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Sample NewsAtlas page showing local restaurant ad.

Idea acf1451:

Social Enterprise: NewsAtlas & Mapadit

Posted October 19, 2009

  • Posted by: Janelle Martin
  • Location: O-Connor-Teesdale communities, Toronto, Ontario
  • Category: Have other ideas
  • Cost: Big ($50,000 – $250,000)

Using collaborative geomatics and other social networking tools, the Centre for Community Mapping (COMAP) establishes innovative and sustainable virtual communities that share, discover, and publish information of local relevance. Unlike Google mapping systems, which allow volunteered but random posting of mapped information, COMAP’s mapping systems provide tools which enable collaborating communities to organize and maintain mapped information. COMAP uses geo-web social media services, creating partnerships between civil society and local business to create rich, multi-layered map-based content with local advertising.

The Idea

Ads from local businesses are displayed, supporting our social enterprise (Mapadit) to build and sustain healthy communities, with 50% of funds going back to the community services, and the balance going to COMAP to defray the direct costs of service and further enhance/develop systems. In this way, the reach of Mapadit marketing and advertising will be extended by engaging community volunteers as a sales force and provide a new source of revenue for non-profit organizations.

For example, people interested in visiting Muskoka, patronizing commercial services in Toronto or booking accommodation for the 1812 bi-centennial will be able to view ads on the map and connect with local accommodation, restaurants, retail outlets etc. Visitors to the website win because they find useful information. Advertisers win by having their ads displayed alongside wanted content. Participating community organizations win by having additional funds to carry out their work.

The content attracts users to use the site and advertisers pay to display their business services, rewarding the community organizations for providing important services to the community.

The Project

Beginning as a community asset mapping initiative by Family Service Toronto in the O'Connor, Teesdale and Crescent Town neighbourhoods in Toronto, NewsAtlas will provide: entertainment, arts, sports and recreation content, lifestyle and spiritual content with mapping and event calendars. NewsAtlas will be available to community groups and service agencies at no charge, making the technology accessible to all and leveling the playing field for those groups with minimal resources.

The long term sustainability and expansion of NewsAtlas and other COMAP services relies on Mapadit, a social-enterprise advertising services that funds community and local economic development as well as COMAP’s services. Once piloted in Toronto, the service will be offered in other communities.

An example

Recent Scarborough newcomers, Deepak and Sujata live between Warden Ave and Victoria Park, just south of St. Clair Avenue East. Deepak and Sujata have a newborn baby girl Rani and a six year old boy, named Ramesh.

While Deepak has the equivalent of an Ontario college degree in computer network maintenance, his lack of ESL has meant that, while he is improving his language skills, he works in sales at the Bangla Town Super Market.

The Barruas have rented out the spare room in their apartment to Farah, a student who spends her time studying or attending classes at the Madinah Masjid. The Baruas can use Farah’s computer as they share the cost of Internet access. While Rani is sleeping, Sujata keeps up to date with her email and builds her social connections on NewsAtlas. Even though she has been a resident for just ten months, NewsAtlas has opened the door to a new life.

The Baruas used NewsAtlas to locate support services such as: employment programs, training, ESL, settlement services, childcare, family support and parenting programs. Theirs is a community where many people are starting out, have lower incomes and lack the resources to address some of the challenges they face. NewsAtlas has directories and mapping for support services in Bangla, Urdu, Hindi, Nepali and other languages.

NewsAtlas is actually a web-based local newspaper where Sujata can find out what newcomers are doing in Teesedale. Through other parents at Regent Heights Public School, Sujata joined the NewsAtlas social networks, quickly discovering other Bangladeshi women from her district that share her dialect. Through her new friends Sujata also discovered volunteer work, now volunteering with Woodgreen Community Centre's senior’s day program to work with Bengali seniors.

Sujata found work for Deepak at the Bangla Town Super Market after seeing their ad looking for reliable sales personnel to work with their customers. The Bangla Town Super Market advertises on the NewsAtlas Mapadit service with their weekly specials and occasionally job openings.

A NewsAtlas calendar event announced a community flea market. Sujata volunteered to manage a booth where mothers can swap clothing. Sujata is glad to pass on Rani’s infant clothing and hopes to find a new set of clothing for Deepak as his store clothes are wearing thin.

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