Young Professionals in Foreign Policy: Communicating About the Ongoing Famine

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Tonight I’m joining Young Professionals in Foreign Policy and USAID’s FWD Campaign for a discussion on the continuing crisis in the Horn of Africa. The Director of USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Mark Bartolini, will kick the event off with a keynote on the famine and USAID’s response. A panel will follow, which I’ll participate in to discuss the maps and data visualizations we developed as a part of the ongoing famine mapping work we’ve done with USAID, the World Food Programme, and ONE.org. Specifically I’ll highlight how critical data can be transformed into a map to become a powerful advocacy tool.

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USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah first announcing the famine maps at the Social Good Summit in New York City.

Tonight’s overall objective is to continue to advance the conversation around the famine that was declared last summer in the Horn of Africa. As a part of its response, USAID released a series of maps as an integral piece of the FWD (Famine, War, and Drought) Campaign to raise public awareness about the crisis. We worked with USAID to release these maps, as well as with ONE.org on its advocacy campaign *Where is the Hunger?* and the World Food Programme to map their on the ground response operations. Dec Update: Population in Crisis Edit descriptiona.tiles.mapbox.com

Latest Horn of Africa map showing the December 2011 food insecurity estimates

From spreadsheet to map

All of these maps leveraged open data made publicly available by organizations to tell the complex story of this crisis. Drought conditions, food prices, and conflict were compounding factors leading to the famine. The key to effectively communicating its extent and impact involved creating visualizations that packaged the data in a consumable way. Spreadsheets don’t do this. Maps, on the other hand, can be incredibly powerful in conveying who is affected and to what scale — two key pieces to communicating about the famine.

The Young Professionals in Foreign Policy event is tonight (Wednesday, February 15) from 6:30–8:30 pm. While it is currently full, there’s a waitlist for those interested in attending.

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