Public Lab Research note

Research area review on mapping for organizing and advocacy

by bhamster , liz | April 27, 2021 21:20 27 Apr 21:20 | #26376 | #26376

Image: "Neighborhood cartography" in El Raval, Barcelona, by @pablo, from this post.

This quarter we're revisiting the (grass)roots of Public Lab with a review of organizing and advocacy with maps. From documenting land loss in wetlands to land reform in indigenous territories, from fighting locally unwanted land uses to aerial infrared garden and farm imaging, from assessing urban public space uses to remote ecosystem monitoring, this is a rich and storied topic going back to Public Lab's beginnings. Over the years, many community members have extensively documented their methods, experiences, ideas, and dialogue all across the website.

In the next three months there will be a series of events:

  • A research area review kick-off call on Tuesday, May 11, at 12pm PT / 3pm ET / 7pm UTC (during Open Call). Come with your questions and ideas on what should be revisited and what we can do together for the review!
  • Weekly drop-in Open Calls from May 18 to June 29, with an organizing and advocacy theme.

At the end of the research area review there's going to be something like a mini conference with many ways to participate! Here are our initial thoughts:

  • A wrap-up event where we'll highlight what we learned and created during the review on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. Exact times to-be-announced. Update: Event details here!
  • A facilitated open community discussion where people can exchange their questions, local concerns, project ideas, and gain support for taking the next steps with their organizing and advocacy work.
  • A presentation by guest speakers who are organizing and advocating with maps in their communities.
  • A demo of balloon mapping, including how to organize a balloon mapping workshop and a live balloon launch 🎈, with the Public Lab Kits team! Update: this will be a live build of a camera mount for balloon mapping! Details here.

Stay tuned for separate event posts with information on how to join these calls.


What's the purpose of the review?

Public Lab aims to make it easier for anyone with a local environmental concern to investigate, document, and organize for change. We'll focus on mapping as a key first step in this process. Over years of activity, many methods have been created, lots of stories earned, and plenty of lessons learned about mapping for organizing and advocacy. Our goal is to curate this content and refresh the Getting Started sequence for newcomers as well as set new stretch goals for future development on this topic.

What will we do in the review to reach these goals?

Like previous research area reviews, over the next couple months, we'll collect, review, and synthesize information from, other published resources, and conversations with people sharing their lived and learned experiences with organizing and advocacy. Within this big topic, we'll focus on:

  • Synthesizing and documenting approaches to community organizing and advocacy on collaborative wiki pages, like /law-and-policy and /facilitation, and new wikis for /organizing, /advocacy, and /community-science.
  • Tying together materials across so that people new to advocacy can see how they might get started. We'll use map-making as a key introductory method for taking action, showing how maps can be used to raise awareness, inform data-based decision making, and serve as evidence.

These will be the focus areas of the review, but we welcome and appreciate any and all contributions that others might be interested in!

When will we do the review?

Over the next couple months until the end of June 2021.

Why did we choose organizing and advocacy with maps as a topic to review?

The last three research area reviews on microplastics, air quality, and soil contamination have featured methods for researching these environmental topics and gathering data on them. Now, we'd like to talk more about what comes after the data. And, how mapping can help people get started and mobilized around any community science project.

What are some ways to help or follow along?

  • Follow the #organizing, #advocacy, and #research-area-review tags on and receive updates about new posts.
  • Do you have knowledge, experiences, or stories to share on mapping for organizing and advocacy? Please comment below to join our review!
  • Join us on a call! The kick-off meeting and weekly Open Calls are opportunities to share questions and ideas during the review period.

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@bhamster has marked @liz as a co-author.

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