27 March 2014

Plan well for maps

Maps are a great way to illustrate an issue, yet they can be fraught with challenges.
Many advocacy and information campaigns use maps to get collaborators involved - reporting on stockouts of medicines, or incidents of violence, for example. Maps are very helpful for outbreaks of disease, or in cases of disaster. Animated maps might help you explore geo-specific trends.

But there are some key questions to consider before you start - like getting access to an accurate map and how much it will cost. There are plenty of disputed borders in the world and tracking those takes time and money, so map owners typically want to be paid. Free maps might carry branding or other limitations, though there are a bunch of useful free options available.

Once you have a map, you need to consider how to get reliable data and how you will keep the map going. Fundamentally, how does the map fit into your communication?

In a blog about mapping violence against women, advocacy specialist Dirk Slater of Fabriders explores options including the mapping tools Ushahidi and Crowdmap. Dirk also discusses some key issues that you should consider before spending time and money on your project:
  • How can mapping support your campaigns and missions - how will you use it, how will it be maintained?
  • Take security very seriously: consider how to get quality data but avoid identifying people where information is sensitive. This inclues verifying the people who provide information.
  • Consider the cultural relevance of maps: do your audiences use maps, and how do they read them? Do they expect street map view, or satellite view? Topographical or political?
  • Consider how the map will be used. Will it show off your data to good effect? Will it influence people? How does the map connect with your strategy? 
Dirk also provides links to some further resources: questions to ask yourself before deploying Ushahidi, cleaning data, how to use icons, and how to verify users.

See: What I’ve learned about mapping violence