URISA to Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of GISCorps
Twenty years ago, URISA’s GISCorps was endorsed as a URISA program to coordinate short-term, volunteer-based geographic information systems (GIS) services to underserved communities worldwide. GISCorps has approximately 10,000 registered volunteers from 159 countries. Since October 2003, 350 missions have been launched in 83 countries and more than 3,000 positions have been filled by GISCorps volunteers. Thus far, these volunteers have contributed over 98,000 hours to these projects.
How does it work? A partner agency (typically an NGO or nonprofit organization) submits a detailed online request for short-term GIS support and services. GISCorps project managers evaluate the request and then query the volunteer database for individuals who best meet the necessary qualifications to complete the task. GISCorps also occasionally supports government agencies, social enterprises, or businesses undertaking a project for urgent disaster response or humanitarian purposes when the work cannot be accomplished by other means.
Shoreh Elhami, founder of GISCorps, has led the program since its inception. She notes, “GISCorps’ amazing growth and success is due to its devoted and selfless volunteers. In GISCorps, they found an opportunity to learn, network, and most importantly, give back and do GIS for Good. I’ve been in awe of their dedication and humbled to work alongside them for the past twenty years.”
During the past two decades, GISCorps volunteers have contributed to a variety of projects that:
• Support humanitarian relief.
• Support human rights relief.
• Enhance environmental analysis.
• Encourage economic development.
• Support community planning and development.
• Support health and education activities.
• Strengthen local capacity to adopt and use information technology.
• Benefit communities in need, GISCorps volunteers and their communities, GISCorps Partner Agencies and their affiliates, and the URISA community.
In the early years, projects were likely to be ‘on the ground’ and volunteers traveled to the location. More recently, with technology advances, the majority of projects are completed remotely, allowing for a greater number of potential volunteers and projects.
Some notable projects over the years:
• GIS support following the Indonesian tsunami
• Four response and recovery deployments to Mississippi and Louisiana following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005
• GISCorps volunteers assist World Health Organization in mapping Ebola response activities
• GISCorps volunteer assists in launching an ArcGIS Online portal for the World Federation for Coral Reef Conservation
• GIS conservation training for the Southern African Wildlife College
• Creation of the Global Midwives Hub site
• COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination Sites Data Creation Project
Spend some time reviewing the projects and impacts that have been realized through URISA GISCorps volunteers: https://www.giscorps.org/our-projects/
Ashley Hitt, president of URISA, is pleased to celebrate GISCorps. She noted, “GISCorps is the epitome of servant leadership. On behalf of the URISA Board of Directors, I want to recognize GISCorps' 20 years of service and all of the amazing work of the volunteers, the core committee, and the continued support from Shoreh as GISCorps founder. I am so grateful for her vision to promote GIS for good, engaging the geospatial community to lend their time and skills to such important work around the world!"
The program is administered almost entirely by passionate leadership and volunteer energy. As a 501c3 charitable organization, donations to help fund day-to-day operating expenses for URISA’s GISCorps are tax-deductible.
GISCorps will be celebrated during the awards breakfast on October 18 at URISA’s GIS-Pro annual conference in Columbus, Ohio. A silent auction to raise funds for GISCorps will follow that event.