Analysing volunteer engagement
in humanitarian crowdmapping


Phd Projects


Martin Dittus
University College London

Martin produced four empirical studies for the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), a novel crowdsourcing setting where thousands of volunteers produce maps to support humanitarian aid. How can volunteer capacity be built proactively, so that trained volunteers are available when needed? How important are opportunities for social encounter, either online or in person? HOT’s diversity of settings provided opportunities to observe the effects of different coordination practices. His evaluations of novel practices were informed by existing community concerns, and revisited existing theories in social and behavioural science in the context of HOT. He used statistical methods to analyse participation records across the full HOT contribution history.

The work has already achieved significant impact: all four studies have been published in major academic

venues, and one study has been awarded Honorable Mention at a top-tier conference. In addition, over time the work has lead to significant debate and reflection within the HOT community, and on more than one occasion it has already informed specific changes in organiser practice. The research demonstrated that coordination practices can have a marked impact on volunteer activity and retention. Complex task designs can be a deterrent, while social contribution settings and peer feedback are associated with a significant increase in newcomer retention, and event-centric campaigns can be significant recruiting events.