What are the parameters?

What are the parameters or limiting factors which you are working with? This refers to your geographic context, infrastructure, accessibility to areas, budgets and equipment availability, time const

No two Mapeo projects will look the same even if they have the same aims and are using the same configuration. There are so many factors which will influence how a project is run including timeline; budget; technology; landscape; seasons; climate; culture; social and political context; etc.

Whilst we can provide some ideas here, any project should be tailored to your particular context taking into account answers to the following questions. Thinking through these questions in advance will also be useful if you ask for help to put together a mapping project from an ally or other organisation.

What is your timeline?

Is there a particular urgency for the work, a date you need to produce a map or collect data by? If there isn't an internal deadline, are there significant dates external to the project that you might want to work towards or include within your calendar (eg. visits by authorities to the area, International meetings such as COP or UN Working Groups, World Social Forums etc.).

What does the geographical landscape look like? What accessibility issues are there?

Think about what the land looks like and how you plan to travel around. Some projects might be focused on a small area in town, where people can just travel around on foot on paved roads, other projects might cover tens of thousands of hectares and require travel by river, up steep hills, into swamps etc. Perhaps there are areas you want to access that are off limits (eg. National borders or Industrial installations can have no-go zones around them, or have rules about using GPS or drones etc) Drawing a quick sketchmap of the the area you plan to work within, and marking any significant landmarks, access routes, barriers etc. can help you plan out how you or your team is going to get around and how long this will take, and help identify any challenges you might encounter ahead of time.

Do the seasons affect your work?

If you plan to collect data at a particular time of year consider how the season or climate might affect this. For example the dry / rainy seasons might impact how easily you can move around the land, and might also impact the type of data you can collect (for example travel by river might be easier in the rainy season, but travel by road or foot might be harder); likewise some operations or activities you want to map or monitor might only occur at certain times of year (eg. illegal logging is linked to seasons, as are fruiting trees and fish/animal movements).

Do you have a budget?

Do you have or need a budget, and if so how much? Do you intend to pay people to take part or is it volunteer-led? If you don't already have a budget are there parts of the work that are going to need funds such as for purchasing equipment, travelling around or for any meetings you intend to hold.

Do you have or need equipment for your project?

Mapeo Mobile works on Android phones & tablets and Mapeo Desktop on Windows/Mac/Linux operating systems. Whilst essentially you might just need one smart phone for your project (which you might already have in your back pocket!), depending upon your plan, and particularly if you are going to work with teams in complicated environments you might need to think about other equipment such as spare battery packs if you are doing multi-day trips in remote areas; usb or hard drives for backups; trekking and medical kits for teams; waterproofing for tech that might be exposed to the elements etc., large sheets of paper, marker pens and notebooks for community workshops.

See equipment list for a list of things partners we have worked with have found useful.

What is the security situation?

Unfortunately, many frontline defenders are targeted for their work, often risking their lives to defend their peoples rights, lands and futures. Please consider your own safety and that of anyone else involved in the project and take what measures you can to identify risks ahead of time and mitigate them where possible, whilst doing the work that you need to do.

For example:

  • Do you need to keep team members, or the names of people interviewed or otherwise involved in the project, or would it be better to involve the media and ensure there is a spotlight on the work?

  • Are there places you can avoid going to and questions can avoid asking so as to not trigger dangerous responses?

  • Do your teams need some kind of backup to keep them safe, a satellite phone, tracker or civil society accompaniment?

Data security

Sometimes it is not people that are at risk but data - consider therefore if you are collecting data that could be valuable to others and how you can best keep it safe.

Information can be sensitive in other ways too: perhaps only certain members of a community normally have access to it (but still want it documented) or perhaps it is information that the community does not want to make public.

Mapeo does not make any of your data public unless you choose to share it, you can create reports or export data which is filtered to exclude sensitive places or pieces of information, and you can share information with team members without it going online.

However there are other measures you can take to protect your information if needed, creating passwords for your devices ... what else?

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