The Tool

The Sketch Map Tool is an easy-to-use tool for participatory sketch mapping through offline collection, digitization and georeferencing of field data. The tool is designed to simplify the collection and analysis of local spatial knowledge for the sake of engaging non-experts in these processes.

It can for example be used by local stakeholders to engage communities in gathering information about their experience and perception of previous flood events or other hazards in their neighbourhood. Thus, the tool can support risk assessments, the design of risk reduction measures, or communication by increasing risk awareness among citizens.

The Sketch Map Tool is an open-source web application with several functions, including the creation of paper maps of an area of interest, the uploading of pictures and scans of the marked Sketch Maps, the colour-detection of the markings, and the downloading of the results in multiple geodata formats. The tool uses computer vision methods to extract Sketch Maps from photos and detect markings on them. The results can then be used for further analysis in a Geographic Information System software. In addition, the tool can evaluate how well-suited an area is for participatory mapping based on a quality analysis of the OpenStreetMap (OSM) base map data through the HeiGIT ohsome quality analyst.

Learn more about how to use the tool in the Learning Material section below or on the Help page!

SketchMap Preview

The Project

The Sketch Map Tool project has been developed in close cooperation between the HeiGIT and the GIScience Research Group from Heidelberg University with the generous contributions of several sponsors and support by partner organizations.

The first prototype of the tool has been created within the Waterproofing Data project. The project T2S Waterproofing Data has been financially supported by the Belmont Forum and NORFACE Joint Research Programme on Transformations to Sustainability, co-funded by DLR/BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research) as part of its Social-Ecological Research funding priority, ESRC/Global Challenges Research Fund (ES/S006982/1), FAPESP and the European Commission through Horizon 2020. The tool has been tested by different organizations in Germany, Chile, Brazil, Mozambique and Madagascar in recent years. Thanks to the support of the German Red Cross and the financial contribution of the German Federal Foreign Office within the frame of the Globalprojekt II ,,Stärkung und Weiterentwicklung der Internationalen Humanitären Hilfe und des Internationalen Humanitären Systems", the Sketch Map Tool has been improved and extended in order to make it available for usage by the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and similar organizations.

As part of the HeiGIT tools, the Sketch Map Tool will be tested in other settings to gather user feedback. Its functionalities will be further developed and adjusted to fit the needs of the humanitarian and development sector.

If you have questions or would like to provide feedback, please reach out to the project team (→ Contact).

Picture of a group mapping situation.
Group Mapping. Waterproofing Data Project. C. Klonner, June 2019

Former and current Sponsors and Partner Organisations

Logo German Red Cross GIScience Research Group Heidelberg University Logo german humanitarian assistance Logo FONA Logo BMBF Logo Belmont Logo Norface

Learning Material

Detailed Step-by-Step Instructions about how to use the tool and FAQs can be found on the Help page.

The code of the Sketch Map Tool is released on GitHub ( ).

If you would like to learn more about the idea behind the approach and development of the Sketch Map Tool, you can watch the video of the lightning talk “OpenStreetMap Sketch Map Tool - The Future of OpenStreetMap Field Papers” at GeOnG 2020.

Video preview image for Lightning Talk about Sketch Maps at GeOnG 2020

Additionally, you can listen to Episode 7 ,,Mapping in der Humanitären Hilfe” of the Podcast CHAtroom (in German). In this Podcast of the CHA (Center for Humanitarian Action) Dr. Natascha Bing (GRC - German Red Cross) and Dr. Carolin Klonner (GIScience Heidelberg) discuss the role of maps in disaster management and the possibilities of using the Sketch Map Tool in humanitarian organizations.

Related Publications

The following scientific articles have been published about Sketch Maps and the Sketch Map Tool:

Article preview image Klonner, C., Hartmann, M., Dischl, R., Djami, L., Anderson, L., Raifer, M., Lima-Silva, F., Degrossi, L. C., Zipf, A., de Albuquerque, J. P. (2021): The Sketch Map Tool Facilitates the Assessment of OpenStreetMap Data for Participatory Mapping, 10(3): 130. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information. 10:130.
Article preview image Klonner, C. & Blessing, L. (2019). Gathering Local Knowledge for Disaster Risk Reduction: The Use of Sketch Maps in Group Discussions. In: Proceedings of the ISCRAM 2019 Conference. Valencia, Spain, pp. 1397–1398.
Article preview image Klonner, C., Hartmann, M., Djami, L., Zipf, A. (2019). Ohsome OpenStreetMap Data Evaluation: Fitness of Field Papers for Participatory Mapping. In: Proceedings of the Academic Track at the State of the Map 2019. Heidelberg, Germany, pp. 35-36
Article preview image Klonner, C., Usón, T. J., Aeschbach, N., Höfle, B. (2021). Participatory Mapping and Visualization of Local Knowledge: An Example from Eberbach, Germany. In: International Journal of Disaster Risk.


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