The Challenge5500 followers
Youth Maps Open Government and Activate CommunityDigital maps created by young advocates establish a collaborative space for municipal government and community to work together towards safer neighborhoods. UNICEF proposes a “Five Cities Initiative” to scale its digital mapping toolkit.
What problem are we solving?
When a government official sets out to survey a poor urban neighborhood for baseline data on disaster risks, the job can be nearly impossible. The official arrives into the community to investigate the needs and prioritize mitigation activities based on their limited government budgets. When the scope becomes apparent, fear of how to start sets in and the process slows. Dialogue with the community results in emotional confrontation seeped in a history of conflict and limited development. Even with the best intentions, the idea of accountability for the government becomes as much of a stopping point than a starting point. Last but not least, youth are excluded from the local debate and have a very limited say in how their environment is managed and shaped. UNICEF is solving these issues of accountability, engagement and action by giving local youth the digital power to advocate for a positive change, create empirical evidence on risks their community faces, and establish common grounds for community and government collaboration on the shared goal of improving living conditions locally.
What is our solution?
UNICEF has discovered that given the proper digital media training and tools, youth can be influential and effective drivers to opening government, activating their community, and driving change to reduce risk of disaster in poor urban neighborhoods. Over the past eighteen months in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, UNICEF has pioneered a methodology which empowers youth to produce digital maps and civic media that convey the exact location of disaster risks in a way that compels action and enables youth-led public advocacy. The maps and digital stories become both empirical evidence and a rallying point for the community, government and civil society to come together and take action.Through February 2013 we have trained over 300 youth mappers covering 11 favelas in Rio de Janeiro and 2 neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, and a new program in Ceara, Brazil is launching March 2013. Youth reports have already led to bridges being fixed, flood walls reinforced, and playgrounds cleared of stagnant water and rotting garbage. Moreover, the turnaround time for fixing hazards has improved and youth become committed advocates on behalf of their communities.
The UNICEF solution toolkit, developed in conjunction with the MIT Mobile Experience Lab (MIT MEL) and Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) contains a workshop curriculum that deploys the UNICEF-Geographic Information System (UNICEF-GIS),a smartphone application which allows youth to collect and share location sensitive reports in a simple, private and secure manner. The digital application creates a map of all reports filtered by type of hazards and risks. These maps become a social monitoring and evaluation tool for governments to track their disaster risk reduction activities. To engage and sensitize the greater community about the youth mapping process, and to establish a methodology for the youth to create up to date aerial maps where they may be lacking, a training module is provided on utilizing the PLOTS Balloon & Kite Mapping Kit.
To increase public attention to their reports, the youth workshop curriculum contains a module on digital journalism. The GIS mapping platform was built upon Open LOCAST, a platform developed in 2006 by the MIT Mobile Experience Lab and designed to promote participatory journalism and to urge citizens to undertake civic engagement. Using the UNICEF moderated youth-friendly public platform, Voices of Youth, the participating youth mappers can turn their reports into powerful advocacy materials, which they promote collectively through other social and local media channels. This results in a successful increase of awareness, evidence, action and monitoring on youth and community related issues. Following the workshops MIT MEL also conducts surveys of the youth to gain insightful usability feedback so that the platform could be improved for future deployments.
UNICEF is a trusted organization that protects and promotes the rights of children. The protection of the identity and personal information of the mappers is of the highest priority. UNICEF has the network to deploy this solution at scale and with measured impact. UNICEF is active in more than 190 countries and territories through country programs and National Committees. Being active on the ground in so many communities and with established relationship with governments gives UNICEF a unique position to bring the needed stakeholders together for this program.
Why Youth Mappers?
Our solution doesn’t use professional mappers and experienced journalists, because young people bring a truthful first-hand and real perspective to the program, making our maps extremely compelling. The government can ignore media and reports created by professionals by viewing them as biased or inflammatory. If they ignore maps by youth, then they are denying the needs of their most vulnerable and innocent citizens who are the voices of the future, as well as potential community leaders.
What is our Next Big Step?
A “Five Cities Initiative” deployment of our digital toolkit for youth mapping and public advocacy at a five country scale. From today until the summer announcement of where the five city roll-out will take place, the UNICEF team will focus on improvements to the functionality and scalability of the youth-led digital mapping and public advocacy toolkit, particularly enhancing the user experience and filtering of the geodata.
Knight Foundation support will allow us to scale up by testing new assumptions on how cross-culturallythe citizen and government interaction improves from youth maps, with an emphasis on youths’ right to participate in policy making.
Specifically we need support for:
1) Monitoring and Evaluation: Producing empirical evidence on the civic impact of youth maps across diverse settings; Ensure quality open-source documentation of code on GitHub; Produce independent assessments which informs future scaling plans.
2) Personnel: Coordinate and promote the program globally; Run trainer workshops; Maintain technical support for implementation; Design and publish an interactive how-to guidebook for the digital toolkit.
3) Innovation: Improve the performance of the platforms, applications, and systems of the digital toolkit; Invest in strategic partnerships, including the MIT Mobile Experience Lab; Enhance the toolkit visibility and integrate with other media channels.
What’s Happening Between March 1st and July 1st?
We will use this space to keep the Knight News Challenge Community engaged and up-to-date on our activities. We look forward to your questions, comments and feedback. Currently we are actively working to develop the following features:
1) Prototyping an “Urgency Rank System”. The number of reports are increasingly growing, and in response we are devising a system to label and rank reports based on severity and urgency.
UPDATE 3/28: The team has begun its work to establish the “Urgency Rank” feature which will bring a new visual way to explore the maps for both government and citizen users. As the number of youth reports submitted to UNICEF continues to grow, the Urgency Rank feature will make our data more actionable, dynamic and newsworthy. Urgency Rank will be powered by an open source UNICEF-GIS Data Severity Index which will utilize objective criteria and an algorithm to give an urgency score and rank for each youth report submitted.
Urgency score ranges will be designated with a color code and label, scaling from blue/low urgency to red/immediate risk to children. Upon receiving its initial score, the report will be placed into a real-time rank, so if a user wants to sort the most critical outstanding risk reports within a particular issue and geographic area, they can do so quickly. There will be ways for reports to increase in urgency and move up in the rank based on new information submitted by verified youth mappers and/ time related or other external factors.Upon completing the prototype of the Urgency Rank we will share it with our current users and partners for a design review. Later, we will integrate a public voting and commenting system through Voices of Youth. Currently you may view mock-ups of the Map View and Rank View on Imgur or in the photo slide deck above. Please provide your thoughts and comments below.
2) An administrative system that will allow users to create profiles and trainers to customize the layers on their maps.
3) A widget that will allow for a new interlinked Voices of Youth Maps to be embedded easily into any website for sharing youth posted multi-media reports.
4) Various upgrades to capacity and usability for UNICEF-GIS app and website.
5) A “Voices of Youth Maps and Civic Media How-To Guidebook” for streamlining trainings and project implementation as we scale to new cities.
UPDATE 3/29: UNICEF and Innovative Support in Emergencies Diseases and Disasters have officially signed a partnership agreement to complete all of the above mentioned technical development.
Who Manages the Program?
The Five Cities Initiative will be managed globally by the UNICEF HQ Social and Civic Media team in New York lead by Gerrit Beger and Arturo Romboli. A dedicated team with digital and civic media experience including Myriam Dems, Joseph Agoada and Rhazi Kone have brought the toolkit beyond proof-of-concept towards scaling globally. The team continues to innovate and push the mapping program to new levels. UNICEF Country Offices in the selected cities will manage the youth mapping initiatives at the community level in partnership with municipal government and civil society organizations.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF (USF), a U.S. 501(c)(3)organization, has worked closely with UNICEF for over 60 years to fulfill its mission of mobilizing resources in support of UNICEF’s work, and to participate in coordinating planning with UNICEF and other voluntary agencies engaged in child relief. As Financial/Administrative Coordinator for this project, the USF’s Foundation Partnerships team will serve as the focal point for any administrative or financial issues concerning the project, as well as reporting on the milestones and indicators necessary to successfully reach the program goals. Support by the USF-Foundations team is led by Carolyn Weidemann, and also in coordination with USF’s Communications team.
Who are our Partners? (Updated 3/29)
The open source core of the UNICEF-GIS application to beused for Voices of Youth Maps is built on the Open Locast system developed by the MIT MobileExperience Lab (MIT MEL). The MIT MEL continues to provide us with innovative thinking and technical support. Innovative Support in Emergencies Diseases and Disasters(InSTEDD) provides technical support including design, development and usertesting. The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) provides the methodology and support on the low-cost aerial mapping component of the digital toolkit. Through our UNICEF network we will continue to engage with youthorganizations like CEDAPS in Brazil and GHESKIO in Haiti to help us train and work with youth mappers.
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How did you hear about the contest?
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