Ushahidi Wins MacArthur Award: Changing The World One Map At A Time

Beth Kanter | Beth's Blog | February 28, 2013

Recognizing remarkable creativity and effectiveness by non-profits across the globe, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation named 13 organizations as recipients of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. The Award, which recognizes exceptional grantees and helps ensure their long-term sustainability, provides each organization with up to $1.5 million, depending on the size of its budget.

I’m thrilled to see that Ushahidi was one of the organizations receiving this award. (Disclosure:  I’m on the board).

In early 2008, villages and cities across Kenya were ravaged with violence following the disputed re-election of the sitting Kenyan president. The election controversy became the pretext for ethnic clashes that displaced hundreds of thousands of people and claimed the lives of more than 600, some in grisly fashion.  An ad-hoc group of tech bloggers based in Kenya decided to do something about it.   They couldn’t solve the humanitarian crisis, but they could build a tool that could shine a light on human rights violations, bringing much-needed attention and support to developing emergencies. The tool was Ushahidi.  Usahidi means “bearing witness” in Swahili.

The purpose of the tool was to empower Kenyans to document and report on incidents in real-time, giving the media, governments, and relief organizations a true picture of what was happening on the ground. By aggregating texts, tweets, photos and descriptions from mobile phones, smart phones and desktops, Ushahidi created crowdsourced maps that made incidents of violence, election fraud, and abuse plainly visible on a broad scale.Since that catalytic moment in 2008, Ushahidi has grown into a mapping platform used in crises across the world, supporting 35,000 maps in 30 different languages...