Friday's Food For Thought: Volunteer Mapping

Initiatives encourage mappers of all skill levels

By Lindsay Tilton Mitchell

Feb. 19, 2016

From disaster relief to identifying landmarks in neighborhoods, volunteer mapping has grown significantly over the years with new crowdsourcing initiatives popping up across the world. Here are just a few to get involved in:


Created more than a decade ago, OpenStreetMap (OSM) was the mapping initiative that started the trend. Working in tandem with open-source mapping platform Ushahidi, OSM was key in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and today OSM members have grown in the millions.


Maptime began in 2013 as a way for users to not only learn how to map but to learn about current open-source mapping technologies. Recently, Pennsylvania State University’s department of geography began a Maptime chapter in support of community cartography and to teach non-geography students about mapping. View the growing list of Maptime chapters to find a Maptime group near you.

Missing Maps

Missing Maps has also been a group gaining momentum with volunteers worldwide. Founded by the American and British Red Cross, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, and Doctors Without Borders, Missing Maps aims to better map locations in developing countries or those affected by natural disasters. Users can contribute to Missing Maps by hosting a mapathon, mapping on their computer at home, or donating toward the cause. Visit the website to see upcoming mapathons.


Started by the U.S. Department of State’s Humanitarian Information Unit, MapGive is an initiative encouraging mappers of all experience levels to get involved in mapping tasks via OSM’s platform. Ongoing projects include locations in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Haiti.


Read trajectory’s Q1 2015 cover feature “An Unprecedented Response” to learn how crowdsourced mapping has helped in humanitarian and disaster relief efforts.


Photo Credit: Missing Maps