Six months ago, I helped to create one of the founding chapters of the YouthMappers network, with the mission of identifying and developing mappers who are inspired to create resilient communities with web based open geospatial technologies. My name is Randy Peck. As an undergraduate studying Geography and Economics at West Virginia University, I have a deep interest in GIS technology, open data, and geospatial marketing. I felt excited to be a part of a network that helped me connect with individuals that were likeminded, and with the help of a colleague Garrett Pullis, I turned a side project into a successful local organization.
After a rollercoaster of recruiting strategies, our team became one of the fastest growing organizations on campus. If you are looking to start or revitalize an open mapping group, these tips might put you on the right path.
1. Kill the bureaucracy at the start
Do not drag your feet in the beginning - it will come back to haunt you. Get your paperwork taken care of immediately. File for university recognition if you are a student group. Apply to be a volunteer organization to pick up members who want community service hours. Request website space. Create a twitter account and a facebook group. Start thinking about the outline of your logo. Mark your schedule for when you need to renew your paperwork - and then get it done. It’s awful to have to stop the mapping train because you didn’t buy your tickets yet. Buy your tickets now.
2. Your YouthMappers team is a team, not a club.
Students who join this network should feel like this is something more than the typical university club on campus. Make them feel like they are a part of a team. Focus on a defined project with clear purpose. Be open to new members’ ideas and always look for ways to support their personal projects. Delegate tasks as if it is your job to do so.
For a few meetings, have members give a presentation about something related to the project you are working on. Don’t allow every meeting to be a lecture from the chapter officers.
Set up reward systems. Give props and high fives to people who are becoming master editors. You are all working towards one goal, so members shouldn’t feel that they are working for their officers. They should feel as though they are contributing to something bigger.
3. Focus on local issues, and then broaden your horizons
Chances are, you will not only be getting GIS and international development experts to join your team - and that’s great! Take time to discuss with them the importance of local knowledge in creating data - and how OpenStreetMap is useful around the world. Train them in OpenStreetMap by focusing on what they already know - like their hometown - and later show them how they can help international development in ways they never thought they could.
This year, West Virginia suffered from the second most damaging flood in the state’s history. As new imagery comes in, new Maptime Morgantown members will feel encouraged to map something that they feel close to their home. Make sure that your YouthMappers team is not only a part of the international community, but the local one as well.
4. Creative Recruiting Events
We could all edit on OpenStreetMap for hours, it’s fun! But sometimes it is a little hard to recruit new members to jump on board. Try to think of new ways to inspire your members as well as encourage others to join you. Create an event that is unique to your campus and something that other YouthMappers chapters and OSM teams can build upon. Go beyond editing and into pop-culture - make mapping look cool to outsiders. Getting pizza for an event is the first step in doing so. Host a “Mapping on the Rocks” at your local brewery. Table at a common space with the HOT Tasking Manager open. This year, WVU’s YouthMappers Chapter, Maptime Morgantown, will be hosting “
and Chill”, creating crucial geographic data infrastructure for developing countries while binge watching Netflix. Get creative!
5. ABC. Always Be Closing.
Always follow through and follow up. If your mapping event was a huge success and your member sign up list reflects that, make sure to send out a personal email that lets them know about any upcoming events. Stay in touch with speakers and send them thank you emails when they’re finished. Your members, your guests, and your new recruits have reached out to make a commitment to your team - so let them know that your team is committed to them, too. Always follow up. Always be recruiting. Always be closing.
All pictures provided by Randy Peck