Maximising the Value of a Volunteer: A Novel Method for Prioritising Humanitarian VGI Activities

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As a consequence of their reliance on a scarce volunteer resource, humanitarian mapping organisations must prioritise their mapping activities. For mapping in anticipation of a crisis or mapping in support of long-term crises, the only method available to organisations is an estimation of the ‘completeness’ of the map, with organisations directing volunteers to map areas where data are missing. Whilst this method is suitable for organisations that focus on general map improvement, for those who create data for a specific reason (e.g., drinking water provision) the method is sub-optimal. In this article we present a new method of humanitarian mapping prioritisation that considers the purpose of map data collection. The method identifies locations where contributions by volunteers are expected to have the biggest impact on the desired use of the map data and therefore maximises the value gained from volunteer contributions. We explain our method using the example of measuring distance to healthcare and demonstrate its superior ability to consider the context of map data over generic estimations of map ‘completeness’. Our method provides humanitarian mapping organisations with an easily reproducible, low cost and transparent method and an opportunity to make better informed decisions about mapping prioritisation when the purpose of map data collection is known. Using our method organisations will be able to maximise the value gained from a scarce volunteer resource and increase the efficiency of humanitarian map data production.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Spatial Information Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2 Jun 2023


  • Volunteered geographic information
  • VGI
  • crisis mapping
  • OpenStreetMap
  • humanitarian


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