Make Place: an open-source mapping and survey tool

Design Futures

Abstract

Make Place is a versatile tool that’s used by researchers in community-based projects to map issues, opportunities, resources and points of interest.

Method

Make Place is a versatile tool that’s used by researchers in community-based projects to map issues, opportunities, resources and points of interest.

Takeaways

Hundreds of people have used Make Place to map things they care about in their communities. Most recently, it’s been used to match volunteers with NGOs in Lebanon.

Make Place is an open-source, online geographical survey tool for asking questions and displaying these answers on a map. It’s the mapping application that powers several of our place-based research projects, and it’s also been used in university teaching.

Make Place has lots of different uses, for urban planning projects, mapping services or surveying the community on future changes to the neighbourhood. To use Make Place, first create a map and a set of questions for people to answer, and then invite people to respond to these questions through the platform. There’s lots of different ways to answer these, with text, audio clips, photos and videos.

Each response you get generates a new pin on a map for other people to see and discuss, using the in-built mapping tools. You can also control exactly who can view, respond, comment or vote on your questions, and even use groups to pick selected users to participate. For example, you can make your maps private to ensure that only people you’ve invited can see it.

Make Place has been used with primary school children participating in a neighbourhood improvement project, cyclists advocating for better cycling infrastructure, evidence-gathering residents commissioning new air quality sensors, and undergraduate students leading an urban planning project. Most recently Sara Armoush, an Open Lab PhD student, is using Make Place with a public health organisation in Lebanon to pair volunteers, and NGOs to fulfill community needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How it works

Make Place allows you to ask questions and plot these answers as pins on a map. You can invite text or media-based responses to your questions, and design them entirely around the needs of your project.

The system is powered by an open-source online content management system called Silverstripe. If you’re interested in collaborating with Open Lab on making your own map, please get in touch.

To find out more, check out the original Make Place website, or browse through all the Make Place sites currently running.