Mapathons: OpenSource Mapping by GW Students


A group sitting around a table during a Mapathon


GW Geography is on the cutting-edge in applying new geospatial technologies and OpenSource to the classroom. The Humanitarian Mapping Society was established by a group of students at GW in 2014. Through GW Geography, this group is now a part of the MissingMaps network, founded by the British Red Cross, Red Cross, Doctors without Borders and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT).

The Humanitarian Mapping Society at GW organizes monthly Mapathons, where students teach other students, map, eat pizza, exchange ideas and network. Mapathons seek to remotely map communities — particularly the most vulnerable — that have not been formally mapped before.

The resulting maps and data are publicly available and enable international and local non-governmental organizations and individuals to improve their response to crises affecting these areas.

Mapathon Milestones

Since 2015, GW Geography and HMS GW has been the convening force behind more than 20 mapathons, including partners such as the American Red Cross, the World Bank, the U.S. Department of State, OpenStreetMap US, MissingMaps, TeachOSM, HOT and the Peace Corps.

In January 2017, GW Geography and the HMS GW was given the Community Outreach Award by YouthMappers for engaging creatively and extensively with various federal and international agencies to do mapping and mapathon events. In April 2019, with funding from USAID, GW Geography initiated the YouthMappers Validation Hub. As part of the YouthMappers’ expanding network, the Hub is a group of experienced OSM student mappers whose purpose is to validate the work of other OSM contributors from around the world. The Hub is composed of current HMS GW students whose work ensures that all network affiliated OSM projects have the highest quality data.

This is a network that could continue to grow, not only at GW, but around the world. Geography has become a well-established leader in this area, and our teaching, research and service in this area has been featured in local media.