Canberra MapJam 2014

Map jams have been happening around the world for the last couple of years, and Australian cities are getting on board. Canberra recently held its first map jam as part of the Changemakers Festival and the Second Annual Global Map Jam. It's the third Australian city to have a map jam, following Adelaide and Melbourne.
I was part of a group of sixteen people who came along to find out what these map jams are about and how they can help communities.

A map jam is a collaborative effort where participants add as many sharing community resources as they can to an online map, such as Google Maps. This is done in a short period of time and no technical knowledge is required.

Learning about the share economy
After fuelling up on coffee and snacks, we started with a brainstorming session on what sort of sharing community assets could be pinned to a map. Many attendees were new to the idea of the sharing economy, so there was a lot of discussion on what constituted a community-based sharing resource.

In practice this varies according the needs of individual communities, but a general definition is that a sharing resource enables people to obtain goods and services via sharing, lending, swapping, or renting instead of buying-to-own. These transactions are peer-to-peer, which means resource providers and recipients interact directly with each other, and can be for-profit or non-profit.

A community-based sharing resource is often characterised by collective ownership, non-profit structures, and social benefits for the community - such as enabling more efficient distribution of resources through re-use.   Examples include co-working spaces, car sharing services, community gardens, toy libraries and micro-finance providers.

Brainstorming ideas
Sharing services have been around long before currency was invented but technology has given these a twenty-first century facelift. The rise of online social networks, and the increasing technological sophistication of digital platforms supporting them, allow resource providers and recipients to interact on a much larger scale than before.

The problem with community-based sharing resources, however, is that they aren't always easy to find. Unlike large companies, they often lack funding to advertise and market their products. They have may have a limited online presence and rely on word-of-mouth referrals.

Map jams aim to solve this problem by making these resources more visible. People can easily locate shared services around them when they're displayed on a map as a centralised visual location. The maps can be used as a basis for further community development, such as Adelaide's Share N Save program and collaborative projects such as data mash-ups.

Our group was loosely divided into researchers, who used a combination of local knowledge and internet searches to find sharing resources, and mappers, who pinned items to the maps and ensured that the co-ordinates were correct.

Collaboration in action
The original plan was to map a variety of services across various sectors but community gardens turned out to be the most popular asset to map. This was a reflection of the interests of the attendees, many of whom are gardeners and interested in food sustainability.

Listing community gardens
 The one-and-a-half hours we had to map passed quickly and by the end of the session we had mapped just about all the community gardens in Canberra, along with a couple in Queanbeyan in New South Wales. We also squeezed in a non-profit affordable housing development company, an equipment modification service for the disabled and elderly, and a wikiversity.

The end result! (Map available at
The best thing about the map jam was the amount of collaboration and enthusiasm amongst strangers to build this map. At the end of the session, there was a lot of enthusiasm to continue mapping other community assets and to build a more comprehensive picture of what's available in Canberra.

Left to right: John Wells (facilitator), Clare Conroy (facilitator),
Allison Hornery (MC), David Pecotic (organiser)

How to get involved
If you'd like to know more about map jams in Canberra, contact David Pecotic at 

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