Map Your Sector! Insights from the UnConference

This past week the AidData Summer Fellows participated in the Map the Philippines Unconference, the launch of the initiative here in the Philippines. The event was a great success. It brought together stakeholders in many sectors as well as members of the community and students. During the conference, there were two break out sessions I had the privilege of joining. Below you will find some great ideas and new takes on how mapping could be used in the Philippines

Session 1: The Environment

The Environmental session discussion for Map the Philippines consisted of stakeholders working in diverse areas such as sustainable fisheries, farming, livelihood, tourism and environment. The discussion integrated craft venders, organic farmers, IT coordinators, students that made a diverse and productive conversation.

Our discussion began with the question, “how can mapping (blank)”. Over the next 45 minutes we discussed trainings in traffic, agriculture and came up with two possible ideas.

To begin, traffic represents a very real issue in Metro Manila and the environmental consequences of moving people in and out of the metropolis cannot be ignored. For example, traveling just 12km in the city can take up to three hours on a bad day. Jeepney, bus and taxi are some of the main ways of transport. However, they are over crowded and give off lots of pollution. Our group equated the long travel times, pollution, traffic to a heart. In this metaphor, the cities of manila represented the muscle; life and opportunity around the city while the flow of people represented the blood. Excited about this idea, an artist at the event drew the Manila Heart and had participants in our circle draw veins showing their commute time.

The next topic discussed how mapping could be useful to show agriculture production around the country.  Crops can be mapped around the country. Participants voiced their frustration that “data” about agriculture (distance to markets, location of farms) was often passed by word of mouth making it difficult to track. Spatially quantifying this data would allow for easier collaboration and coordination. The group also briefly discussed the power of maps validate that projects had been completed. One participant worked with the National Tree Planting Campaign and expressed his frustration about funding going to certain provinces but planting never taking place.

Two ideas were taken away from this session. First, participants hoped that a map ticketing system would be created for Map the Philippines. This way people could record their mapping needs and have them answered in a systematic order. Alternatively, participants recommended an airbnb model that could match mappers with a specific organizations to complete a specific goal.

Session 2: Arts and Crafts

The arts and craft session consisted of participants from cultural foundations, local vendors attending the event, tech companies, conservation societies, and OpenStreetMap Philippines.

The conversation began with a consensus among participants that arts and culture are often overlooked when it comes to mapping. Participants agreed that the population would benefit from understanding where cultural hubs, heritage sites and important buildings were located around the country. They also agreed that mapping the areas would allow people to identify and perhaps save these heritage sites.

A local artisan talked about the power of mapping to bring supplies, help and attention to artisanal communities. She had recently traveled to a weaving community in the mountains, a trip which took her over 9 hours on dangerous roads. The community had been suffering from motorcycle accidents, a lack of materials for their goods and little contact from outside communities. She stated that maps could help us understand what these artisans need to survive and innovate.

The conversation then turned toward the most vulnerable artisans in the Philippines, the indigenous communities. Mapping could help identify and understand the infrastructure in these communities. Additionally, one participant mentioned that mapping might be a way to empower or increase self-esteem for the people. Although, this topic was debated about in the group, the participant argued that a map could show a community their spatial context and make sure all voices count. ‘

Finally, thinking spatially could help the arts and culture community by showing the broader world all artists around the Philippines. One participant voiced that that their clients in the provinces were frustrated that the when the world thought of Philippine art they only thought of Manila. This idea lead to hostility between artists in Manila and the provinces. An editable map to show the community around the world might be a way to be more inclusive about this mapping community.