Volunteering with MapAction

Based in the UK with a band of 70 or so volunteers and a handful of permanent staff, MapAction is an international disaster mapping charity working to ensure humanitarian responders have access to the maps and data they need to save lives and relieve suffering. 

MapAction has received long term support from the OS since 2006. In addition to donations, OS also allows employees who are MapAction volunteers to take 10 days volunteer leave. 

OS and MapAction have also worked closely on influencing the international agenda at the UNGGIM (United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management), successfully lobbying for the availability of crucial geospatial data in the aftermath of a humanitarian disaster. 

Having just been presented with MapAction’s Volunteer of the Year 2019 award by founder David Spackman, OS employee Steve Hurst shares his volunteering experience…

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#GetOutside on a volunteer day

Everyone at OS can use a paid volunteer day to help local community projects or support the corporate charity. Our Glasgow team got together to continue their outdoors lifestyles and support Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park. The team explain more…

Just after dawn eight willing volunteer surveyors, past and present, travelled from all points West, forming up in a remote part of Renfrewshire, within Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park. We met up with Haylie, our dedicated Park Ranger, at the park centre. She told us how the park provides daily and weekly outdoor learning opportunities for local schools and disability groups. And, how the Country Park secured funds from local and national businesses to fund small projects. During the day we were shown a new ‘dipping’ pond built after securing £10,000 from a national supermarket. When completed, a boardwalk will provide wheelchair access, an excellent addition to the park.

Some of the team at work

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OS takes up the volunteering and charity challenge

Each year everyone at OS has the chance to nominate, and then vote for, a corporate charity which the organisation then supports for the next 12 months. This year we selected Solent Mind, local to our Southampton head office, as the corporate charity, and fundraising is already underway. In addition, our regional field teams can nominate and support a charity local to them. Each of us also has the opportunity to take a volunteer day, to support our corporate charity, or any other charity of our choice.

This year, we’ve already seen a wide range of activities as teams and individuals get involved in fundraising activities, or taking their volunteer days to give something back to local communities. Take a look at some of the recent activities:

Last month a team of 10 Scottish Region surveyors cycled from Bowling to Grangemouth, 35 miles, along the Forth Clyde Canal towpath. The team were fundraising for Scottish Mountain Rescue and Cancer Research UK.


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In praise of mountain rescue

RescueMainland Britain is home to some 94 mountains – which in this example are those that have been identified having a relative height of 600 metres or more. When taking into account the smaller Marilyns (which have a relative height of at least 150 metres), the total grows to a staggering 1,551.

All this makes for a huge area for Brits to get out and explore. There’s the attraction of taking in some breathtaking views from the summit, not to mention the practice of so-called ‘munro bagging’, where avid climbers tick off mountains they’ve scaled in a bid to cover them all. Read More


Doing good with data

Today’s guest blogger is Jack Harrison, a Product Development Data Engineer with us at Ordnance Survey. Jack recently volunteered as a Data Ambassador at the UK’s first DataDive and tells us about the day.

DataKind are a US organisation that work to connect non-profits with pro bono data scientists. They have recognised the serious and challenging data problems that many third-sector organisations face, and also that there are a wealth of data professionals who are itching to work on big, important problems that don’t involve improving advertising effectiveness.

They do this through a number of channels, but one of the most effective methods has been through running a DataDive, a hackday-style event that brings organisations with data problems together with volunteer data scientists over a busy weekend. These events have proved hugely popular in the States, and last month the UK chapter of DataKind ran its inaugural dive in London.

Four charities were in attendance: Oxfam, HelpAge International, Hampshire County Council and Community and Voluntary Action Tameside (CVAT).

  • Oxfam had a huge number of datasets related to food security, and were looking to start identifying the drivers of worldwide food prices for different commodities.
  • HelpAge had produced a global index that quantifiably showed how ageing populations were faring in countries around the world, but they had no idea how to tease out the stories from their data and communicate them to the wider public.
  • Hampshire County Council had a number of historical datasets around children with special needs across Hampshire, and was trying to better predict where public money needed to be invested in order to provide for future needs.
  • Finally, CVAT, who manage funding and training for hundreds of community and volunteer groups across Tameside and Greater Manchester, brought the results of a large survey they had taken across their borough in order to quantify the big issues and constraints amongst their volunteers.

As anyone who has worked with data will attest, 90% of the problem is often getting the data into a clean and usable format. This can be a huge blocker for events such as DataDives, as eager volunteers wait hours for a few individuals to process the non-profit’s data. To alleviate this, DataKind ask for a number of volunteers with a little more time to act as Data Ambassadors, working closely with their assigned organisation in the weeks leading up to the DataDive to get their problem and data as ready as possible. I was one of three Ambassadors working with HelpAge, and we met several times to help them with their requirements and data in order to maximise their chances of success for the event.

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Putting Foxbury on the landscape

Last week a team of outdoor enthusiasts from the Ordnance Survey Research Department rolled up their sleeves to help the National Trust raise the profile of a newly opened area of the New Forest National Park.

The team were given the challenge to create a huge sign saying ‘Foxbury’ from cut birch logs on a hill side in the New Forest National Park. The hillside sign will publicise the 370 acre area of the New Forest National Park that has been acquired, and is now being managed by, the National Trust. The Foxbury area was formerly a plantation and was about to be turned into landfill when the National Trust stepped in and rescued it. The area is now being restored to heathland and deciduous woodland, and a dedicated recreation space for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

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