So very honored that my colleague Patrick Meier included me in this list of women who work on crisis mapping efforts around the world. Thank you, Patrick! It’s true, there are many of us and we love what we do. My volunteer efforts with the Standby Task Force are more gratifying than much of my regular work. We’re preparing now to contribute the behind-the-scenes maps for Harvard’s upcoming Humanitarian Studies Initiative simulation weekend in April. I’d like to be on the ground for it sometime, but will instead be organizing volunteers to generate situation reports every few hours.
The Standby Task Force is a volunteer-based network that provides real-time crisis mapping support for humanitarian organizations. It emerged after the International Crisis Mapping Conference in 2010 and now has hundreds of members from around the world, people who participate in deployments once a call for help is received. The SBTF is comprised of teams that monitor and translate stories from media sites; generate and verify reports; geolocate incidents; and analyze patterns of events, among other tasks. Together with my colleague Helena Puig, I help to coordinate and guide the volunteers on the Analysis Team. Here’s Helena doing a webinar that talks about the analysis team’s activities. Typically a deployment is only for a few weeks or up to a month, until others on the ground are in a better position to take over coordination and relief efforts.
The SBTF practices with simulations, and there’s one coming up next month in Boston. It’s not too late to get involved!
Two stories were published today: one in the New York Times on the potential for online mapping to contribute to humanitarian relief efforts and another in The Chronicle on academic involvement in these efforts. Reporter Marc Parry interviewed me for the 2nd story, and something I said managed to stay off the cutting room floor! My five seconds of fame in a Chronicle article.
Today was the official end to the Standby Task Force’s contributions to the Libya mapping effort, and the UN OCHA has assumed the responsibility of the project. It was their request that launched this deployment in the first place, and also today they published a report that addresses the Future of Information Sharing in Humanitarian Emergencies. Took a quick scan through it and realized it needs a closer read when I have a more focused mind.
I am a complete newbie to the domain of crisis mapping, but learning little-by-little. The 4-week Libya deployment was both humbling and inspiring. Humbling because these contributions are so small and so tenuous in the face of true need. At times the whole system seemed so ethereal and fragile: a loose network of people around the world, relying on digital technologies such as gmail and Skype and google docs to coordinate themselves. Inspiring because it works, and I loved being part of a team that has been doing *something* to help.
I intend to continue as a coordinating member of the SBTF’s analysis team, volunteering one map at a time. Still working through the plans for bringing students to this too. May Term?
Over the last few weeks I finally started walking the talk. For years I’ve encouraged students to seek out opportunities to apply their mapping skills in helping others. Mapping soils is good and important; mapping needs is better. I was inspired by Anahi Ayala Iacucci back in January to learn more about Crisis Mappers, and I did. I learned, I joined, and I’m helping. Just a little, around the edges of my day job, with some evening and weekend hours. For the last few weeks I’ve been working on the geo-locating and analyses teams of the Libya deployment. I’ve written a few of the daily situation reports that the UN OCHA and other targeted audiences follow. Here’s a description that Crisis Mappers’ co-founder Patrick Meier wrote about the work of this volunteer group. I’m designing future training opportunities so that Redlands students can learn and choose to volunteer as well. I’m hooked!
The video footage of the Christchurch earthquake has been terrifyingly mesmerizing. I still lack the training to contribute to crisismappers.net, but their task force has been launched. First map from Crowdmap is here. I want to be ready to help, soon.
Third and final day of the small gathering (hosted by ESRI) to talk about VGI. Last formal talk, by Anahi Ayala Iacucci, on the work of Ushahidi and Crisis Mappers, was inspiring to many. It was gratifying to see how much (relative) progress has been done on coordination of vital grassroots efforts.
I wasn’t nearly as familiar with this work as I could have been, and I’ve lost track of the current status of the GISCorps
too, since the 2006-2007 project I did with them for the Medical Mission Exchange
It doesn’t take much for me to question the value of my knowledge as it’s currently applied in my regular work, compared to what I could be doing. Will be working to merge these better! First step – will organize a student opportunity to contribute some work to Open Street Map