WHO IS SANDRA SUDHOFF?
Sandra Sudhoff is Technical Manager at CartONG, a French NGO that enables emergency relief and development organizations and local governments to manage their own existing data, integrate other data sources and then use that data to plan programs and monitor progress and impact.
Sandra has worked for CartONG for nearly eight years, facilitating mobile data collection with Android phones; implementing remote and thematic mapping projects; developing e-learning and screencast capabilities for GIS applications, and developing information management and GIS UN Cluster Coordination and products.
In addition to her work as Technical Manager of the organization, she has undertaken field work in Kenya, Djibouti, Bangladesh, India, Lebanon, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malaysia and Uganda.
You can connect with Sandra here:
IN TOR 030 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- The importance of mapping, and spatial information systems, in development projects.
- Sandra’s account on the fast evolution of mapping technologies and solutions for project development and field work, and the inherent complexities that will remain, ensuring work for cartographists in development for years to come.
- The particular ways in which CartONG partners with organizations, and the specific management style Sandra brings to the table.
- The new complexities of having faster tools, more data and a huge online community of mapping volunteers. Not everything is better this way.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- CartONG http://www.cartong.org/
- UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
- Spatial Information Systems
- Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
- Ebola outbreak
- Mobile technologies
- Open Source
- Refugee camps
- Data collection and mining
- Survey design
- Freiburg, Germany
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
Management and technical duties.
7 years ago maps were not widespread.
Thematic maps were needed, with numbers and information relevant to projects.
Important among other things for emergency planning.
Mapping is complicated to produce, and to understand, although less today.
Today’s phones and data mining processes are used to enrich maps.
But organizations don’t go far in mapping analysis, despite the value.
Complexity needs to be dealt with.
Organizations have some pieces of the geographical puzzle but relent to share even though everyone would benefit.
Power of story
Uganda, large project. People had trouble moving around. The government did not want maps to track, but they realize maps could help them strategize police position.
Ebola in Guinea. At the beginning there were no maps. Quickly a crowd of online volunteers filled in the gap through OpenStreetMap, to house level. Now they plan intervention.
GIS and how technical cartography is
Small NGOs do Open Source, larger ones have proprietary systems. CartONG adapts to both.
Their roles on projects are specific and tend to be small, it allows them to handle several.
Organizations are more interested in having their own data warehouses and visualization technologies that can be easily embedded into reports.
Sandra is on parental leave.
Her thesis mapped out a Mozambique community.
’00 Victims are introduced to maps, they responded very well.
Back to Europe, Sandra enrolls in a Master on GIS.
Joins UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Camps in Thailand, approaches humanitarian field. Project manager from the start, eventually took on more technical duties.
The thesis was not intended to get that job, but it happened.
“People in development feel it’s not moving fast enough.” Goes to private sector.
Hard climbs in development
Before that she worked on a couple of projects.
Sandra comes back to Europe, joined private sector.
But CartONG founder asks her to come, work in Uganda. Something finally resonated.
“My parents have trouble grasping what I do.” Work does change all the time.
In data collection, agreeing on the question, the data. It becomes a matter of finding the right workflow.
Nutrition surveys. People have hard times about frames: some want to know the day before, others the past 7 or 30 days, but those are hard to answer.
People want to take shortcuts, bundling questions: “Did you feed your baby by breastfeeding her or him yesterday?“
Questions often fail to cover for subjectivity.
Fundraising, subcontracting, stability
Other organizations ask for them, either once funding has been approved or to write a proposal together.
It is difficult for organizations to deal alone with localization mapping, spatial information management and systems.
“We don’t really implement programs by ourselves.“
Funding is still a challenge for ‘not so big’ organizations, even after years. Overheads are always on the line, donors change, there are trends and fads.
An administrative assistant, but Sandra does the bulk of work.
“We try to do most of the work in house.” They also have consultants for highly specific or novel subjects.
Consultants need to be persuaded to collaborate, they are not used to team work. But teams are more efficient.
Metaphorical natural disaster
UNHCR. Analysis of already collected data, and a troublesome project manager. CartONG manages to move forward after tons of revisions. The project manager still does not like it. Last day of the year he wants something entirely new. But the project was over. There was no communication throughout.
“Get some field experience under your belt. Emergency situations are not necessary, often not a good idea.“
Be interested in different cultures, ways of living.
Professional credentials are also necessary, “but everyone has those.“
Be flexible, speak several languages. “The harder to learn, the better.“
Please share, participate and leave feedback below!
If you have any feedback you’d like to share for me or Sandra, please leave your thoughts in the comment section below! I read all of them and will definitely take part in the conversation.
If you have any questions you’d like to ask me directly, head on over to the Ask Stephen section. Don’t be shy! Every question is important and I answer every single one.
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