Webinar Recap: Maximizing the use of GIS with Development Gateway & Esri

  • Emma Schwartz
  • October 1, 2013
Webinar Recap: Maximizing the use of GIS

Last month, Development Gateway’s Dustin Homer and Josh Powell led a webinar presentation on web-based tools and services developed in partnership with Esri to help organizations turn raw data into dynamic and useful visualizations. Recognizing an “incredible appetite” and demand for geocoded information at the implementation level, DG is working to help organizations map their data; build capacity to maintain geo-referenced information; and catalyze the use of GIS for analysis, data sharing and story-telling.

In the past six months, DG has worked directly with Esri Professional Services on developing their GIS service packages to help non-profits mirror the impact they have had with groups like the World Bank. The team’s focus is to serve those who don’t necessarily have the internal capacity to use the tools on their own, providing the educational and consulting support needed to help non-profits and NGOs leverage the functionalities of Esri software to further enhance their work. With access to, and knowledge of, government and public data, the DG team is able to support NGOs in geo-referencing their local information. 

“Development Gateway is an essential partner helping development organizations unlock their program information relative to the overall aid community’s efforts. With innovative application of GIS technology they are making a terrific impact towards more transparent and accountable aid and development programs,” said David Gadsden, Nonprofit Organization Program Coordinator at Esri.

Linda Raftree spoke on behalf of NetHope member Plan International USA — a community development organization that has used DG’s work as a model for its own GIS development. Plan’s team has seen an interesting complement to their work with DG’s in terms of a community-based approach and high-level data collection and aggregation and has been learning about geocoding, geo-data collection and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standard from DG for the past couple of years. Based off of what they’ve learned, Plan is currently developing an internal system that will draw from various databases and allow the visualization of a number of indicators through the use of mapping.

This year, DG has been collaborating with USAID in partnership with Esri, The College of William and Mary, Brigham Young University and the University of Texas at Austin to geocode the aid portfolios of roughly 15 priority countries. In year 1 of this agreement, work has been completed in Nepal and is ongoing in Uganda, Haiti, Senegal, and Timor-Leste.  In most cases, they work with 20-40 different donors and NGOs to collect information and standardize it into IAITI standard geocoding. The information is then fed back into aid information management systems. As of late, they’ve been working to implement this work in Nepal with information from NetHope members like CARE and World Vision, among others.

During the presentation, Dustin and Josh demonstrated two online custom applications. The first, the Nepal Aid Dashboard, is a fully implemented and publicly available tool built in partnership with the government of Nepal to allow government officials to see key information about the development work underway and the donors and NGOs operating in the country. The idea behind the tool is to be able to see things like where work is happening, how much funding it’s receiving, who’s doing it, and where gaps lie or duplication of effort exists. Given this information, a decision maker or someone without a background in GIS or data analysis can gain a better sense of where they need to investigate further in order to accomplish their goals. “People should be able to make a decision or take an action based on what they see,” Dustin said.

Josh then introduced the CCAPS Aid Dashboard. The tool recently received Esri’s SAG award and is a result of DG’s effort to support the University of Texas at Austin Robert S Strauss Center’s Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) Program to visualize geospatial data in a way that allows users to perform detailed analyses.  The application is a complete suite of dashboards — one for climate, aid and armed conflict as well as a general dashboard pulling from all layers of information.

Both custom applications are broadly applicable to what DG can build for other organizations in different contexts. Dustin shared that DG envisions a series of next steps for mapped information; organizations should have the ability to use maps to view not just funding information but information about project results, planning, procurement and resource allocation to help implement their projects and programs.

Josh concluded by walking through a three-step program for non-profits to start using GIS: getting started with ArcGIS Online, creating your data and telling your story. ArcGIS Online is the fastest way for organizations to institutionalize GIS. In an effort to make mapping accessible for all, DG and Esri are developing a program to train organization staff to manage ArcGIS online accounts and build processes for continuously publishing and generating content. The second step, creating your data, is ideal for NGOs and organizations with small to moderate portfolios. DG provides clients with initial geocoding to create demonstration effect, training and processes to promote sustainability. They also provide custom access to the DG OpenAid Toolkit, built for gathering and geocoding data to enable multi-level analyses. There’s no sense in collecting data if you don’t know how to use it to tell your story. In the final step of the program, organizations can explore Esri’s web-mapping application templates in ArcGIS online to generate maximum impact and momentum for initial GIS success. DG then assists users with storyboarding, data curation and map story customization/configuration for two map stories.

Many organizations have information that they would like to be able to show on a map but might not necessarily have the capacity to do so. Together, Esri and DG offer organizations the technology, methodology and support needed to map, update and visualize data for maximum impact.

Please direct any questions to Dustin at or Josh at Dustin will also be available to take any questions or comments in person at the NetHope Global Member Summit.

View the webinar collateral, or click here to listen to the webinar recording >

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