Planning a Mapeo project
You may be keen to jump in and get started with data collection, however spending a bit of time upfront thinking through how the project will run, the methodology, team set-up, logistics of gathering data, and how the data collected or created with Mapeo will be used can save you a lot of time and avoid problems and issues later on.
This guide does not aim to give you a blueprint of how to run your project. There are so many different uses of Mapeo, some of these we (Digital Democracy) can imagine, some of them we can't, and each one has its own particular needs, priorities and local contexts. What works in one place might need to be set up very differently for another place, even if the desired outcome is very similar. And likewise what works somewhere at one time, might have to be adjusted for another time as local situations, politics, etc. change.
Hopefully spending time thinking through the questions below will enable you to create a process tailored to your needs and project, and give it the best possible chance of success.
We are going to run through the following questions:
- Why collect information? What is the aim of your mapping, monitoring or data collection, what is your goal or desired end product or result?
- What outputs do you want? If you already know that you want to build an interactive story map, or produce a quantitative report or file a legal case, this can help shape your project design.
- Who should be involved? What project structure will best meet your aims, who should be involved, what roles do you need, who is making decisions and who are you accountable to?
- What are the parameters or limiting factors you are working with? This refers to your geographical context, infrastructure, accessibility to areas, budgets and equipment availability, time constraints, security risks, etc.
- Is Mapeo the right tool for you? We think Mapeo is great :) but we know that it has limits and it isn't the right tool for every job. We want to make sure that if you choose Mapeo you understand what it excels at doing and also its weaknesses, to make sure you are set up in the best possible way for success in your project.
Mapeo was co-developed with community land defenders in the Amazon. We have tested, piloted and received feedback on it from people around the world using it for a variety of purposes, and we hope it can serve a wide range of needs. However it is built with the needs of land and rights defenders at its heart, and therefore this guide, and many of the materials produced for Mapeo are also built with these needs at the forefront.
In part because of its design process, and the partners with whom Digital Democracy has worked, we often refer to community and collaborative processes. Mapeo can definitely also be used by individuals, and a variety of different teams, but many of our partners are using it in local, frontline community contexts, and so the language of this guide centers them. We also understand that communities are not homogenous and mean different things in different places, and hope that you can read between the lines where necessary to extract the useful parts of this guide for whatever it means to you.
This guide draws on work from our team over the last two decades in indigenous and community land rights and defense. However indigenous and marginalized communities have been defending their land for centuries. There are many projects and initiatives from which the development of Mapeo and the methodologies suggested here have been guided, received inspiration and learned. This reference guide does not aim to provide an exhaustive list of such projects, but at the end of the guide there is a Reference Section which highlights some materials from other sources and initiatives which may be of help to you in planning your project.
All the examples included in the guide are just that, examples. We hope they are helpful and provide some context and illustration to the processes described, but are not intended to be taken and copied as 'out of the box' methodologies. As we hope this planning section will describe, context is everything, and methodology should be carefully considered and adapted to best fit the needs of the project and particular community context.