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4 J. Int'l Humanitarian Action 1 (2019)

handle is hein.journals/jinthuma4 and id is 1 raw text is: Hunt and Specht Journal of International Humanitarian Action
https://doi.org/1 0.1186/s41018-018-0048-1

(2019) 4:1

Journal of International
Humanitarian Action

. . . .CrossMark
Crowdsourced mapping in crisis zones:
collaboration, organisation and impact
Amelia Hunt and Doug Specht
Crowdsourced mapping has become an integral part of humanitarian response, with high profile deployments of
platforms following the Haiti and Nepal earthquakes, and the multiple projects initiated during the Ebola outbreak
in North West Africa in 2014, being prominent examples. There have also been hundreds of deployments of
crowdsourced mapping projects across the globe that did not have a high profile. This paper, through an analysis
of 51 mapping deployments between 2010 and 2016, complimented with expert interviews, seeks to explore the
organisational structures that create the conditions for effective mapping actions, and the relationship between the
commissioning body, often a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and the volunteers who regularly make up the
team charged with producing the map. The research suggests that there are three distinct areas that need to be
improved in order to provide appropriate assistance through mapping in humanitarian crisis: regionalise, prepare
and research. The paper concludes, based on the case studies, how each of these areas can be handled more
effectively, concluding that failure to implement one area sufficiently can lead to overall project failure.
Keywords: Crowdsourced mapping, Organisational structures, Networks, Humanitarianism, Crisis mapping,

The concept of crowdsourced crisis mapping is perhaps
best defined as the provision of services by an inter-
national and/or online community, who gather, analyse
and map critical information related to disaster-affected
populations. Online digital responders often work as
part of Volunteer and Technical Communities (V&TCs)
which offer free, technical services during, and outside
of, humanitarian activations (Capelo et al. 2012). While
there have been several explorations of crowdsourced
mapping (Walker and Rinner 2013; Meek et al. 2014)
and digital humanitarianism (Burns 2015; Meier 2015),
this paper considers the current landscape of crowd-
sourced crisis mapping and the relationship between
V&TCs and formal humanitarian organisations. With
crowdsourced crisis mapping becoming an ever more
prevalent feature of emergency humanitarian response,
the need for further research in this field is imperative.
Thus far, existing literature has predominantly discussed
the technology driving response mechanisms (Meek et
al. 2014), with little detail on how technology has been
* Correspondence: d.specht@westminster.ac.uk
University of Westminster, London, UK

C Springer Open

adopted, nor the organisational strategies required to fa-
cilitate this. This paper focuses on the organisational na-
ture of these projects, with attention paid to the
collaboration between the technical and humanitarian
fields, and the changing personal and organisational
identities  brought  about   by  this  global response
This paper draws upon a series of high-level interviews
to construct a broad impression of how these technolo-
gies, and their networks, have been mobilised across
6 years of crisis intervention (2010-2016). This approach
seeks to understand the organisational structures re-
quired to effectively implement crowdsourced crisis
mapping and highlight past points of failure. This re-
search is predicated on two hypotheses, that (i) the con-
text of crisis plays a more significant role than that
assigned to it by V&TCs and that (ii) the current level of
collaboration across organisations remains inconsistent
and inadequate due to poor preparedness strategies for
analysing and utilising crowdsourced data. The paper,
firstly, provides context to the emerging field of crisis
mapping, before examining existing literature. The
methodology is then introduced in more depth, before

© The Author(s). 2019 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to
the Creative Commons license. and indicate if chanoes were made.

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