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 A map says to you. Read me carefully, follow me closely, doubt me not...
I am the earth in the palm of your hand.

Beryl Markham 

Global MapAid (MapAid), is a UK registered charity (1124301) with a twist. They work with local people, to help them identify and map local solutions to social and environmental challenges. Their aim is to inspire, inform and support long-term sustainable action. By mapping social and environmental issues, MapAid seek to empower local communities, donors and governments to identify where and how to tackle complex issues, coherently and sustainably.  

MapAid take some of the most challenging issues of our time, map them and identify active solutions to the challenge at hand. Knife-crime in London,  access to water, the impact of Covid 19 on Global Conservation efforts. You name it, they can map it.

MapAid's work is organised thematically around the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Their maps promote informed democratic debate, and action on the ground.

As their late Patron Desmond Tutu said:

“We need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in. Maps are certainly an important incentive for donors (helping them to know) precisely where the needs are and where to direct their assistance. I like the idea that you try and use locally based teams whenever possible. Count me in as an enthusiastic Patron and supporter of this splendid tool and the Global MapAid team who are making it happen.”

Since their inception in 2003, MapAid's group of 40 volunteers have worked in 20 countries as far afield as Afghanistan, Brazil, Egypt, Haiti, Pakistan, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Together, they have created over 1,000 maps.

Currently MapAid are focusing on mapping economic and environmental sustainability.

On the economic front, they have been busy mapping UK youth unemployment and making UK and international maps of incubators (organisations that help to create jobs).

On the environmental side, they have been mapping

  1. air quality in the UK and areas for re-wilding in the UK.

  2. groundwater supply in Ethiopia to empower and enable small farm irrigation and doubling of food supply. 

MapAid's Founder and Chairman of the Trustees, Rupert Douglas Bate, tells us more.

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Rupert, how did you get involved with MapAid? 


In 2002, I was at Standford University working with a team of students & faculty, on a one-year technology fellowship, to enable the rapid mapping of humanitarian situations from anywhere on the globe. It relied upon iridium satellite technology and a ground team to catch relevant data and it generate a simple online map.

In my early career, I was an emergency aid worker. I felt frustrated on every mission at the lack of mapped information to help my colleagues and myself to plan better, or even advocate to the wider ecosystem of decision-makers.


In 2003 at the end of the fellowship my team won a "Business Association of Stanford Students" (BASES) prize, for our prototype, so I asked them if they wanted

  1. to develop our technology company

  2. become a charity committed to mapping to encourage sustainable development OR

  3. say "goodbye and thank you".

We then voted and chose the second option. Global MapAid was registered as a 501c3 on a pro bono basis by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, who incidentally at the time, were Google's lawyers. In 2008, we became a UK Registered Charity.

What are you working on at the moment?

Our minds are very much following what is unfolding in Ukraine. MapAid responded the Ukraine-Russia conflict by developing a Map of Sanctions highlighting the growing list of global organisations boycotting Russia, standing in solidarity with Ukraine. The list remains ever growing and is being continually updated. It now includes:

  • Companies boycotting Russia

  • Russian companies to boycott

  • Oligarchs yacht locations

We have also been publishing a series of blogs including Ukraine-Russia Conflict Mapped, and Ukraine-Russia and Food Security  

In this latest blog, MapAid provides its followers with the latest developments, using maps and infographics, with the aim of providing key information in a digestible format.

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During the past few months, MapAid volunteers worked hard on data curation and mapping, enabling their friends at COPI to recently launch the UK Air Quality Report. If you own a home in the UK and want to know the air quality at your home, click on our Air Quality Report.  If it needs improving, you now have a solid basis for freely exercising your rights to protest. And here is COPI's vote of thanks to MapAid.

What would your organisation do tomorrow with an unrestricted donation of £10,000? 

During 2020 and 2021, MapAid volunteers created a generic, open-source technology, named "MapAider", to enable our partners to easily collect data from their ordinary constituents, so that it can be aggregated and mapped immediately online. It has a dashboard, named 'MapAidTracker" that may be viewed by the partners, to monitor & tweak their data collection. The system is supported and maintained by MapAid volunteers, and we sense it could be used in the context of citizen science and citizen activism & advocacy work, as well as operational planning.
Here is an example of mapping concerning social justice campaigning and the Ukraine crisis, based within MapAider:

And here is an example of MapAider set up for WildEast, a UK environmental partner:

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We have made this tool generic, and customisable. Further, we envisage the possibility of significant ongoing technological developments as present (and future)  partners develop their capabilities. 

When pro bono support cannot be found, we would therefore use £10,000 as the vital ingredient to enable our unpaid volunteers to pay for necessary items to enable them to promote MapAider.

Money to travel to meetings, join networks, hire meeting spaces, and purchase any online widgets and website functionalities will be most useful and enable a significant leveraging of the unpaid skills and time of our volunteers.
We would like to set a goal of carefully identifying and then implementing the system within at least one environmental organisation and one social organisation, within twelve months of receiving this allowance. We are reasonably sure there will be a demand for MapAider. 

But why ? 
If maps are good enough for the reporting on the weather, disease control, military planning, market demographics, archaeology, satnav travel, hard copy road maps, tube & rail networks, and any other number of human endeavours we believe they will be useful for pioneering social and environmental activities, that are as yet unknown. Currently, we are in active discussions with one of the UK's largest avian conservation organisations.

What is the biggest challenge for MapAid?
We need to transition from being a professional group of unpaid volunteers who carry out all our work in-house, to being an income generating charity with a small core of paid staff supported by volunteers. We believe the key to this, is charging a subscription fee to those who need our maps.
What can the people reading this do to support MapAid?
Everyone is welcome to volunteer at MapAid. We assess people on an individual basis to see where their skills and experience can help to plug a gap in our work. We are always open to the thoughts and ideas of our volunteers. 
Anyone may donate in support of our work! Whether as a one off or regularly. We are seeking a "Genius Philanthropist", someone who sees the potential of MapAid and is keen to support our work. If anyone has contacts in a Foundation or Family Office, we would be hugely grateful for an introduction.

Or of course people might like to organise a sponsored event in aid of our work.

If you would like to get involved or support us in any way, please do get on touch. We would love to hear from you.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The planet and humanity are increasingly interconnected. If one person hurts, we all hurt. Climate change is an example of this. So to begin to put it right, we need to identify what solutions are being posed and where, how they can be bolstered, and to what extent. I want to capture that in a simple digestible format that can be shared with a wider ecosystem of decision-makers, to create positive change. The desire to do this, gets me out of bed every day.
I'm not worried about saving the world next week. But shifting the needle by a small amount today, could result in a big difference 10 or 100 years from now.  
Amidst all these thoughts, it's vital to keep a personal balance. I am grateful for small things, each day. And healthy relationships, full of respect and care. These relationships also get me out of bed.
On another note, I also think it's a mark of self-respect to make my bed, every day, within 10 minutes of getting up.

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