Blog Post by Gillian Miswardi

As part of an InSTEDD Global Communications Internship, I had the wonderful opportunity to engage in developing InSTEDD’s youth led digital mapping initiative. The initiative started in 2011 with a youth mapping in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, led by UNICEF and in partnership with the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science and InSTEDD. During my internship, I helped explore replication of the youth-led program in Southeast Asia. The chance to be a part of developing a social impact project served as a fantastic opportunity to experience the life cycle of project development.


A rural family that we met during our field trip to Kratie, Cambodia

Understanding Needs and Opportunities

In the beginning stages of my internship, I was tasked with developing a concept note which included finding out why Southeast Asia would be an ideal place for adaptation. I caught up on the program’s latest activities, reading an OpenIdeo proposal and reviewing a 2015 program retrospective design meeting that InSTEDD completed with support from Cisco CSR and CEDAPS. Also, I completed online journals research, discovering that since 2011, there has been increasing smartphone coverage in Southeast Asia and use a positive trend for youth mapping feasibility.

Understanding how our idea fit in with the daily practices of an affected community would be central to thinking through adaptation of the program. During my internship the iLab Southeast Asia had a planned visit to the rural Kratie Province of Cambodia with the UNICEF field office to perform a needs assessment and planning trip. Through their site visit I was able get interviews completed with our target beneficiaries on how information about floods were scarce and how natural disasters affected their livelihoods. Such insights allowed me to evaluate their understanding of the field and ensure their background research is supported by direct evidence from the end-users.

Learning Why Partnerships matter

With the research phase completed, I proceeded with a review of partners to see who could assist in providing the resources and implementation support to replicate the program. The stakeholder exercise indicated that collaborations are essential to most international development projects. While the research trip answered a lot of questions for us, forming InSTEDD’s partnership with UNICEF and the local youth serving organizations in Cambodia were an essential step towards advancing the youth mapping program. It was not just about finding any partner to work with, but rather the partner with whom a long-term impact could be made.

Finding potential partners who could financially fund the activity was the next step. With each sponsorship partner that the iLabSEA considered, I could see the various paths the project could take. Partnering with a local commercial company gives access to the previously unknown networks but could also render the project more commercialized. On the other hand, working together with another international organization could sacrifice some of the in-depth country knowledge, but could bring greater prominence to the project.

Through the early stage partnership building process, I learned that resource mobilization for a program is a longer than imagined process, and could take months or years to bring to fruition. I could see that taking the time to form partnerships was naturally important, as establishing the best partnership allows for greater awareness of needs, better collaboration between individuals, and more synergy between organization goals.

Remaining Open and Adaptable

Towards the end of my three-month internship, it was clear that funding for the youth mapping in Southeast Asia would take some more months to develop. Rather than posing a challenge to the end of my internship, such a scenario presented an opportunity as well. Before considering adoption for the youth mappers program for rural settings like Kraite, the program had only been completed in the urban setting. To adapt it to the rural areas, the team came up with a new idea to implement an emerging technology, flying drones, into the youth mapping program. A new theme for the program also emerged. Rather than just risk mapping, it became apparent that resiliency was a recurring priority. As such, we saw how digital mapping had the potential to locate social and environmental threats and vulnerabilities to increase resiliency.

As it turned out, the research I had completed and the Kratie visit produced insights on resilience became useful information for a new iLabSEA ICT4D Solution Incubator initiative. The partnerships we had formed could be engaged in the incubator for the generation of new ideas and their design. In the past few months, I have gotten a glimpse of what it is like to develop a social impact project. The new iLab SEA incubator project in Cambodia is still in its nascent stages, and I am excited to see how it turns out. I will also follow to see if the youth mapping gets adapted in Southeast Asia.

For more information on InSTEDD internships visit: