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Resources for Community Mapping and Public Participation GIS

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We've been online since 1996 providing free GIS and mapping software, maps, shapefiles, tutorials and other resources for community mapping and public participation GIS.

Over the years we've created many projects and helped others as well. You can view some of this work at

We're continually adding to the list of community mapping and public participation GIS resources below. If you have any additions, please contact me. Also, if you have a project or know of one, we'd love to list it here on and also on

Community Mapping and Public Participation GIS Projects

East Somerville Community Mapping Project.

Community Mapping and Public Participation GIS Resources

Empowerment, Marginalization And Public Participation GIS - GIS is alternatively seen as a powerful tool for empowering communities or as an invasive technology that advantages some people and organizations while marginalizing others. This is a critical issue which divides both academicians and thoughtful critics of society. "GIS and Society" is therefore one of the top GIS research issues facing this country, as determined by UCGIS, the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science. The NCGIA addressed the issue in Initiative-19 (March 1996) as well. In neither of those cases was there a successful merger of the two positions, merely an acknowledgment of the validity of the stance of the other. This initiative will examine the two-edged nature of the GIS sword by defining and executing research projects that involve researchers looking critically at the use of GIS by community groups or by others using the technology in ways that impact individuals and communities.

Public Participation and GIS Annotated Bibliography - Since the utilization of GIS for policy, planning and other forms of decision making involving citizen involvement, there have been questions and criticisms regarding its potential to involve and empower citizens. Does it authentically serve to democratize decision making? Does the technology privilege certain ways of knowing and representing the world over others? How well can lay people access and understand the technology in order to use it in ways that genuinely serve community or group needs? These are examples of some of the questions surrounding public participation in GIS and GIScience in an ongoing debate as the field develops. The following cites and sites serve as entry points regarding the uses of, and arguments regarding, PGIS and PPGIS.

Report on Public Participation GIS Workshop

Prepared by Paul Schroeder
NCGIA and Dept. of Spatial Information Science and Engineering
University of Maine

Soon after the conclusion of the Initiative 19 specialists' meeting, members at the NCGIA in Maine began to explore the possibility of allocating visiting scholar funds toward support of a workshop on the theme of GIS 2, a thread of discussion throughout the I-19 proceedings. After consultation among NCGIA site directors and with I-19 leaders, this was approved. The workshop was held in Orono, Maine July 10-13, 1996.

The set of concepts that emerged as GIS 2 was set in motion early in the I-19 specialists' meeting by opening comments from Michael Curry, who described spatial data institutions and posed the question: What could GIS be? Implicit in this question is the critique of what GIS has become, a motivating element in bringing I-19 participants together. The two strands, critique and possibility, marked much of the content of the meeting's discussions. The presentation of five Criteria for the Design of a GIS 2 as a research proposal during the final I-19 session was an attempt to create a synopsis of various responses to Dr. Curry's initial question.

Participatory GIS (PGIS). The participatory creation of maps, above and beyond their interpretation, started in the late �1980s. At that time, development practitioners were inclined to adopt Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methods (i.e. sketch mapping) rather than venturing into more complex, demanding and time consuming scale mapping. Preference was given to eliciting indigenous knowledge and utilizing local community dynamics to facilitate communication between insiders and outsiders (researchers). The strategies placed little emphasis on charting courses of action that enabled communities to interact efficiently with policymakers. In some developing countries, aerial photography, satellite imagery and official large scale topographic maps were under governmental control and their access restricted because of national security concerns. While GIS has played an important role in empowering the public in location-based decision-making processes, the technical requirements and cost often limit GIS�s potential benefits to the community. Web-based GIS technology is increasingly empowering public and community organizations with affordable solutions. Vertices is committed to providing Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) tools for communities with little or no GIS knowledge by using Open Source GIS and Google Maps API.

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Participatory GIS training kit The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) has been spearheading a series of initiatives aimed at sharing lessons learned, identifying gaps and building on institutional and methodological synergies in the field of participatory mapping. The 2005 Mapping for Change Conference, organized by CTA and the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), represented a landmark event where 154 practitioners from 45 countries convened to discuss the state of the art, potential and constraints, as well as the opportunities and threats of participatory spatial information management and communication; in this context, the lack of training material was identified as the major constraints in the spread of good practice.

Presentation on Participatory GIS by Danielle Bamford and Chrissa Stroh of NOAA Coastal Services Center and Becky Szivak of ACE Basin NERR (November 5, 2009). Participatory GIS is a practice in which local communities share their knowledge and opinions to help generate maps to inform management and decision-making. Participatory GIS fosters discussion and collaboration among stakeholders and can capture important knowledge from underrepresented groups. This presentation described the use of Participatory GIS in two coastal projects: the Edisto Island Preservation Association�s project to make recommendations on an update to the local county comprehensive plan and the Great Works Regional Land Trust�s project to develop a strategic plan for the land trust's conservation work. The presentation also described new resources for coastal resource managers interested in using Participatory GIS.

Participatory GIS � a people's GIS? by Christine E. Dunn, Geography Department, Durham University, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK, [email protected]


Recent years have witnessed a burgeoning of applications of GIS which grant legitimacy to indigenous geographical knowledge as well as to `official' spatial data. By incorporating various forms of community participation these newer framings of Geographical Information Systems as `Participatory GIS' (PGIS) offer a response to the critiques of GIS which were prevalent in the 1990s. This paper reviews PGIS in the context of the `democratization of GIS'. It explores aspects of the control and ownership of geographical information, representations of local and indigenous knowledge, scale and scaling up, web-based approaches and some potential future technical and academic directions.

The Center for Community Mapping (CCM) focuses on Public Participatory Community Mapping, Project Planning and Implementation. CCM seeks to unify and strengthen communities by offering individuals, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions the tools to help manage their interests. Targeting educational institutions and non-profit organizations, CCM seeks to introducing innovative mapping technology to the non-GIS specialist. With easy-to-use web-based applications, our objective at CCM is to make interactive mapping accessible to all communities.

Didn't find what you are looking for? We've been online since 1996 and have created 1000's of pages. Search below and you may find just what you are looking for.

Michael R. Meuser
Data Research & GIS Specialist is an independent firm specializing in GIS project development and data research. We created the first U.S. based interactive toxic chemical facility maps on the internet in 1996 and we have been online ever since. Learn more about us and our services.

Have a project in mind? If you have data, GIS project or custom shapefile needs contact Mike.

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