This is the first in a 3-part series of posts discussing a partnership I initiated between Tulane University, the American Red Cross, and OpenStreetMaps, in which students in my undergraduate IDEV4100: ICT4D course participated in real-world mapping for OpenStreetMaps using satellite imagery, to support development and disaster preparedness initiatives being conducted by the American Red Cross in coordination with local host Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies.


The American Red Cross International Services Division, in partnership with Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in developing countries, helps enhance disaster preparedness programming in part by coordinating the development of improved base maps, in partnership with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap, to provide more reliable information for first responders to utilize in the event of floods, fires, or other natural disasters.

This paper explores the process of Tulane University students becoming involved with Red Cross and OpenStreetMap, the tangible outcomes of this work, benefits and challenges involved with coordinating and executing these short-term mapping projects, the assigning and grading of this coursework, and feedback from participating students. Lessons learned and best practices for university courses, and implications for digital social innovation activities of this type are discussed. In order for these efforts to be successful, they needed to meet objectives on both ends. For the students and the course, the activity would need to meet learning objectives and provide an opportunity for students to engage with concepts they encountered in their classroom. For the Red Cross partners, it needed to at least have the potential to generate a volume and quality of work that would be beneficial to them as they entered the next phase of mapping. Continue reading