Maps That Matter

Maps That Matter

Washington, United StatesOkola, Ndop, & Pitoa , Cameroon
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Maps That Matter engages girls and boys in Cameroon in decision-making processes by using digital maps to involve duty bearers in discussions on resource allocation and government accountability.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In Cameroon, local councils have been tasked with allocating and managing decentralized development funds, but they do not have all the necessary information and tools to do so. In addition, children and young people, especially girls and the rural poor, do not have the confidence, skills or encouragement to engage in community processes, to discuss the issues that most impact their lives, and to dialogue with duty-bearers and hold them accountable for providing services and delivering government policies. Where space for dialogue between children, youth and local government exists, the lack of updated, transparent, accessible and user-friendly data weakens evidence-based discussion and decision-making that could lead to improved accountability.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

In Okola, Ndop, and Pitoa, the project will engage 270 girls and 180 boys in governance processes through the use of digital maps and social accountability tools. Local authorities will build capacities to listen to youth living in their districts and to use data, information and feedback from young citizens to make decisions and ensure more transparent resource allocation and policy delivery, especially concerning girls’ rights, needs and challenges. Girls and boys will prioritize a key issue and analyze it from a gender perspective. Building on digital base maps created using Open Street Map (OSM), the youth will collect quantitative data and community feedback and use creative digital mapping tools to visualize the issue to make data more accessible for relevant stakeholders. Finally, girls and boys will work together with local authorities to seek solutions, using funds residing within existing council development budgets, and to hold authorities accountable for their decisions.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

There will be 5 primary activities: 1)Identifying the Issue Girls and boys will prioritize one key issue (e.g. health, girls’ education, violence and abuse) and analyze the differential impact on boys and girls using a gender lens. 2) Data Collection & Improving Visualization The youth groups will collect additional data related to their area of focus and add to the base maps made last year (available on OSM). Working with Development Seed, an open source mapping firm, Plan will improve the visualization of information, forming easily accessible and interpretable data that can be used as a basis for discussion and for future tracking and accountability. 3) Sharing the Maps Offline In order to ensure that the maximum number of community members can access the maps and graphics, they will be printed and displayed in prominent places within the communities and council offices. 4) Training Local Council Members Local councils will be trained by the youth on how to access, use, and interpret the digital maps. The ongoing dialogue between the youth groups and the local councils is key to ensuring the sustainability of the project. 5) Social Accountability Tools and Advocacy The youth will use appropriate social accountability tools (e.g. social audits and participatory budgeting) to gain community input and to add depth to the data they have mapped. They will then implement an advocacy plan to dialogue with local service providers and government officials with the aim of improving transparency, community feedback on services, and government accountability.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

In Okola, Ndop, and Pitoa, no other organizations have implemented a participatory development approach to working with boys and girls; have earned the level of trust from government officials that is required for open dialogue; or have used OSM to create digital base maps to engage government in a sustainable way. Additionally, no other organizations in these areas are addressing issues using a gender perspective that prioritizes girls and engages boys in working to resolve girls’ issues. Plan will work with innovators such as Development Seed and have collaborated with ActivSpaces, Map Kibera, Ground Truth, and Spatial Collective over the past 3 years. Maps That Matter will use the most innovative mapping and data visualization technology to improve evidence-based communications.

Founding Story

Plan continuously seeks to utilize new technologies to improve our work in engaging youth in development. After witnessing the work of Map Kibera in Kenya, Plan wanted to adopt similar techniques in Cameroon. Since Google Maps does not have data rich maps for rural communities in Cameroon, Plan saw an opportunity for creating and utilizing digital maps. Plan decided to use Open Street Maps to allow youth to make their own maps. Plan worked with a geographic information systems (GIS) specialist who explained how to track the allocation of resources throughout the community. Plan and participating youth recognized an opportunity to take advantage of the decentralization of development funds since councils are mandated to work with youth. Plan created the maps, but realized that the presentation of the data needed to be improved so it could be more easily interpreted for decision making. Plan chose to work with Development Seed due to their use of innovative technologies.
About You
Plan International USA
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Plan International USA

Organization Country

, DC, Washington, Washington

Country where this project is creating social impact

, XX, Okola, Ndop, & Pitoa

Age of Innovator

Under 18

Gender of Innovator


How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

*Named the 35th Best NGO in the World by the Global Journal
*A DevEx Top 40 Innovator for 2011 by our peers
*Top 15 Water and Sanitation NGOs in the world by our peers
*Top 50 Best Programs for Girls by Women Deliver
*INGO Accountability Charter Praised Plan for 'Good Practice'

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your innovation addresses? Choose up to two

Transparency, Equity.

Social Impact
What solution(s) does your initiative address to better the lives of girls and women by leveraging technology? (select all applicable)

Access to technology, Access to education/training, Policy change/advocacy.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

Thus far, the mapping exercise has already contributed to increasing youth engagement in the community development process. Together, girls and boys have successfully collected socio-economic data on infrastructure including roads, schools, and hospitals. By emphasizing how issues differentially impact girls, Plan has been able to engage boys and adult men in improving the status and treatment of girls in the community. For example, more girls have taken on leadership roles, local councils have raised the legal age for marriage to 18, and girls and women have been allowed to take part in decision-making bodies for the first time. Use of digital maps has allowed youth to understand how resources are allocated and identify areas needing more development funds from the local councils. The role of youth in the project has fostered their engagement in council budget meetings as well as in community projects.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

The project will allow girls to take on leadership and executive decision-making roles by generating a gender equitable environment that is conducive to open discourse between girls and boys. Data maps used in conjunction with social accountability tools will increase the efficacy of youth advocacy in order to yield greater local government attention, transparency, and accountability for issues impacting adolescents, especially girls. Cameroon’s decentralization policy makes local councils responsible for all issues relating to children’s and youth rights; thus, youth will be primed to take advantage of access to local leaders and to play a role in modernizing how local government works.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

While increasing transparency regarding government spending and service delivery in Cameroon is necessary to hold duty-bearers accountable, it does not ensure that accountability and subsequent improvements will occur. For this reason, the youth groups will be equipped with social accountability tools—such as community scorecards—to bolster their advocacy in local councils. Youth will also engage in community outreach to garner support from key community leaders. Additionally, since the digital maps will be updated regularly, the youth will be able to easily monitor progress in government initiatives.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

User-friendly visualization of data on a key issue

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Successful adaptation of new and improved mapping technology

Task 2

Comprehensive data mapping activities by youth

Task 3

Implementation of social accountability work with the community

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Successful uptake of the use of data and maps by local council members

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Advocacy to demonstrate the necessity of training/modernizing/transparency

Task 2

Conduct training of council members

Task 3

Memorandum of Understanding between council members and Plan to allow youth to continue their work

Tell us about your partnerships

Since Cameroon’s decentralization took effect, local councils are now responsible for the development of their municipalities. A Memorandum of Understanding will be signed between Plan and the councils in order to facilitate revenue streams from the government to the project. Plan will provide technical support in order to support the sustainability of the project. Local councils will also provide additional funds for specific activities for the youth. Additionally, the youth themselves have been trained on how to design micro-projects that will be funded by other NGOs and corporate bodies.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

Plan can provide support in any of its areas of expertise, including: community-based development, high level data collection, and child-centered approaches.