Story Mapping for Comic Relief at #ThisMapCan

2nd December 2016

A few weeks ago, tech-heads from various firms across London gathered at the Geovation Hub in Farringdon to support Comic Relief in a mapathon. The collective aim was to huddle ideas together and create a number of Story Map applications that would benefit Comic Relief, in two different challenges. The first tasked the attendees with displaying data for UK and international grants on a map and using a Story Map to make the existing map on their website more engaging. The other was to drive donations, meaning participants had to design a crowdsourcing app that would create a social buzz, encouraging people to donate.

Delegates attended from a range of organisations from Sport London, to Barclays, to the Tearfund charity; all with varying levels of GIS knowledge. One thing that became strikingly obvious is that with ArcGIS Online and Story Maps, GIS knowledge is no longer a prerequisite. It amazed everyone how easily the groups were up-and-running with the platform and creating some really interesting content. 

The drive donations challenge produced some great ideas; including a crowdsourced map which incentivised the sharing of selfies around the nation and an idea for a custom application which filtered submissions by using a tagging system. My personal favourite was from a group ranging from non-technical backgrounds to developers, who designed ‘The Map of Funny’. This divided the country up into regional ‘teams’ and pitted them against each other, integrating creative and technical ideas. It was done by allocating a comedian (who represents that area) to tell their funniest joke, which the public vote on through small-scale donations. The region with the most donations takes the victory. I especially liked this idea as the team pitched an accompanying Story Map, using the ‘Tour’ template, which mapped each region’s joke as a video with a spatial reference. They also proposed a live view, powered through the scene viewer in ArcGIS Online, with the polygons for each region extruded at a height value specified by the number of donations.

The groups focusing on increasing engagement also aimed high. Existing datasets on Comic Relief grants and projects were geocoded and provided to the groups to work with. Some groups placed their emphasis on the thought-provoking stories being told within the applications, to connect with the audience on an emotional level. For example, ‘Giving Her Hope’ was a map focusing on the stories of female empowerment around the world, using the map merely for geographical context. Others used complex maps to aid visual communications, in a number of creative methods which tested the functionality of ArcGIS Online. One group used Web App Builder to explore the effectiveness of various widgets in querying and outputting data regarding projects underway in the UK. One of my favourites was from a group who sequenced the international grant projects by time-zone to follow a ‘day in the life’ of Comic Relief, utilising the time-zone features in ArcGIS Online. The end goal of this was to incrementally cycle round the globe in Scene viewer, detailing specific projects within that region as they are passed. 

As the day drew to a close, it was no easy task, but judges picked their winners for each of the challenges: 

  • Drive Donations: The Map of Funny
  • Increase Engagement: Day in the Life of Comic Relief

Regardless of this, I felt as though everybody had actively engaged with the challenges during the day and enjoyed providing some application ideas to Comic Relief, whilst also learning a bit about the ArcGIS platform. It was particularly interesting to hear people approaching these challenges from a non-technical angle and then subsequently helping them to apply GIS techniques based upon their ideas. This helped us appreciate the challenges that delegates from these organisations are having and helped them to appreciate how GIS could be applied in these scenarios. On the whole, the day proved entertaining, provided invaluable knowledge for the attendees and all while producing some compelling ideas for Comic Relief in their charity campaign.