Can small Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) reap the benefits of GIS for their organisations and communities, or is it destined to remain an expensive tool, exclusive to big businesses? Alwyn Esterhuizen, Technical Programme Manager at Seriti Institute shares his thoughts on the matter.

In 2018, Seriti Institute launched “Seriti Solutions” , an initiative aimed at supporting likeminded social enterprises to work more effectively and efficiently for greater impact. “We soon realised that even though many CSOs could benefit immensely from Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping to enhance their business processes, they refrain from using it because they believe that GIS mapping is too difficult or too complicated for what they do.”

Nothing could be further from the truth than believing that GIS mapping is too complicated for any enterprise, big or small,” says Esterhuizen, a GIS mapping specialist.

GIS mapping is a powerful way to capture, visualise and analyse data in a way that helps us to understand and explain the relationship between the different factors that influence our projects.

The end result, organisations have a deeper impact by applying a scientifically grounded system.

Like Seriti Institute, most CSOs often have limited resources and cannot afford a “spray and pray” approach. GIS mapping is the perfect solution for this.

“At seriti we use GIS to inform our strategic vision for each project from the initiation stage right through to the operational and close out stages. We first use it to plan effectively and gain insight about where activities can be focused to optimise the allocation of our resources efficiently,” says Esterhuizen.

At its core, GIS looks at understanding the location of things and how everything is interlinked and connected to each other to develop a unique and inclusive approach that links every decision made. It helps management and stakeholders to monitor and evaluate projects more effectively, allows for more streamlined reporting and increases possibilities for learning and innovation.

“When looking at the world through the lens of GIS, where others see chaos, I see patterns, connections and intricate relationships,” Esterhuizen explains.

These patterns, connections and relationships translate seamlessly into easy to use dashboard representations and map-based reports.

“This is a great way to evaluate the impact of interventions and share progress with clients and communities”, he says.

Seriti has years of experience using GIS mapping for its own projects and helping other organisations map their projects.

“If your organisation has never considered investing in mapping for your projects, maybe its time you did. None of us can afford to ignore a solution that does so much to help bring focused interventions and real impact,” says Esterhuizen.