What information to collect?

When you have clarified the main goal for the project, the next step is to think through carefully what data you want to collect or create. This will not just be dependent upon the final goal, but also on other factors such as the time and funding available, the security situation, and any legal guidelines. So it may be a good idea to read this section again after reading the "What are your parameters" section.

Depending on your needs and capacity you may find that the default configuration and categories that come with Mapeo do the job well enough, or you might want to set up a custom configuration with your own icons and questions tailored to your specific needs. For more on how to do this, see Creating custom configurations. Perhaps, if your project is new and you are still figuring out what is needed, you may want to start collecting data using the default configurations, and learn from that process about what categories and questions you really need.

The simple answer to the question of what information to collect is probably quite obvious from your goal, but when you dig down the answer isn't always that easy. So if you need a territory map for a land claim then you probably need to collect information about territory use, as well as the territory boundaries or limits - but exactly what information do you need, what format should it be in, how much detail do you need, etc. And if you want to collect evidence of illegal gold mining, then you may want to collect georeferenced photos and answer a series of questions about the scale and nature of any impacts found, but what is the best way of framing questions to get you the answers your community and perhaps legal team need to evaluate what is going on and how to take action, and what should you be taking photos of exactly?

Collecting data can be a time-consuming and expensive process, and can raise expectations about outcomes. So thinking this through carefully in advance will help ensure you are a) not wasting your own or others time and resources collecting information that isn't going to be useful and b) not in the situation where you realize at the end of a month-long trip that you need to go back to all the places again because you forgot to collect a crucial bit of data.

Think about the following questions to further clarify exactly what data you should be gathering and how to set up any custom configurations:

  • First think about your goal and what you know of your needs. Brainstorm with any other team members or with the community about all the possible things you could collect information about, categories and questions, and then start organizing and refining.

  • If possible do some research by talking to allies, or looking online to see how other similar projects were set up and what data they collected.

  • Are there any rules, restrictions or guidelines that might determine the kind of information you collect and how to ensure it is usable. For example some governments/authorities might require data to be collected in a particular GPS format, or follow a particular information template, in order to be accepted or easily acted upon.

  • Might the data need to be used in a legal process, if so there may be specific ways of collecting it, or additional questions you ask, which will enable it to be used more effectively. If possible get local legal advice about this, as it will differ depending on the type of data and the country you are in.

  • Knowing how much information is too much. Once you start making a map or collecting information it quite fun... maybe a little too fun πŸ™‚. If you have all the time in the world then this may not be a problem, but if people or lands are being threatened you may need to make compromises in terms limiting the data you collect to that which is urgently needed.

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