What would we do with an ecosystem map?

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  • Anna
  • Roo
  • Ben
  • Ariel
  • Devin
  • Note taker: Thiago
  • Facilitator: Willow

This session focused on possible uses and challenges for the Digital response ecosystem map Aspiration is working on.

Facts about this project

  • It will be incomplete
  • It should be useful

Things that are good/work in some ways at least

  • Crisis Commons
  • Resilience Colab - aspiration-ally on boarding space
  • hackerspaces dot org

Why are we here, as individuals?

We should all be working from the same playbook if possible.

People who are nodes should decentralize information.

I have lots of data and people struggle - to share data, to make sense of it, etc.

Scout master - we have badges for emergency management. Maybe we could play too. Not trying to change systems, but know what needs to change about what we do.

Incompleteness about the data changes what we do. The map of the ecosystem that everyone is actually comfortable in. So many of the things on these sheets is answered by other sectors. NGOs operating in emergencies. Curious about how to create ecosystems which don't end up included because we don't know how (or whewre to look)

Occupy Directory project. Mapped physical nodes on the map, was irrelevant the moment we were done. World Forum to map everything, what are we mapping, what is cartography?

Ecosystems, not egosystems. The thing that keeps popping up. Needs to be a peer network, non-organization peer network. Innovative, holistic mindset to collaborate outside their organizations. Get support, pull shit off. Load balancing. How everyone gets mobilized, the digital and the local (like VOAD), be load-balanced in with those trying to work open. People are worried about challenging power. But giving a side road, more work opportunities means it's easier to challenge power. Innovation dies otherwise.

Also lowers the potential for toxic behavior (otherwise tolerated as it becomes entrenched)
If people knew there were also UN jobs, we could also infiltrate to more places. Fall on a sword
People with my background who don't want to work at Google etc, I don't know where to fit.

Other instances of similar "ecosystem maps" that work

  • Also a Resource
    • Mailing lists etc.
  • Field scans for Estrea Foundation
    • Commissioned research of who is doing intersex activism
    • Lots of people talking to people, but gathering a baseline of the sector.
    • It works when it's rigorous and extends beyond a top layer
    • Common in human rights funding
    • Data is available when it's not a security/privacy issue.
  • Worker coop stuff
    • Also resources
  • Coop directory dot org
    • Was very comprehensive but has not been updated since 2011
  • US Federation of worker cooperatives
    • Printed, and burgeoning online database (thats being populated)
  • Tech Coop Network
    • Exists, and can be useful
  • Free State Project in NH
    • Libertarian "takeover" of NH
    • Many network facilitation tools
    • Lots of distributed organization
  • Coworking map
  • Burningman
    • Organizational model and frameworks for replication
    • Camps, events, etc etc etc.
  • YELP
    • Expansive ecosystem map of whats what
  • Air BNB
  • Linked in


  • Important to flag things as dormant.
  • How to keep historical record without pointing people to out of date records.

Data Overlap

  • Can de-anonimize data
  • Privacy is a serious concern

How do you currently find out about things?

Rather than mapping the project, map the people and then get them to map the project.

Security concerns with this idea though.

However having a network of resources is not a bad idea.

Gathering people vs. Organizations/Concepts will lock some people out of participation on such projects out of necessity.

  • Linked in Scraping is a common technique for targeting activists "of all political stripes"

Use Cases

  • Am I looking to respond to a crisis?
  • Am I a developer with a 6 month leave and am looking for #humtech projects to work on?
  • Identifying gaps (or filling unfulfilled needs)
  • Identifying redundancies (or fostering collaborations)
  • Engaging and/or informing newcommers (onboarding)
  • Traditional responders would have a better time of figuring out where to start
  • Potential funders/private sector $$$$$
  • What are main categories of things that are actually useful

What has worked in other spaces?

  • Yelp works because "I regularly need to eat"
    • Where things break down, is that people only need the data infrequently.
  • Openstreetmaps crisis tasker
    • Manage volunteers
    • Getting responders / materials to places.

What could this look like?

  • Maybe its a silly idea but.... maybe this information should be on wikipedia.
    • Wikipedia has projects where they gather data on specific realms of knowledge and legions of wiki elves to do cleanup etc.
  • A twitter scrape for specific hastags/keywords during specific moments of crisis etc. Could compile a nice conglomerate of publicly active players in the space.
  • Github - barrier to entry relatively hight
    • Web frontend to issue queue / wiki etc...

What would be categories?

  • Case Studies
  • Events
  • Entities
  • Data Used

What keeps the -network- ecosystem alive

  • Announce vs. Discuss?
  • Being able to commit to existing for years is ALMOST enough
  • You're thinking so short-term that it's hard to contribute to the larger ecosystem. Not thinking about long-term, open source projects.
  • Recovery is a four year project
  • Civic tech is another side (persistent project) of #humtech, continue the story over course
    • Not a response project, but a persistent solution
  • Funding does not come til later... stick around, document, and the stuff will come
  • Its not a project until you have a handoff plan.
    • How to support community partners once youre not around anymore
  • While its not good to have too much info in the public sphere... making sure you can identify who can help set up XYZ
    • Sounds like a CRM
  • Recognize that you're talking about people
  • Build local networks
    • Connect the people to the projects
  • Focus on cities? Geoproximity?
    • Sister city stuff?
      • Cities with similar concerns can share response infrastructure and expertise in the field
    • Outreach to regional groups
    • Nairobi is doing amazing stuff,
    • Learning dialog over savior model.

"How to get people with civic tech background to feel responsible for #humtech" "When ebola popped off, the people in NY that got involved on the tech side were maybe not the people in the Civic tech space"

  • Transparency vs Tree counting vs Smarty City vs Buen Vivir vs........??????????

Civic tech tends to look at the gap between what you "usually need" and what we have, the gaps expand during a crisis. And civic tech can look at making sure the gap is smaller than it was before the moment of crisis.

People in civic tech get alienated because they are working on problems of say "tree counting" vs problem spaces that interest them (say transparency).

All of these cities should have all of these things. And working across geographic silos would make sense!

Building the networks BEFORE crisis, and creating dialogues across interests (civic tech) benefits responses when the time comes.

What does a hackathon look like that works and is beneficial?

A "Plannathon" vs. "Hackathon" - a Design Charettes ... what are we gonna do? instead of trying to "do shit" over the course.

Sam - "you dont want to do an ecosystem map on wikipedia... you want to publish it in a trusted humanitarian space as primary source, and then put the results in wikipedia."

Closing thoughts

People burn in the space. The space is new, the space is hot. Consistent, persistent, Humble. A steady hand that tries to "do good work" without trying to be the coolest thing in the world.


Organize it on something concrete... cities, countries, regions, etc.


This feels like good brainstorming around a project that becomes its own institution, or adding a mission to an existing institution. This feels like we want to create more resilient institutional knowledge than we have had access to in the past.


I would love to see this come to life, I've spent exhaustive effort gathering this kind of information. I'm not sure if civic tech as its set up now is the same set of people that react in a crisis.


From the perspective of someone who was an engineer in a war zone. Sometimes when youre at the level, working with local people... there can be a huge disconnect on the ground between whats going on, how you engage people, what the folks at different levels thing should be done, and what needs to get done. Talk to the people being serviced.


Wondering if the only way to avoid the tendency of building instutions. "What is it to build an efficient institution? is that the answer? Will be digesting for a while... different questions from what I know. What is the ecomap, is the most important thing-to overly dichotomize- to make sure people are getting food water shelter as soon as possible, or is it helping coordinate the coordinators, so that this coordination is as easy as possible. Easier to deal with coordinating the coordinator than deal with the immediate on the ground needs ... these people are over there, up those stairs and need water.


Amorphus. This seems like a framework of concrete ideas that could benefit things even if implemented in some small way.