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Telling stories with maps: New animated map highlights efforts to bring clean water to communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon

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Tuesday, April 1st 2014
| New York, NY

Telling stories with maps: New animated map highlights efforts to bring clean water to communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon

March 26, 2014, New York, NY: Digital Democracy has partnered with the ClearWater Project to create a cutting edge interactive map that tells the story of indigenous communities of the Ecuadorean Amazon. Following years of oil contamination, local leaders have banded together to build rainwater catchment systems as a source of clean drinking water. The map brings together photographs, stories and satellite imagery to guide the user along an animated journey of ClearWater’s work to bring clean water to thousands of people in the Ecuadorian Amazon. View the map at

“We wanted to challenge the current limitations to telling narrative stories through online maps,” said Gregor MacLennan, chief architect of the site and Program Director for Digital Democracy (Dd). “The stories are part of the map, rather than the other way around. When ClearWater local staff update a Google spreadsheet with GPS points and photos, their work is immediately visible to funders and supporters around the world.”

The ClearWater map shifts the usual way in which online readers view maps. Stories are connected along a narrative arc that guides the user through the communities and the featured stories. The website uses cutting edge web technologies to push to the limits what is possible in online mapping.

“This groundbreaking online map allows people around the world to visualize the life of indigenous communities in the western Amazon who inhabit a shifting frontier between wild rainforest and industrial development,” said Mitch Anderson, International Director of ClearWater. “At a time when industry is causing untold damage to indigenous peoples and our planet's last wild places, this technology serves as a sort of redemptive tool of globalization, using cutting-edge interactive technology and storytelling to highlight the threats communities face, and the solutions they’re building.”

The interactive map is part of Dd's Remote Access Program, funded by a Knight Foundation News Challenge grant, which focuses on building tools to help communities in remote/off- the-grid areas to more easily gather, manage and share information about human rights and environmental abuses. In addition to collaborating with ClearWater in Ecuador, Dd is piloting new tools with indigenous communities in Peru, Guyana and Mexico.

“At Digital Democracy, we believe that new technology tools can and should be used to amplify marginalized voices, helping local communities tell their own stories about the threats they face," said Emily Jacobi, Dd's Executive Director. “This map is a tool for ClearWater’s local team to directly share their stories with supporters around the globe.”

Digital Democracy: Empowering marginalized communities to use technology to defend their rights 

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