“I will map remote villages and schools in the outskirts of Kathmandu,” said a university student enrolled in an intensive workshop on Youth Leadership, Open Mapping and Sustainable Community Development. On June 24 and 25, 20 young leaders were motivated to use open data and civic technology to solve social problems during a new course designed by Kathmandu Living Labs and the University of California, Davis. Through practical trainings on OpenStreetMap and interactive lectures on youth leadership, sustainable community development and open mapping, diverse young leaders selected from academic and NGOs identified problems, key stakeholders, and developed action plans to solve the problem using open data and civic technology.
“There is my home where there is me and my mom. There is a transformer but no electricity, there is tap but no water, there is a sewage line going to the Bagmati River and here I am doing the cleaning campaign.” Though being blessed with such natural resources we face many problems. Shreya Manandhar, one of the participants of the course expressed her frustration about the situation of her home town during the activity “My Home Town” in which participants drew their home town and their issues on a cardboard paper.
“Youth are the present and the future and as a team are capable of solving any problem we face in our community.” With this belief, Dr. Jonathan London, Dr. Nancy Erbstein from University of California, Davis, and Dr. Nama Raj Budhathoki from Kathmandu Living Labs came together to design and offer this two-day course. We received over 80 applications and 20 were selected based on academic and/or professional experience, interest, enthusiasm, and gender and cultural background. From the very start it was clear that people had different interests, areas of expertise, and ideas to solve the problems in their community. The one thing that was common to all the participants was the need and desire to give back to their community. This desire was the driving force for the whole two-day summer course.
Whether it was “Where do I stand?”, “My Home Town”, “OpenStreetMap Hands-on exercises”, “Field Visits” or “Stretching”, participants enthusiastically participated in all the activities. The participants came up with many problem tackling ideas in various fields such as transportation, education, business, water pollution, unmanaged urbanization, tourism, public health, transparency, irrigation, agriculture, road conditions and developed action plans in which they defined a problem, identified stakeholders, exercised what maps and data they could use and explored the right mix of team required to address such problems.
In their own words, the participants were “Educated”, “Inspired”, “Empowered”, “Enlightened”, “Curious”, “Insightful”. These feedback inspired and motivated us as organizers as well. Some people say youths are lazy, unaware, carefree but this group of youth showed that they are aware about their surroundings, problems, and motivated to take a step towards the betterment of their community. The course ended with the celebration of the start of new relationships among the participants and the organizers and a hope for future collaboration. Young leaders and civic technology together, it is a powerful formula to solve social problems!