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  • Dara Carney-Nedelman, Communications Specialist

Happy 5th Anniversary YouthMappers!

Updated: Feb 19, 2021

Over the past five years, YouthMappers have grown from learners to leaders. Globally, student mappers have focused on supporting projects and initiatives targeting food insecurity, disease prevention, and disaster preparedness that have put underrepresented peoples on the map. Launching this network has been a remarkable example of integrating education and research where the participation of students and faculty in the domain of humanitarian mapping has filled a critical gap in the geospatial community. Reaching this milestone celebrates all of the youth who are defining their world by mapping it!

“It’s been an incredible privilege to watch this student movement take root and grow around the world”, said YouthMappers Director and Co-Founder Dr. Patricia Solis, “The energy of YouthMappers everywhere built this. It brings joy to me on this anniversary date to reflect on how you are making a difference. Let’s take a moment to celebrate! I look forward to the next five years!”

YouthMappers was launched on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on GIS Day in 2015. Watch this video to understand how the vision of YouthMappers has been carried out and expanded.

Mapping Brings Us Together

"Spatially distanced and digitally connected, YouthMappers are giving voice to local communities around the world by putting them on the map. For the last five years, the USAID GeoCenter has been proud to empower these student leaders. YouthMappers are not just creating a new generation of digital maps for USAID, but a new generation of mappers for the world." Stated USAID Chief Geographer, Director of the USAID GeoCenter, and Co-founder Carrie Stokes. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) generously supports YouthMappers through a grant from the USAID GeoCenter.

YouthMappers have continually mapped in response to global crises, and COVID-19 has called many to action. They have acted not just in their communities, but have supported their peers and contributed to cross-continental research projects and mapping campaigns for communities globally. At the onset of the pandemic, YouthMappers made up 21.8% of contributions to, a project aimed at cataloging hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities, which supports municipalities in understanding their healthcare system capacity. Students have also responded to local needs in their communities by: creating an up to date map of community resources, gathering survey data to understand the impacts of COVID-19, mapping cross border entry points, setting up mapathons to expedite mapping health facilities, and so much more!

Collage of images from YouthMappers events during OSM GeoWeek and GIS Day.

Mapping Contributions

To date, YouthMappers have made a total of 10,730,253 contributions to OpenStreetMap (OSM), the free and openly editable map of the world. Through the creation and implementation of the YouthMappers Validation Hub, established in 2019, YouthMappers is ensuring the highest quality data is added to the map. Richard Hinton, the Validation Hub Manager at The George Washington University explained, “the Validation Hub strives to strengthen the confidence and talents of mappers, they do not plan on just building maps or mappers, they also build validators.” Through this work not only are YouthMappers edits being validated, but the OSM community is also gaining a group of expert validators.

YouthMappers bi-annual programming aims to prepare emerging researchers and leaders for the geospatial industry through the research and leadership fellowships designed to support technical and networking skills development. In response to a growing need for data creation and analysis, we launched the Fieldwork Program. The first cycle of funding awards will support chapters in Brazil, Mozambique, and Tanzania to fill critical data gaps. Through their locally designed field projects, they'll improve transportation data for urban planning initiatives, address waste management in flood-prone areas, and support public health brigade outreach in vulnerable communities. In the below animation, you can see all the mapping contributions YouthMappers have made.

World map with YouthMappers edits animated in blue, green, and red. Large portion of red appear at the end of the animation across Africa, Asia, and the United State's midwest.

Reaching a Broader Audience

In order to remain accessible under lockdown in the COVID-19 pandemic, YouthMappers pivoted some programming and training online. Students also adjusted to the new circumstances demonstrated by steady growth in mapping contributions. We focused on growing and expanding our social media reach. For example, when comparing November 2019 social media statistics to November 2020: Twitter impressions increased by 129.84%, Facebook impressions surged by 470.63%, and likes on Facebook grew by 198.33%. We attribute these results to higher engagement during GIS Day, OSM GeoWeek, YouthMappers 5th anniversary, and the launch of Everywhere She Maps. Coupled with consistent online engagement and student participation since April 2020.

Another example representing network growth during the pandemic is our website data. The YouthMappers website has been visited 4,000 times since the start of the pandemic. Individuals from 131 countries have viewed our content in the last nine months with the top 10 countries being the United States of America, Bangladesh, Nepal, Brazil, Ghana, United Kingdom, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, and India. Overwhelmingly, 69% of visitors view the website from desktop computers. We’ve also noticed, as you can see in the below image, website views peak on Thursdays. We believe this is a result of our blog being published weekly on Thursdays, YouthMappers can submit their blogs through this form. To all the YouthMappers who have shared a blog, thank you for sharing your story so that we can amplify your voice and the voices of all YouthMappers by reaching a broader audience!

Image shows blue lines with several peaks. Features information from click on Thursday, Aug. 6 with 43 clicks.
Graph of website views from June-November 2020.

Where Do We Go From Here?

As we look to the future, we remain steadfast in our motto “We don’t just build maps, we build mappers.” We are a movement of students wanting to leave a mark- with the courage to be change agents with resolve in our response to community needs. The collaboration of faculty, staff, and partner organizations has bolstered an experiential learning environment that leads to action; YouthMappers has given students the space to decide how and where they put themselves on the map.

YouthMappers will continue to put students first! We have established programming that builds capacity locally, not just through our fellowship programs and workshops, but through the community of Regional Ambassadors who support students and help link universities and local actors who use geospatial data. We will reinforce mapping skills throughout the network through the YouthMappers Academy, launching in 2021, to continue to ensure the highest quality of data is added to the map. And the recently announced Everywhere She Maps program will provide young women with training opportunities to build both their technical capacity and professional network.

When asked to reflect on his time with YouthMappers, Co-Founder and Technical Advisor Chad Belvins shared, “Working with all the amazing students and people who make YouthMappers a success has been one of the highlights of my career. A big thank you to each and everyone and a reminder that big things happen when we come together!" Thank you to all of the YouthMappers who have dared to define their world by mapping it!


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