Saturday, June 21, 2008

Finding our way

It is actually more difficult than one would think to give stuff away for free. As I search through Charity Navigator for ideas about who to contact, I see potential for maps and geographic analysis in nearly every group that I read about.

At XNR, this map was created for a local community organization who had recently moved.

Locating the physical space that a building occupies or an event on a map is not the only way to use a map for your group. We can analyze data, look at where you are doing your work, who it's affecting. We can help you get the word out and show people where your work is being done.

Just ask us, we can tell you how a map would enhance what you are doing!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Creating our map

I saw a map on the kitchen table today. It's one that my husband drew—a cartographer by title, a spatial data analyst, student and teacher by passion—for a recent weekend outing. The map is on a piece of yellow legal paper, a pen with a line drawn quickly across the middle and arrowheads on both ends. There are four labels on the map.

Some would say that this does not qualify as a map. But, he represented the information he needed, eliminated unnecessary data and clearly portrayed the spatial relationship to the intended audience, himself.

If only my search for starting mapgiving had been so direct, we would have donated hundreds of hours by this point, to groups who could have benefitted from our services. But, along the way, I have learned a number of lessons, I spent a lot of time without a map exploring the world and landed with a clear picture of what I'd like the destination to look like.

I began my search by contacting well-respected professors on the topic of geographic education and community involvement. Most advice was the same, "Go back to school, get a PhD, write a book."

While this path is clear and could be easily followed, it doesn't match my interests. I make maps, and I really love making maps, and I don't want to get away from that.

Eventually, I began talking to other professional colleagues. Many of them sounded interested in participating in a similar experiment. I began nearly every conversation with: "I don't know what I'm going to do about it, but I'm going to start a geography revolution." When I spoke with Lou Cross, a colleague through a professional society, he was as excited as I was. He started rattling off ideas the minute I told him about it. That was over a month ago and still, I can barely get a word in. We finally had a chance to sit down and sketch out some ideas—over coffee, of course—in May, after the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) board meeting. mapgiving was born.

We don't know how the path will go, but we know that we are standing at Point A and we know what Point B is. We're doing what we love and writing it down to tell you about it, unsure of how we'll get there or what we will pass along the way.

C'mon follow us on our journey, get involved, and add some notes to the map while we go.

You don't need anything fancy to make your map, work with whatever you have to record your trip.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The idea

At home, stuck on the couch while fighting the flu, I turned on the television to watch Oprah—sounds like a regular sick day for most people. It just happens that during this episode, Oprah is interviewing people who had given up high paying jobs because they wanted to pursue something larger and more fulfilling than a hefty paycheck. Something resonated for me.

I'd been searching for an opportunity to combine my skills as a cartographer with my interest in sharing time, money, and education. I just hadn't quite figured out how a map would be that vehicle. This day, sick, at home, on the couch; it hit me. It was so simple. I could make maps for people who are doing good work. People and groups who can't afford to devote money to have the maps made, because they must allocate their financial resources to the mission of their organization, not to the advertisement or geographic analysis of their work. My giving, would be done by donating what I love to others who are giving,

The next day, I took it to my boss. I asked if it would be possible to incorporate this idea into part of our company plan. A portion of our time, spent donating our expertise to the world: sharing our talent, our craft and our skills. She told me to go for it, find people who need what we do.

Room to Read
is the first group that I contacted. What I've learned through the process of trying to give something away for free, is that everyone is a little suspicious of it. Even groups who spend all of their time doing just that. Room to Read responded with a series of questions, and a lot of interest. On a conference call, I could hear how excited they were. They are displaying maps found in the CIA World Factbook on their website—perfectly respectable reference maps—but, what Room to Read really needs is to highlight the great work they are doing in many countries: providing education to children through building schools and libraries.

Our relationship was formed. We are now in the stage of developing a style for the Room to Read maps, working with their staff to make sure the maps contain the content and provide the 'feel' that connects viewers and supporters of their work with the actual locations of where the work is being completed.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Getting Started

Connecting non-profit groups in need of maps with cartographers interested in donating time. More to come soon!

-Tanya Buckingham (