TransforMap - a not so short introduction

(TransforMap Collective) #1

What if it were as easy for people to click on OpenStreetMap to find the nearest donation box to leave stuff to be used by others, the nearest fablab1 to build their own fair-phone, or the neighbourhood food-coop to provide the family with ecologically produced food, as it is for almost everybody today to check an online mapping service to find the nearest supermarket? Wouldn’t that be really transformative? What if maps really changed people’s life towards a socio-ecological transformation?

“There are plenty of alternatives” (TAPAs): maps are extremely powerful to make them visible. This is an insight TransforMap builds upon.

The challenge

Today there is no map that allows anyone to easily identify and directly benefit from transformative social innovations, either in their neighborhood or globally. While a new economy based on horizontal collaboration for the common good is emerging with the mushrooming of practices like sharing, repairing, bartering, co-producing, co-using, commoning, Transition initiatives, etc. – most of them aware of the limits to growth and the finiteness of natural resources – it is extremely hard to get an overview of this global transformation.
For common people and citizens as well as for researchers, these initiatives are often invisible: information is stacked in thousands of (sometimes) cryptic websites or an impressive number of (recent) maps – mirroring the different silos the communities and networks seem to be locked in.

Hence, almost every mapping initiative is mapping in non-connected layers – we have collected here around 200 maps connected to ideas of socio-ecological transformation. That is, for each field (e.g. urban gardening) we have scores of maps that are developed in parallel, in each region anew, based on different taxonomies (i.e. ways to categorize initiatives and allow filtering) and which repeat the same effort again and again. Tragically, there is no way for users to navigate from one to another or get an idea of what this “mushrooming of social innovations” actually looks like and how powerful they already are. Additionally the maps’ data is often locked in by Terms of Services from proprietary mapping platforms (namely: many mapping projects use Google Maps; that is, they give up their sovereignty over their data).
This setup has a two-fold effect: it leads to the constant reproduction of the silos mentioned above and it neither enables the adoption of alternative productive and creative processes or social practices, nor spurs synergies between the huge diversity of movements. As a result, many initiatives are abandoned when the initial energy runs out and the “the plenty of alternatives” remain marginalized, invisible. However, through a distributed, collaborative mapping effort, based on free and open platforms and technologies, the different communities of the socio- ecological transformation can overcome these shared problems.

The TransforMap answer

TransforMap is a collaborative answer to this challenge and its complexities. It aims to co-develop with users (common citizens as well as representatives of the different movements) the necessary tools and standards for free and open crowd mapping that allows for aggregating all those mapping initiatives in one map that can be navigated by neophytes. TransforMap is being developed by, and offers the opportunity to display ALL initiatives that belong to communities of practice approved by the wider TransforMap community.

It is important to note that the main part of TransforMap will be based on OpenStreetMap (, which is an open infrastructure free for everybody to use for whatever purpose. Therefore, we are currently designing a process that will allow us to co-opt new communities for display on the map with the goal of retaining only communities that share strong commitment to values of socio-ecological sustainability. To make sure corporate interests, green- or commons-washing initiatives and the like are discouraged from registering on the map we suggest/will use a simple mechanism: the taxonomy field “self description of a community” (where each project/ initiative/firm/location can self-identify as belonging to one of the different “tribes” of socio-ecological transformation) is the only mandatory one of the whole TransforMap mapping procedure. That is: if a project/initiative/firm/location/ group or whatever doesn’t make its social and ecological ambition transparent and is not connected at all with the goals of socio-ecological transformation it won’t be displayed. If the field (self-description of a community) is misused, the respective community will more easily spot the problem than the global OSM community.

The three core values these movements shall contribute to are:

  • Fairness
  • Freedom (including free knowledge, free infrastructures where “free” is meant “as in Freedom and not as in Freebeer” Richard M.Stallman, etc.)
  • Sustainability

As a collaborative network of networks, the TransforMap (meta)community will, on one hand, leave to each of its participating sub-communities (e.g. Solidarity Economy, Commons, Collaborative Economy, Transition Towns, Global Ecovillage Network, etc.) to define the criteria for being considered part of their communities. On the other hand, the fact that the item “self-description” of a community will be made mandatory (as described above) helps bring public awareness about and instigate feedback loops and self-control mechanisms. A certification mechanism on TransforMap could be envisioned in the future. Such a mechanism could help us integrate more communities (according to future developments in the alternative economies debate), if they are in line with the values mentioned above. We will guarantee that the TransforMap community takes a conscious and well-founded decision about the “who is in or out.”

At this moment, the following communities are considered part of TransforMap and included in the first Version of the TransforMap taxonomy (which is an open taxonomy):

  • solidarity economy
  • Transition Town Network
  • permaculture
  • demonetized economy
  • community-based currencies
  • commons
  • Economy for the Common Good (aka Gemeinwohl-Ökonomie)
  • collaborative economy
  • Global Ecovillage Network

TransforMap is a recent initiative that has developed an astonishing p2p dynamics, especially during the last 14 months. Below (in reverse order) is a list of events that led up to an intensive refinement process of the TransforMap proposal and initial test- mappings and that have helped us to make sure it can work internationally. We are about to move from a (mostly) German debate and initiative to a truly international one.

  • Beginning/ Fostering of International Networking activities via mail and mailing lists in February 2015
  • TransforMap Gathering and Open Space, 11-12 January, 2015, Potsdam/Berlin
  • Kick-off of TransforMap’s Berlin Circle, 5 January, 2015, Berlin
  • Elevate Festival 2014, first testmapping continues
  • Global MapJam 2014 by Shareable; insights are shared with TransforMap to develop a sheet for collection of data (given that the TransforMap entry mask can only be developed once the test-mapping process has finished its first round and the initial Taxonomy has been refined and accepted by the community)
  • 18.10.2014 Mapping Berlin’s transition towards a new economy
  • 19.10.2014 TransforMMMap : Federated tempospatial data
  • International Kick-off at Degrowth 2014
  • Unconference Session and Fringe Event at Open Knowledge Fest 2014
  • Intermediary presentations at OuiShare Summit 2014
  • Presentation at OuiShare Fest 2014
  • Central European Kick-off at Mapping Meeting Munich
  • Böll Foundation Workshop in Berlin with activists from the Collaborative Economy and Commons Movement in December 2013
  • Elevate Festival 2013 in Graz/Austria – first conceptual thoughts and technical tool testing
  • Commons Summer School 2013 in Germany – first conceptual thoughts

Planned in the near future:

  • Several decentralized international test-mappings involving local groups across various communities and countries (see details below)
  • We plan to both participate in decentralized events for concrete mapping activities together with the local groups mentioned above
  • Furthermore, we plan to participate in happenings like the OuiShare fests (next one to take place in Paris in May 2015) to build momentum around TransforMap.

###Current status:
TransforMap has been connecting with its first big partner networks (Shareable, Transition Network, ECOLISE, ESS Global, RIPESS, OpenGreenMaps and others), solidifying networking and interaction towards collaboration, and beginning the phases of “forming, storming, norming and performing“ together: initially, clarifying the aspirations of all parties, to solidify values and principles; and developing organizational and decision-making models to meet the challenge of multi- network collaboration.

The General Assembly, convened in Potsdam on 11-12th of January 2015, agreed on a working structure (see overview and details here It stressed the need to seek transparency and accessibility in its operations. We agreed to take decisions by consent in order to ensure collective decision-making while moving forward.

A recent grant by Böll Foundation (15k€) has helped us to solidify our communication and collaboration infrastructure and do first alpha testing of taxonomy and editing, up to the end of November 2014. As a result of the test feedback, the taxonomy categories were reduced from an initial six to three, our communication infrastructure was further developed with a forum, a task management interface, and a blog.

In May 2015, the first TransforMap global Mapjams “15MMM” (Mapping Month May) will bring together selected communities from different parts of the world, who partner with TransforMap and share the TransforMap vision to meet two goals:

  • contribute their views, experiences and needs – in conceptual, political and cultural terms – to the collective mapping effort of TransforMap to map alternative economies and social innovation.
  • push forward the test-mapping at a global level and start a feedback process for Transformap (in terms of taxonomy, improvement of the tools we offer so far, communication processes, etc.)

A list of places (subject to change) we’ve chosen for testmapping and partners or communities we want to work with during the 15MMM can be found in this thread.

The TransforMap coordination team (see governance structure) will make sure that there is good representation of the different communities at each test-mapping place, so that we get high-quality feedback.

The test-mapping will be done by using an online form (the Tranfortestionnaire) or by using the first beta prototype of the TransforMap mapping editor (currently in stage of final programming) based on the recently developed TransforMap taxonomy, with online discussions and feedback circles, to provide views and be engaged in the ongoing co-productive and iterative process for the rest of the year.

Objectives of the Global Testmapping Jam MMM Mapping Month May can be found in our MMM15 FAQ collection

TransforMap - a short introduction