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App of the Month: Improving Market Opportunities for Women

On March 8, we’ll be celebrating International Women’s Day with this year’s theme being Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world. This day also marks a call to action for supporting and advancing equality for women around the world. Levelling the playing field for women so that they can be independent and take on leadership roles is no small feat. Often, the efforts of non-profit organizations go unnoticed, and people miss out on the opportunity to see the changes and effects of the work they’re doing. March’s App of the Month, Improving Market Opportunities for Women (IMOW), is an ArcGIS StoryMaps story that showcases the amazing work one organization is doing to elevate agricultural sustainability in Myanmar.

For over 65 years, Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) has been creating business solutions to help address social and environmental challenges. Using ArcGIS StoryMaps, MEDA has shared the progress of their ongoing project, Improving Market Opportunities for Women (IMOW), which promotes the work of women in agriculture. IMOW helps improve the lives of women in Myanmar by strengthening their education, incomes and status.

A picture is worth a thousand words, a map is worth a million

What’s great about this story is the beautiful media that runs in parallel with descriptions of MEDA’s efforts to support women in Myanmar. Like any good story, it starts by providing background information that sets the tone and engages its readers. Not only did MEDA start off with an embedded video explaining what IMOW is and the work they do, they follow the video with maps and charts that identify where their project is situated and why their work is important. This illustrates the scope of their work in Myanmar.

Before I get into the maps, I want to emphasize the quality of each photo that accompanies the narrative for the story. MEDA’s high-quality photos grabbed my attention and kept it the whole time I was reading.

Aside from the quality, the strategic placement of photos alongside the narrative of MEDA’s story make great use of StoryMaps’s immersive blocks capability.

Why use immersive blocks? Well, not only do they look visually appealing and clean, but depending on which immersive block you use, you can enhance your reader’s interaction with your story or message. I highly recommend reading “Making the most of immersives”, a blog post in which Allen Carroll highlights what blocks to use and when to use them. In the post, he also provides some inspiring examples to help get your creative juices flowing.

As rare as it might seem for an international economic development NGO to map its data, MEDA has used dynamic maps several times in their story. For example, they’ve shown how dynamic maps have helped them locate key business partners and resources used for their program. Data are important for keeping track of progress on organizational goals and showing accountability. Taking the data and mapping it to provide a visual understanding to audience members is what makes this application so great. Below is an example of a map showing crop varieties for market linkages in Shan State.

I was excited to hear about the spatial analysis that MEDA plans to do in the future. With the data and map all compiled, I can predict that MEDA will do some predictive analysis (see what I did there 😉) to help with decision making, as the livelihood of many people who depend on agriculture will undeniably be affected by climate change.

The next logical step

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably accessed PDFs on an organization’s website before. These PDFs help you understand the programs and projects they’re working on. At MEDA, they’ve taken that one step further by using an ArcGIS StoryMaps story to share their program and project in a more engaging way, which I find really reflects the progressive and innovative work that MEDA does internationally. As Mujtaba Ali, a technical specialist at MEDA, shares, “Any international project involves numerous stories, lots of data, photos and maps. With ArcGIS StoryMaps, we were able to share a resource that MEDA already has but presented in a much more engaging way.”

The feedback MEDA received has been great and has created a buzz within the organization. Other staff at MEDA are also looking to create stories so that they can share information on their programs and the work they do. Another benefit of stories is their sharing and collaboration capability. Members of an organization can edit and publish stories together. In MEDA’s case, they were able to bring together staff from headquarters and field staff in Myanmar. Using the web, they can collaborate anytime and anywhere in the world. Isn’t this great? You can find more information on coauthoring a story or a collection in the ArcGIS StoryMaps resource document.

I want to wish everyone a happy International Women’s Day. Hopefully this App of the Month can motivate more organizations to leverage stories and share the amazing work they’re doing.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here