Transformap: crowd-mapping the transition

Transformap: crowd-mapping the transition

This guest post was written by Adrien Labaeye, member of core team and co-founder of Thinkfarm‘s transition>>lab in Berlin. TransforMap is a collaborative effort to bring on one map local initiatives such as community gardens, hacker spaces, repair co-ops, swap shops, transition initiatives and many others. The process started in 2014 as a commoning effort, building upon existing maps. Thanks to recent funding, technical development is now starting for a first prototype, to be completed in spring.

Accelerating sustainability transitions requires a wide movement from the bottom-up. The good news: it seems to have already begun. The bad news is that we don’t have any overview of what’s going on. Researchers and activists have started to map this movement, but they are doing so in a dispersed way: focusing on different geographical regions and on different themes (e.g. collaborative economy, transition, social and solidarity economy, commons, etc.). Sometimes data is visualized in nice maps (such as this or this one), sometimes just stacked in a PDF on a website corner. Always, it’s in a silo, disconnected from the rest. There is no license attributed to it so that others could reuse the data without asking.

We cannot rely on top-down knowledge systems to describe a bottom-up movement.

But we cannot afford to miss out on grassroots innovations that have the potential of delivering the fixes to the myriad of issues that contribute to un-sustainability. We cannot rely on top-down knowledge systems to describe a bottom-up movement. Too often, people with similar goals ignore each other in the very same city. We need to network the knowledge that is produced by various institutions, communities and individuals across borders. Only then can we accelerate transitions by networking (local) initiatives, passing experience, replicating successful models.

To address that issue, a collective of individuals and organizations initiated TransforMap in March 2014. The goal is to build a socio-technical infrastructure (including a map interface) to visualize the breadth of transformative initiatives: community gardens, repair coops, hacker spaces, fablabs, swap shops, community energy cooperatives, community supported agriculture initiatives, etc.

How do we want to that?

We are putting together the following:

  • a map visualization with search and filtering that you can embed in your website
  • a map editing function where anyone can add an initiative
  • a semi-decentralized backend infrastructure to source data from various locations including existing maps
  • a tool to compare ontologies (understand this as data structures) from different data sources in order to allow some aggregation
  • a forum to facilitate the community process for co-producing and governing the infrastructure

All this infrastructure is necessarily built using only open source software and geodata (from OpenStreetMap) to be forkable and improved by anyone at any time.

This means for a normal user the possibility to discover, search and add transformative local initiatives on a map. For communities this means having the possibility to share some of their data, and be visible beyond their public. For researchers this means contributing to and benefiting from a unique knowledge commons.

This process is seen as a commoning effort, where various actors collaborate to build an open source infrastructure and aggregate a shared pool of (linked) open data usable by anyone thanks to open licenses. Through this process we want to catalyze a discussion between various grassroots transformative communities (e.g. collaborative economy, transition network, commons, etc.) to develop a common language to describe innovative (and less so) local initiatives and how they contribute to a socio-ecological transition. In this process (sustainability transition) scientists can help facilitate that discussion and contribute to it with their current knowledge and vocabulary.

We aim at a working prototype in late spring 2016, so stay tuned! Whether you are an activist, a mapper, a developer, or a researcher interested in one of those topics, you are welcome to join the dance!

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This article was written by
Website: ICLEI Europe

I work as Governance & Social Innovation Coordinator at ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability. Based in Freiburg (Germany), I am a public sector believer, night train addict and a proud Varsovian. My role in the ARTS project is to coordinate our dissemination and social learning strategy which this very blog is a part of.

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. jon r at 11:46 pm

    Thanks a lot for this reblog! We appreciate any external recognition.
    Unfortunately most links in the post are broken by now.

    Of course you can find us at and Adrien at

    The other links are and

    If you want to get an in depth analysis of the process, have a look at

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