#HOTLunch: Volunteer Your Lunch Break to Support Disaster Relief Efforts

#HOTLunch: Volunteer Your Lunch Break to Support Disaster Relief Efforts

Updated: March 29, 2018

#HOTLunch is an opportunity to volunteer your lunch break to map buildings, roads, and other features that NGOs use to plan aid efforts in response to natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

Introducing: #HOTLunch

The idea for #HOTLunch was borne of the fact that I wanted to schedule regular time where I could work on tasks for Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) and the Missing Maps project. I thought my coworkers may also be interested, so I shared the idea. Now Azavea has a monthly #HOTLunch, where employees can gather together to contribute to the needs of NGOs that respond to natural disasters and humanitarian conflicts.

We’re building momentum to turn #HOTLunch into a larger international community event.

We’re aiming to get individuals and organizations on board to volunteer their lunchtime (12:00PM local time) on the last Wednesday of every month.

What do I actually do during #HOTLunch?

Simply put, you trace features like roads and buildings on a satellite image basemap.

What does that mean? Here’s some background:

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is the Wikipedia of maps; contributors from all over the world add data to this publicly-available map. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team “applies the principles of open source and open data sharing for humanitarian response and economic development” – as part of their work, they coordinate efforts to put features within vulnerable communities in OpenStreetMap.

NGOs like the American Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders use the data to plan relief and aid efforts. Specific initiatives provide data to Humanitarian OpenStreetMap and the Clinton Health Access Initiative to drive planning efforts centered on malaria eradication interventions.

Tasks are prioritized in the HOT Tasking Manager. You can view a list of active project areas, information about the requesting NGO, and descriptions of the project needs.

Task manager, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), HOTLunch

The data you add to the map during #HOTLunch goes directly to to requesting NGO and is used to assist with navigation and planning.

Steps to Get Started

Missing Maps provides excellent resources for both volunteers and event organizers.

If you’re entirely new to mapping, watch these short how-to videos that Missing Maps put together – it only takes about 10 minutes to learn the ropes.

Missing Maps also provides a tabletop guide with step-by-step instructions. I modified the guide to include some extra tips, tricks, and space to write in task titles and tags.

Free open repository including editable copies of one-page guides.

#HOTLunch How-to Guide (follow the steps on the one-page guide to get started)

Feel free to use these documents for your #HOTLunch. If this is a group event, add the task information and tags to the open fields. You can download and edit the Adobe Illustrator versions of the guide to add task info or other details specific to your event. You could also print and laminate copies and write the task and changeset comment info in with a whiteboard marker.

HOTLunch Guide


Do I need to know about “mapping”?

No experience is necessary. Anyone with a passion for volunteering, philanthropy, or helping others can participate! Never heard about this before reading this post? Follow the steps above and you’ll be good to go.

I’ve mapped before, what else can I do?

An important part of the HOTOSM/Missing Maps process is validation. Every edit to OpenStreetMap is checked by an experienced mapper before they are finally committed.

You can learn more about the process of validation on the OSM Wiki page.

What you need to bring to #HOTLunch?

You will need a computer and internet access. Having a computer mouse is optional, but can make editing the map easier.

HOT Lunch would not be HOT Lunch without…hot lunch. Whether you can coordinate with your company to have lunch provided or bring your own leftovers from home, warm that food up and get ready to work!

Why participate in #HOTLunch?

  • Stretch a different muscle from your day job during lunch
  • Collaborate and learn with others as you help communities in need
  • No in-depth technical knowledge required – just bring a computer, follow the steps above, and get started mapping areas across the world
  • Go home feeling great at the end of the night – your contributions during #HOTLunch will help people receive relief and aid from organizations like The Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.

Do I need my employer’s permission to participate?

Well, I’m not going to make a blanket statement on this. But remember, the entire idea behind #HOTLunch is that you are volunteering your time to help NGOs get the data they need to plan and prioritize relief efforts in response to naturaI disasters or humanitarian crises. #HOTLunch is an effort to unify people who want to volunteer their lunchtime to contribute to tasks on the HOTOSM Task Manager.

It may be good to check with your employer before using a work computer, network, or space for #HOTLunch.

Is there a way to see who else is participating?

Take pictures and video of #HOTLunch and share them on social media using the hashtag. Volunteering for #HOTLunch alone today? Selfies are cool in this situation.

In the future, we could potentially set up a video platform to live stream #HOTLunch groups.

Why does Azavea support #HOTLunch?

Azavea is organizing and hosting #HOTLunch because it’s a great fit for our mission: we apply geospatial technology, data analysis, and research for civic, social, and environmental impact.

How to Participate in the Next #HOTLunch

#HOTLunch is at 12:00PM local time on the last Wednesday of every month.

Have specific questions or want to share info about your event with us? Reach me via Twitter or email.