Improving SOMOS’ Ability to Navigate Esfuerzo

In less than two weeks, I will be back in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for the second time this year. I am going with two other members of SOMOS and from August 8-16 we will be working on four main objectives related to community leadership, social inclusivity, access to energy, and improved health (my next blog post will describe these ‘protocols’ in greater detail).

In addition to these four objectives, I will be continuing a project I have spearheaded since last Spring semester: re-mapping the local community using ArcMap. In my previous post, I shared how we improved the community map from the outdated 2014 version. Now, I want to share the next step to better understanding our partner community and, of course, how to effortlessly navigate it: creating a document specialized for in-community navigation. Until now, we have had one map which we adapted for everything; we used it in-community, in presentations, morphed it to fit new data, and more. Moving forward, we will diversify our map-making efforts to make specialized maps for each task they require: a map which has the aesthetic qualities needed for presentations; a simple map which can take on more data without looking overwhelming; a map which identifies house numbers, roads, landmarks, and residents for in-community navigation.

This is the bulk of what I have been working on recently for this project. It is a simple map which does not require too much colored ink (it is easily replicable), very readable, and comes with a list of who lives where in the community. The last part is especially important because, normally, we get lost trying to find our interviewees; in the future, we will know exactly where to go and not waste precious time in the community. I created the map trying to keep in mind most of the key aesthetic qualities of a good map (learned in Intro to GIS 204), but there are still a few bugs which I need to fix; for example, some of the road names are not parallel to the features they are labeling. This inconsistency was likely caused by  switching the coordinate system I had been mapping with after already ‘heads-up’ digitizing all of the houses and roads (digitizing is the process of drawing polygon features in ArcMap based on satellite imagery to give coordinate data to features captured in the image). So, to fix the labels, I will probably have to re-draw all of the features in the correct coordinate system, but I will consult with Professor White to see if she knows an easier way to solve the problem. I also need to change the title of the legend from “buildings” to “features” because I decided to include the river symbology.

Navigation Map w Names Censored

The resident list is sparse right now because I only included names for which I was certain that the resident lives there. People move houses frequently in the community (it is very transitory), so keeping track of who lives where has been difficult in the past. I also had to censor out the names of residents for confidentiality reasons. I am hoping that this document will help in consolidating resident information in the future and will improve SOMOS’ habit of updating outdated material. While in Esfuerzo, editing the map will be a very important side-task for me – hopefully, I’ll return to William & Mary at the end of August with the knowledge to make the revisions necessary for finalizing the map (until it inevitably needs to be updated again)!

Right now, I am working with my team members to finalize the four main task protocols so that we are prepared for our trip. This involves calling community members to keep up-to-date on what’s happening in Esfuerzo and constantly referring to our compiled literature on community-based participatory research. For my next post, I will describe these finished protocols and reflect on our first few days in the community. Until next time, Matt.