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GIS: Geographic Information Systems

A guide to print and electronic resources available at CCA Libraries

What is Participatory Mapping

Participatory Mapping - also called community-based mapping - is a term used to define a set of approaches and techniques that combine the tools of modern cartography with participatory methods to represent the spatial knowledge of local communities (

Participatory mapping can educate and engage local people and represent a socially or culturally distinct understanding of landscape. Maps created in this way have been useful in crisis response to natural or humanitarian disasters.

Examples include:

  • Blight Status
    Crowdsourcing to address urban blight in New Orleans.
  • Digital Globe
    DigitalGlobe is a leading provider of commercial high-resolution earth observation and advanced geospatial solutions that help decision makers better understand our changing planet in order to save lives, resources and time.
  • Aboriginal Mapping Network
    Established in 1998 in Canada to build knowledge, skill, and resources, this organization now supports aboriginal and indigenous peoples worldwide with issues such as land claims, treaty negotiations and resource development using tools that include traditional use studies, GIS mapping and other information systems.
  • ERMIS Africa
    Based in Kenya, works with local communities, indigenous peoples and schools to promote environmental conservation and management.  Mapping is one of many tools and strategies.                              


Participatory Mapping Sites

  • Did You Feel It?
    View maps of recent earthquakes anywhere in the world or report one that you felt.  From the U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Google Crisis Map  |   FAQ
    "...a mashup tool built on the familiar Google Maps API, aims to put critical disaster-related geographic data in context, and in a map-based viewing frame optimized for usability across a range of browsers and mobile devices."
  • Open Forum on Participatory Geographic Information Systems and Technologies (
    Four discussion lists (in English, Spanish, French, and Brazilian) about using geospatial information technologies for crisis management, participatory development, sustainable natural resource management and customary property rights in developing countries and among indigenous peoples worldwide. The site also links to a variety of tools and resources.
  • Open Street Map
    "OpenStreetMap is built by a community of mappers that contribute and maintain data about roads, trails, cafés, railway stations, and much more, all over the world."
  • Ushahidi
    Collect information from multiple locations using SMS, email, twitter or the web.  Visualize and map data.