Large and long-established organisations are often hesitant to release control and actively support distributed organising projects. In one example that breaks the mold, Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Climate Change Coders (CCCoders) have partnered on a new data-driven, open-source mapping project. The goal is to get campaigners from the UK (and beyond) to use freely available mapping code to create maps with different layers, data points and annotations. The open-source code was originally developed by Friends of the Earth, and it has already been deployed successfully on a ton of fascinating projects, including some involving bees, flood zones, and fracking.
This collaboration is striking in that it sets the traditional model on its head and helps answer important questions about NGO campaign development. Could open-source technologies and collaborations with external talent and partners be a trend that sets organising in a new direction? What type of results can be netted through this distributed approach vs a more traditional (and more internally-controlled) approach?
Duncan Walker is the Solutions and Development team leader at Friends of the Earth, coordinating the project with CCCoders. Mobilisation Lab peppered Duncan with a few questions to get further insights into the project and the unique distributed model.
Moblisation Lab: What is the goal of the project? How’d you come up with the idea?
Duncan Walker: Last year, Friends of the Earth realised that a number of our campaigns had a strong geographic theme, and our communications would have more impact if we were able to use maps to express our message online. Rather than spending web developer time assembling each one of these, we decided to build MapMaker, a tool that allows our campaigners to easily pull together data from several different sources and present them together on an interactive Google Map.
ML: What are you looking for other developers to do?
DW: MapMaker works well for us – it has helped show how our campaigns are relevant to our supporters, made fundraising a bit more fun, and saved us time when creating content. Yet, we think it could do more. We have had some great feedback on MapMaker and several other organisations have told us that they would find MapMaker useful, so we’ve made the code open source.