Crisis Mapping Conference Proposal

Bridging the Divide in Crisis Mapping

As mentioned in a recent blog post, my colleague Jen Ziemke and I are organizing a workshop on the topic of crisis mapping. The purpose of this workshop is to bring together a small group of scholars and practitioners who are pioneering the new field of crisis mapping. We are currently exploring funding opportunities with a number of donors and welcome any suggestions you might have for specific sponsors.

The new field of crisis mapping encompasses the collection, dynamic visualization and subsequent analysis of georeferenced information on contemporary conflicts and human rights violations.  A wide range of sources are used to create these crisis maps, (e.g. events data,  newspaper and intelligence parsing, satellite imagery, interview and survey data, SMS, etc). Scholars have developed several analytical methodologies to identify patterns in dynamic crisis maps. These range from computational methods and visualization techniques to spatial econometrics and “hot spot” analysis.

While scholars employ these sophisticated methods in their academic research, operational crisis mapping platforms developed by practitioners are completely devoid of analytical tools. At the same time, scholars often assume that humanitarian practitioners are conversant in quantitative spatial analysis, which is rarely the case. Furthermore, practitioners who are deploying crisis mapping platforms do not have time to the academic literature on this topic.

Mobile Crisis Mapping and Crisis Mapping Analytics

In other words, there is a growing divide between scholars and practitioners in the field of crisis mapping. The purpose of this workshop is to bridge this divide by bringing scholars and practitioners together to shape the future of crisis mapping. At the heart of this lies two new developments: Mobile Crisis Mapping (MCM) and Crisis Mapping Analytics (CMA). See previous blog posts on MCM and CMA here and here.

I created these terms to highlight areas in need for further applied research. As MCM platforms like Ushahidi‘s become more widely available, the amount of crowdsourced data will substantially increase and so mays of the challenges around data validation and analysis. This is why we need to think now about developing a field of Crisis Mapping Analytics (CMA) to make sense of the incoming data and identify new and recurring patterns in human rights abuses and conflict.

This entails developing user-friendly metrics for CMA that practitioners can build in as part of their MCM platforms. However, there is no need to reinvent the circle since scholars who analyze spatial and temporal patterns of conflict already employ sophisticated metrics that can inform the development of CMA metrics. In sum, a dedicated workshop that brings these practitioners and scholars together would help accelerate the developing field of crisis mapping.

Proposed Agenda

Here is a draft agenda that we’ve been sharing with prospective donors. We envisage the workshop to take place over a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Feedback is very much welcomed.

Day 1 – Friday

Welcome and Introductions

Keynote 1 – The Past & Future of Crisis Mapping

Roundtable 1 – Presentation of Academic and Operational Crisis Mapping projects with Q&A


Track 1a – Introduction to Automated Crisis Mapping (ACM): From information collection and data validation to dynamic visualization and dissemination

Track 1b – Introduction to Mobile Crisis Mapping (MCM): From information collection and data validation to dynamic visualization and dissemination


Track 2a – Special introduction for newly interested colleagues  and students on spatial thinking in social sciences, using maps to understand crisis, violence and war

Track 2b – Breakout session for students and new faculty: hands-on introduction to GIS and other mapping programs


Day 2 – Saturday

Keynote 2 – Crisis Mapping and Patterns Analysis

Roundtable 2 – Interdisciplinary Applications: Innovations & Challenges

Roundtable 3 – Data Collection & Validations: Innovations & Challenges


Roundtable 4 – Crisis Mapping Analytics (CMA): Metrics and Taxonomies

Roundtable 5 – Crisis Mapping & Response: Innovations & Challenges


Day 3 – Sunday

Keynote 3 – What Happens Next – Shaping the Future of Crisis Mapping

Self-organized Sessions


Proposed Participants

Here are some of the main academic institutes and crisis mapping organizations we had in mind:


  • John Carrol University (JCU)
  • Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI)
  • Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO)
  • International Conflict Research, ETH Zurich
  • US Institute for Peace (USIP)
  • Political Science Department, Yale University


Next Steps

Before we can move forward on any of this, we need to identify potential donors to help co-sponsor the workshop. So please do get in touch if you have any suggestions and/or creative ideas.

Patrick Philippe Meier

18 responses to “Crisis Mapping Conference Proposal

  1. I do not strictly do Crisis Mapping, but I would be interested in participating, especially regarding mapping the health effects of conflict.

  2. I definitely think that there is a great need for discussion around tools, processes, expectations, advocacy, and the future of crisis mapping.

    Regarding participants, responding organizations seem largely missing: FEMA, DHS, UNJLC, et al. that could either provide operational insight as well as quickly apply lessons learned.

    In addition – these organizations may be able to better sponsor/support such a workshop.

    We’ve been discussing a broader “Crisis Response Camp” or DisasterCamp that could identify and promote a specific mapping breakout workshop.

  3. liesbeth Renders

    Reuters AlertNet as well as the EIS (Emergency Information Service) have a mapping component and especially interested CMA aspect. So def interested in participating along with the others listed.(many of whom are our partners)

  4. Have you settle on a DATE yet, rather than just any Friday, Saturday?
    And will the USGS be represented at your workshop?
    And is there any interest in technology for complex event processing over and above representations on Google maps?

    • Hi David, no, we have not settled on a date since we want to secure funding first. We haven’t approached USGS yet but hope to in the near future. Our interest in visualization tools is certainly not limited to Google Maps.

  5. I love your blog, and I am very interested in participating in this event. I work with BAM, a disruptive Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery firm, and we are starting to incorporate crisis mapping into our scenario planning. I think that it is great how you are opening dialogue around this and I’m looking forward to further developments.

    • Hi Danny, many thanks for your kind words and for your comment. The work you are doing with BAM looks very interesting and I’m keen to learn more about your plans to incorporate crisis mapping into scenario planning.

  6. Pingback: A Brief History of Crisis Mapping « iRevolution

  7. Sounds pretty awesome to me. I definitely want to know when and where it’s going to be. I’d love to attend, but it will depend on money of course. If I can, count me in.

  8. Ted Perlmutter

    Awesome idea. Let’s talk further about this one.

  9. Very interesting project. We do crime pattern analysis all the time for our investigations. Please keep me informed on further development.

  10. As a disaster relief worker – mostly natural disasters – with a growing interest in neogeography, I’d also be keen to be kept informed of any progress. Might you have an outline budget? If I come into contact with a suitable/potential sponsor it would be useful to have a rough idea.

  11. Pingback: Mobile Crisis Mapping (MCM) « iRevolution

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