Several months ago, we completed the first step Mapa project. Now, it is high time to wrap up, what we have done, for what reasons have we begun it at all, and what can be the further steps.
2015-2017. We had many activities for spreading words about principles of global wiki community and how to work with free knowledge today, called Wikification. We also saw how disintegrated social activists here are. They often didn’t know each other or “forgot” to share information about each other. I made quotes for “forgot” because I don’t see the reason intentional or not, but the fact showed that we need to be more visible for each other and for society. We need to change the culture.
Besides, there was no place off- and online, where we can find activists from different parts of Belarus, for example, for partnership in related topics. Therefore, to make more visible civil initiatives and organisations for stronger cooperation between each other and volunteers as well as rest (majority) of society pushed us to act.
At the end of 2017, we started to seek ready-to-use online tools for covering the idea and met (also online) German activists from kartenvonrorgen.org dreaming and do similar things. And we forked their code.
Afterwards, we launched researches and team preparation. Visible activities became only in the mid of 2019. First visitors could load a Mapa web app in September.
What has been done
Before the story about what was done, I would like to share what the Mapa means. It is both a web-application and community. The main feature of the app is to put on the Map various non-commercial civil initiatives (campaigns/orgs) from Belarus, interactively. It means, that each user has communication in both directions: she/he can navigate and observe information as well as to add and edit information on the Map freely. All the relations between users and app (systems) base on wiki principles. Wiki principles, including community base ownership on data, open development and code, global context of the Map, are innovation for Belarus. Thus, Mapa is a combination of data visualisation about civil activism by visitors. And at the same time, their responsibility to keep the data relevant and updated.
Result in numbers
Now, on the Mapa, there are more than two hundred marked initiatives. Mostly they added themselves on it.
- Our mapathons, open lecturers and presentations were visited by more than 300 people from more than 20 cities and towns (photo reports).
Mapa was mentioned at least by seven regional media from different places of Belarus. Their coverage is tens-tens thousand people.
- Sure, we made cooperative hackathon with German activists. It was our the hugest international event we have ever organised. Also, It was a priceless experience of cross-border cooperation.
About the team
It is 5 participants, and many people helped us to organise local events: spread words, share venue. The assistance reduced our expenditures significantly and increased our relations with locals.
Short-term (one task) volunteers participated in trips or mapathons also.
I would like to say for all, especially to whom took regular responsibilities – great thank – you are real pioneers!
We utilised online tools for project management. On distant meetings, we regularly analysed what was done. What could be automated, we automated and patterned. The fixes reduce our work routine. A flexible schedule and mutual help allowed us to distribute workload and increase outreach.
Although we separated responsibilities among teammates, we had no strict rules where one role ended, and another just began. In a small team, such a way in combination with transparent work helped to achieve maximum output.
The regular meeting gives rhythm for our team from a development period until a promotion campaign. Open dialogue about issues and hurdles allowed us to solve conflicts and go forward to an aim.
The most intensive cooperation was with Movananova (civic non-commercial Belarusian language classes). Although the interaction had an unpredictable outcome in terms of the target audience (we wanted to achieve data contributors), it increased visibility of the Mapa project considerably.
About the aim
We did not write the aim word by word on the paper. It was done intentionally to did not stick our agency to digits. We fastened to our values and principles through which we communicate with the environment. Hence we achieved more than was expected by teammates and participants from many cities.
The agency has been accomplished thanks to our preparation, persuasion and belief that we do the right thing in the proper way. Yes, everything is possible)
For why we did it
From the above mentioned (see Prehistory section) you are aware that, in the beginning, we sought tool for ourselves. But we understood that data must be maintained and validate permanently. We were(are) convinced that only if this database will be opened, society has a bigger chance to improve itself. Why?
Firstly, it will be easier to find different and like-minded initiatives.
Secondly, we observe developers’ interest to improve code and add new features for Mapa. It is essential for us because we make a bridge between the tech community and society. That is part of our mission when I say “our” (us etc.), I mean Falanster.
For us, as social geeks, it is the most important that we use IT for societal development in the direction we think is right. We use open data and opensource approach as well as community-based development. Because this tool kit brings a set of values to which we stick too: inclusiveness, openness, social equality and autonomy.
Mapping of values
During the work with regional communities of activists, we also researched the mapping of values. About this research, I will write another post. Briefly speaking, we strove to know what top values (drivers) civil activists have in their agency. In our opinion, values are one of the most sustainable foundations for making robust cooperation and implementation of any global changes in society.
What inspired us?
We did not only Mapa as an app, but we also used this Map as a tool for projecting Belarus with open and dynamic future society. Yep, the Map only one brick for the future. But any house consists of many small pieces.
Mapa is also the application with the help of which everyone can add or find civil initiatives operating in Belarus and the rest of the world.
Mapa is our aspiration to investigate values moving Belarusians in attempts to change themselves and society.
Mapa is a collaboration hundreds of activists, movements, civic initiatives, which create Belarus of tomorrow. Particularly responsibility for Belarus of tomorrow to inspire us the most for further endeavours.
What can be a next story?
We did our best and, now, we want to have a rest. We continue to collect ideas on how to move forward.
What we can say right now
Firstly, it needs to add more features we will attract to use more than one time and will improve communication among communities. We had a good promotion campaign, but feature development was slowed down. On GitHub, there is a list of issues, which not only improve the usage of Mapa – renewability, reuse data, but also these new features give a new impulse for communication between initiatives and commonality. For example, it is a geo-subscription, events, customizable colours for civil initiatives etc.
Secondly, it is necessary to make more involvement. Description how users/contributors can participate now is on a deficient level. Therefore, we have an aim to involve pupils, students and partner organisations in both co-usage and adding new data there. We will survey new demands for features and do workshops (webinars).
Thirdly, Mapa can be integrated with other communities and their services. This integration can empower all partners: to increase their efficiency. For example, it is possible to connect Wikipedia and Mapa. Thus, initiatives on the Map can collect information about themselves in a global free encyclopedia. In a long-term perspective, it can gain trust in these civic initiatives (including organisations); as a result, fundraising opportunities and influence. The second example is about integration Mapa and BeVolunteer (Будзь валанцёрам!) app. The mobile application helps NGOs to embrace volunteers in their work and foster community of the volunteers to cooperate transparently and earnestly.
All in all, Universe Belarus has a lot of white spots, and our ship (I mean Falanster))) is ready to fly to civilisations where there were no feet of opensource.