be easier to implement although the original project we took our inspiration for "Imap" was done in the cities - like New Orleans, and then across the US. However, the aim was always local, never national.
To your question, we did not claim to be innovative vis-a-vis traditional mapping techniques, but just to try to use mapping techniques to help 1) create an understanding of resources and needs (as you said, it's always a good first step; and the person we know working in a refugee camp in Jordan shared that this was an issue); 2) through the mapping training and activities, to develop skills in leadership, communication, team work and computer. This second element was a key element of the Imap program we were inspired by. We had the chance to collaborate with some of the people from the organization in a project in Brooklyn http://greenhousestories.com/projects/past/mosaic/ and that seemed to be very effective.
Yet, maybe that's what you call traditional mapping techniques.
We are curious also by your point about national level: are you thinking that starting at the local level does not make sense? Is your own idea planning to create a program at the national level?
Thank you!

Photo of Mirette Bahgat Eskaros
Team

My only concern with traditional mapping techniques is that it takes time and money as well. What is the return for the people doing the mapping "unless they are doing it on a voluntary basis which is very difficult to find in countries like Egypt?" Also, are they going to take transportation to be able to cover the whole area, and how many interviews they'll be doing and the average time per interview? These are all questions to think of.

I found mapping to be more effective when done on a community level. As you widen the scope to a national or regional level, it becomes more central and less able to capture the very locally based resources that makes a community self-sufficient.

Photo of DFA NYU
Team

Thanks Mirette for the clarification although we are still not sure if the mapping technique as developed by Richard Murphy and the Imap team really falls under what you call traditional mapping techniques. (another way to think about it is: what would be non-traditional mapping techniques?).

It does take time but we see it as the research phase that is key in all human-centered design approach and it is not only about mapping, it is also about training for the "mappers", so we are killing 2 birds with one stone. The return for the people doing the mapping here is 1) the training in leadership, communication, collaboration and computer skills and 2) potential connections to existing resources.

We are also thinking that if we do it in the context of the camp, we could partner with an NGO who needs help to do the inventory of various resources in the camp (at least, that's what we learnt from our research) who might be able to provide some stipends.

The size of the area is indeed something to think of. In our prototype, we thought of trying to have a small area. We can definitely not do this at the national level, nor even regional. We started thinking at the camp level, and based on how these techniques have been used in cities, we can imagine this being used at the neighborhood and then aggregated at the city level.

As for the time of interviews, and average time per interview, we need to contact the people from the imap program to know what is their experience (we might also go back from our notes as some of us met with them). However, we would think an average of 10 (15 max) min per interview. But this is also question we want to answer through our prototypes.

Last, we completely agree on the community-level of mapping and this is the level we are thinking of tackling.

Thanks for all the great questions that we definitely need to think of.

Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Insightful exchanges on potential of community mapping Mirette and Design Tinkering Team. Perhaps a interesting idea to build on is the Community Walks initiative that was posted earlier on in the Ideas Phase: https://openideo.com/challenge/refugee-education/ideas/community-walks-bridging-student-teacher-communities

In addition to providing vocational training and mapping existing resources, it'd be helpful to consider how this approach can also be used as a community building program - which is touched upon in the Prototype section of this idea. Can this approach be used to engage outside educators or be used to bridge the gap between host communities and the contexts of refugees. Also, how might the gathered data be used to create new opportunities in the refugee community?

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Thanks Zhane for the link. I will definitely go and check the Community Walk initiative and see how we could build upon this idea.

You are indeed right that the idea involves creating new opportunities in the refugee community. For example, we thought that while doing the mapping activities, some of the youth might connect with potential mentors that they would interview. We also thought that there might be a way to show that in one area of the camp there was no food options while in another area, several community members have cooking skills. We thought that through the mapping exercise, there might be a way to suggest to people with some skills opportunities for developing them by opening a "restaurant", or simply by working for one of the "cafeterias" for NGO staff.
I realize that this aspect is not clearly articulated in the current idea. We'll try to clarify.

As for community building, it is indeed implicit but worth exploring and articulating further.

Thanks!

Photo of Cíntia Citton
Team

Hey, I've loved your idea and how you found out a way to prototype it! I am quite far from you, but if I can contribute to your group from Brazil, please let me know. It could be amazing if we could join our ideas at the prototyping moment, because we could come out with a first notion of which are their abilities and which kind of material could be more helpful to them if we build a Community Leaders Kit. Do you think it is possible/interesting?

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Cíntia, thanks for your comment. It'd be great to find a way to join forces. If you have any specific comment or question on our idea, that'd be great. I can see how the community leaders kit could be used during the mapping training phase. I also can see how the mapping activities could also serve as a source of inspiration for the kit. As for prototyping, we will need to see if we can get support (through our contact) in a camp. Or maybe, other community members participating to this challenge might be interested in doing a first small prototype.

Photo of Cíntia Citton
Team

So nice to hear that Anne-Laure! Thank you for this answer. If the prototyping takes place, it would be nice to know which is the most effective way they had until now to get information going around the camp, which are their means (internet connection, computers/smartphones available), if they have regular gatherings where interviews could take place /information could be displayed and try to build some personas out of the information gathered from the refugees. It looks to me this would help a lot on defining a first kit to help the leaders creating a knowledge sharing system...

Photo of DFA NYU
Team

Hey Cintia, really nice reading you. As Anne-Laure mentioned, we don't really have a place to prototype (we might ask the friend we know working in a refugee camp, but we are not sure she has the capacity and time to do this). However, we agree that the information coming out from the mapping and the research phase could be really helpful for developing the kit. Let's keep exchanging ideas and see if we can find a place to prototype.