Maps Are an Activist’s Best Friend

4 mins read

Maps are an activist’s best friend

Maps help activists and campaigns engage, inform and mobilize supporters. New apps make it easy.

Maps are easy to understand and navigate. They’re intuitive and wonderful at storytelling. Free new apps make them a potent weapon for activists, organizers and campaigns.

Why are maps especially useful for activists? People are naturally interested in how an issue impacts them personally. Maps let you understand how a decision made in DC will impact you where you live. Readers can skim a map or did in deeper for details. Maps are easy to share with others and ideal for social media.

Maps are more than dots on a document. Add stories, images, videos and links to calls to action to your map.

DemLabs works pro bono with progressive groups to apply maps for worthy causes. Here are seventy DemLabs maps created over the last four years with the free StoryMaps app and other tools.

Maps with a purpose

Activists, community organizers and campaigns use maps to engage, inform and mobilize readers to action.

Why maps are effective

Maps make sense of heaps of data. The information is presented through the interface of a map, which everyone is already familiar with.

Layers of information. Maps lets readers relate two different data sets, such as police shootings and the ethnic composition of the community where it took place.

Sense of distance. Maps make it obvious for readers to see how voting drop boxes are dozens of miles away on a Native American reservation, but within blocks in other areas?

Historical context. Maps can incorporate a time element. Where and when have mass shootings occurred over time.

Combine different factors. Such as what are the different types of protests occurring over time across the country by different groups.

Provide useful information. Such as finding the closest dropbox or voting location.

Highlight achievements. Show readers what has been accomplished such as this map with Jon Tester’s map of delivering for Montana.

Real time data. Collect and display data as it happens such as this app which lets voters report challenges they face while trying to vote.

Real data from the community. Crowdsourcing lets community members contribute and share their pooled information on a map.

Map showcase

Use maps to engage, inform and mobilize supporters.

Voting for Reproductive Freedom
This StoryMap was created during the Kavanaugh hearing WVWV Action Fund to encourage voting for ProChoice candidates. It included links to Voter Registration web sites, videos of women’s issues and a nationwide map of candidates during the 2018 midterms. The StoryMap was featured in Newsweek.

Use maps to engage, inform and mobilize supporters.

Protesting a dangerous facility
being built in low-income African American community in Virginia. Volunteers This was created by Friends of Buckingham County to protest a dangerous Dominion Energy fracking plant to be built in Union Hill for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Use maps to engage, inform and mobilize supporters.

Real-time reporting of voting Issues
“See Something, Say Something” StoryMap was a collaboration between the OSET Institute, Rock The Vote, and Samantha Bee. It allowed people to report voting issues they encountered right away from their phones. This StoryMap has been viewed over 250,000 times and been featured on NBC.

TakeAway: Use maps to engage, inform and mobilize supporters.


Image credit: Photo by Victor Grabarczyk on Unsplash
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Democracy Labs is a hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation that serves progressive campaigns and organizations at the national, state, and local levels.

Our focus is on long term, sustainable and affordable solutions. An approach that is longer than an election cycle, and isn’t purely dependant on volunteers, can enable more qualified candidates to run for office and for more issue groups to bring about positive social change.

Democracy Labs is a project of the Tides Advocacy Fund.

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