​​​​​Turn your dreams for a better world into real and measurable change

Join our community of world-changers and get access to my free resources that show you how to apply data, behavior change and game design techniques to your cause for the epic win.
How to use Google Maps to catalyze epic action
Google maps are a treasure trove of technological potential.

Most thing are related to a geographical place. Location, measured in latitude and longitude, is a key data point we can use to leverage the power of gamification.

Download The Gamified Earth Matrix for more ideas for how you can use gamification principles on maps.

Google Earth Outreach are a team at Google that specialize in helping environmental and social caused with their maps technology. 

What type of things can we do with maps?
> Do a heat map of waste data collected by garbage trucks so we can target specific locations for zero waste training.
> Color code your countries lakes and rivers by their pollution level to encourage social competition by different regions
> Map out the potential of roof-top solar of different districts and code by color. This makes it easy to see
> Color code the energy usage of each office building in a city. Apply a graduating 
> Overlap a google Map with a thermal sensor images to identify heat sinks.
Create an intensity map of cities with a color asigned to if they have municiple compost collection. Use it to influence non-compost-collecting cities to implement a program.
> Color code properties by air pollution status
> Compare any data set on immediately competing cities, such as the cities in the Bay Area: Marin, Oakland, Berkeley, Frement, South Bay, San Francisco, etc.

I've incorporated a more detailed tutorial about gamifying maps using Bay Area waste data in my online video course "Save the World with Gamification".

Why do gamification techniques work on maps?

> We are all subject to the law of social competition. We want to know that our city, town or street is doing better others. We can leverage collective commuity motivation to tackle big problems in order to outperform competing cities.

> Dislcosure of data can reap powerful rewards. Maps can be used to illustrate data trends.

The EPA's Toxic Release Inventory is a striking case study of the effect of disclosure on environmental behavior. America's total toxic chemical load decreased by 45% in only a few short years because of the simple act of asking business to disclose to the government what chemicals they were using. We can take this model a step further and add data to a map to tell the story, and encourage even more change.  Environmental data on Maps are kind of disclosure of information. 

Rebecca Moore from Google Earth team said in an interview with Time Magazine,

"Google Earth actually elicits emotion and compassion and makes people angry and drives action".

Can cities really be compeditive on environmental issues?
I think so. I have spoken with many city/council officials over the years and I have been suprizsed how naturally compeditive they are with neighboring cities/counties to outperform them. They intensly want to say things like "We outperform x city in recycling rates", "Our education scores are the highest in the state". I mean, who doesn't want to be proud of their home town? 

The most powerful example I've seen in regard to city competition is the 1 million pounds campaign, initiated by the mayor of Oaklahoma City.

What does this mean for Google Maps? 
If cities and organisation are able to be compeditive, we can use Google maps with a gamification theme in mind, and design to levege this motivation.

Why are we competing instead of collaborating?
A theme that is frequently raised in the context of gamification, is to question if these compeditive approaches might actually have a negative effect on the people involved. Will these leaderboards, ranks, colors and points turn people into angry knowledge-horders? Or maybe those will losing scores will become deflated and ashamed? Perhaps to compeditive spirit will rob people of their free flowing innovative ideas? 

These are all worthy objections to raise to gamification techniques. In some scenarios, this has found to be true and we need to be careful to avoid these pitfalls. However the majority of behavior studies, have foudn that gamification techniques lead to better performance.

The way I see it is that gamification is not really about competition, it's about disclosure. Each of the gamification techniques requires numbers about our cause. Gamification forces us to look hard at the data. it;s the effect of this disclosure, this transparency of data for all players, locations, people and teams, that drives the positive influence. 

The color coding, points and maps are just simple ways of making the data easier to understand, and more motivating to do something about.

Tips for making your Google map make change
> Be sure to utilize the "Russian dolls" approach to stategy, so you are linking your data to a specifc behavior
> Ensure your map is used as part of a call to action.
> Provide a table of data points with your map. 
> Make it pretty - you can adjsut the colors easily in all the Google Maps APIs.
> Don't just nerd, out, built a map, and just leave it there on the internet doing nothing. Make your map part of campaign for change! More of this in my course "How to Save the World" 

More public data, less rules
An interesting paper by Archon Fung's team from the Kennedy School at Harvard University illustrated a new kind of government - one that is based on data doing the heavy lifting, and pescribed and exacting policy to be dialed back. 

This concept is based on the theory of disclosure whereby we get the government to madate the public disclosure of data, in a way that is helpful.  Instead of writing complex and pescription rules for people or business to follow, we merely let the natural effect that public data has on us, do the work - this generally leads to more intelligent, innovate and faster results.

Find this kind of thing interesting? Join our community of world-changers and get access to my free resources that show you how to apply data, behavior change and game design techniques to your cause for the epic win.
Author: Katie Patrick
Katie Patrick is an environmental engineer and a designer. She helps sustainability professionals, entrepreneaurs and civic innovators to apply powerful techniques in data science, game design and behavioral psychology so they can make epic wins in environmental and social change. She lives in San Francisco with her little daughter Anastasia.
Download free things 
Let me help you get really good at changing the world.
Effective Action Checklist

Don't let these 42 critical points hold you back from your mission to save the earth.
Download >>

The Gamified Earth Matrix

Looking for ideas? Download this matrix of gamification features and environmental data indicators for new  insights into how to wrap gamification in to your project. 
Download >>

Top 3 Biggest Mistakes

Don't fall into the traps that many NGOs, start ups, and cities have made before you. Make sure you avoid these all-too-common mistakes
Download >>

Sign up for news and updates
I occasionally send out updates on projects I've been working on, interesting research, new startups. and events etc.
Your email will never be shared, sold, abused or sent annoying things that are not totally awesome.