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YouthMappers Regional Ambassador - 2021 Year in Review


I have been involved with YouthMappers since 2018, after co-founding the 2nd local chapter in the Philippines, UP Resilience Institute YouthMappers (UPRI). I have been serving as the mentor of UPRI since its formal establishment and have been supporting students and volunteers in their personal and professional growth.

Last year, my participation with YouthMappers had strengthened as I became one of the Regional Ambassadors from Southeast Asia. Part of the responsibilities of being a Regional Ambassador is to recruit student organizations and universities to join the YouthMappers network and the OSM community. And it hasn’t been easy as the pandemic has made it impossible for us to travel and recruit in person. Despite that, we remain committed to building more member chapters and strengthening the local communities remotely.

Filipino YouthMappers Growth in 2021

Before the pandemic happened, there were 4 chapters established in the Philippines (Junior Philippines Computer Society in Far Eastern University - Institute of Technology, UP Resilience Institute Youth Mappers, FEU Alabang ACM Student Chapter in FEU Alabang, and Junior Philippine Computer Society National University Chapter.).

As a regional ambassador, I see this opportunity as a perfect avenue to increase and balance the distribution of chapters, extend the network of YouthMappers across the Philippine Islands, and build a community of mappers in the least-mapped areas in OSM. As the distribution of the local chapters is mainly in Metro Manila, I focused my efforts on recruiting the Visayas and Mindanao-based universities, as we need more visibility and reach in these areas. To identify the provinces that will be prioritized for recruitment, an analysis of OSM data from various sources was done. See my workplan for 2020-2021.

After months of recruitment and coordination, I onboarded 6 state colleges and universities (5 from the Philippines and 1 from Singapore).


Challenges and Reflections

  1. Contacting state colleges and universities. A centralized database containing the contact information of each college/university is lacking, so a lot of effort was made to build the database and contact them through email and social media. Some information such as email addresses and official websites is outdated, making it more challenging to reach colleges and universities.

  2. Shifting to virtual learnings. As we shifted to virtual activities to build community connections, we had to be more creative and resourceful when organizing and conducting our OSM training and workshops. We had to think of fun ways to engage our students and volunteers in the virtual learning experience.

  3. Communication and coordination in a growing community. As we’ve grown from 4 to 9 chapters members in a year, maintaining all communications and coordination among the member chapters would be quite a challenge.

  4. Participation comes from strong interest and passion for open mapping. Not all universities and student organizations have a solid foundation and background on mapping (not all colleges and universities have Geography or Geodetic Engineering courses). During the initial meetings with the student organizations, practical applications of open mapping were presented and stories about volunteer mapping were shared for them to see the benefits and significance of collaborative mapping. Additionally, continuous training and support must be offered and provided.

  5. Shy students during group mapathons. Students tend to get shy during group mapathons and trainings. To address this issue, I initiated one-on-one tutorial sessions to interested students and volunteers.

  6. Unequal access to reliable internet connection and the right technology. During my initial meeting with Sulu State College, their connection was cut multiple times because of the intermittent internet connection in their university. Pro-active support must be provided for student organizations and universities to make the virtual meetings and trainings easily and equally accessible to all.

  7. Exhaustion from constant online learnings. Students and volunteers are experiencing a lot of exhaustion from constant online learnings at their colleges/universities, hence participating in more virtual mapathons could be additionally exhausting for them. At this point, we should have a system in place to check in with students more frequently.

  8. Giving recognition to students is significant. It’s important to recognize students' and volunteers' efforts and time simply by giving them tokens and messages of appreciation. As I always say, mappers and validators need some sort of validation too. Volunteers like students are the backbone of the OSM ecosystem, and thus, we should always take care of them and not intimidate them in any way possible.

  9. YouthMappers is one of the most active actors in the OpenStreetMap ecosystem this year. There are a lot of great activities, training, and projects YouthMappers has introduced and led (e.g. YouthMappers Academy and Everywhere She Maps) and I am glad to be part of it.

Through this program, I have indeed discovered my passion in life. While I loved talking about OpenStreetMap, I realized that I was more interested in continuously building the students' and volunteers' skills in mapping (not only in OSM, but also in different free and open-source software!). I learned and unlearned a lot from the students in various YouthMappers chapters. And I am inspired by the people in the YouthMappers movement and OSM community.

I would like to thank everyone in the YouthMappers network for the support and training you have provided us! Also, to friends who helped and guided me in this journey! <3