Designing New Tools for Mapping Open Defecation

November 14, 2012

Another Hackathon Closer to a Cleaner Kumasi's Molly Norris describes how the second #crapmap hackathon moved her design team closer to a working open-source digital protype designed to achieve community-led total sanitation in urban Ghana.'s Molly Norris and her hackathon team. Another-hackathon-closer-to-a-cleaner-kumasi-2-2

The final minutes of our second hackathon ticked off the clock and I was faced with a conflict—I could squeeze in a few extra touches to make our #crapmap Facebook prototype that much cooler, but I would also risk inserting that one line of code breaking everything before we had a chance to demo our prototype to a packed room of coding compatriots. I pushed. My team pushed. The clock struck 7 pm. And it all worked!

OK, now that I’ve told you the most exciting part of the day, let me tell you how we got there…

Our design team spent this past week distilling the best aspects of the six concepts that came out of the first hackathon into a composite #crapmap system which, for now, we’re calling Clean Kumasi.

So how does Clean Kumasi work? Our concept centers on tracking the cleanliness of community landmarks in Kumasi, such as schools, churches and water sources. Once we hit the ground in Kumasi, we’ll work with various community and student groups to establish these landmarks. Once established, community members will be able to send text messages with information about the presence of human waste at each of these landmarks. These text inputs will then be visualized on a map and on a series of Facebook pages associated with each landmark. The goal? Establishing ad hoc groups of community members who care about the state of these landmarks. Our aim is to drive personal commitments to improve these locations, while also triggering in-person community meetings where facilitators can help residents organize movements pressuring institutions and private sector actors to improve current sanitation offerings and build new options.

Got that? Phew, and that was the short version. In order to get our hackathon volunteers up to speed on the Clean Kumasi prototype (attendees came from VMware,Social Coding 4 Good, CauseLabs, and the amazing tech community of San Francisco), we walked them through a series of illustrated user journeys. We then formed three teams around different components of the prototype – SMS messaging, Facebook integration, and communication design.

The SMS team went straight to it. A diagram began to crawl across the wall scribbled in white board marker. By the end, floor to ceiling writing traced their thoughts on how certain messages would lead to others and how we could test different messaging tones from judgmental to highly positive to humorous (all in 160 characters of less). The SMS team handed off some amazing thinking well beyond what our design team had had planned in isolation over the last week.

To work on the Facebook App, we split into two teams. Two Facebook teams working on the same technical component of Clean Kumasi was not only great insurance that we would get something working in the end, it also allowed us to focus on different key functionalities.

My team focused on building a photo map containing the various #crapmap landmarks which then linked to specific Facebook pages associated with each landmark. Our photo map was fed by a Google spreadsheet to make the backend database functionality open and easy to maintain. We also went through two rounds of visual design starting with a stenciled aesthetic and ending with something more minimal, and dare I say, cleaner.

The second Facebook team crafted an API fed by the SMS team. This team also built a “pledge” function, which allows users to make commitments related to improving the sanitation profile of various #crapmap landmarks, and by extension, their community.

The communications design team was tasked with creating slogans, messaging, and posters for the Clean Kumasi prototype. A sub-team of graphic designers tackled the logo and visual design. In the end, our communications design teams created a style guide with a set color palette, brilliant posters and several iterations on a logo. Starting with Post-it notes and Google Docs just after lunch, the Clean Kumasi brand identity emerged in a few short hours.

At, we pride ourselves on intense design explorations conducted as part of rapid design sprints. During these two #crapmap hackathons, we took this design methodology to scale, collaborating with over 80 volunteers over two days. We’re grateful to everyone who came on this crazy journey with us while knowing it’s just beginning. Although we won’t see everyone together in person again, all the hackers will hopefully see their work reflected in this project’s ongoing deliverables. We’ll keep blogging here as we prepare to take the Clean Kumasi prototype to the community it’s been built to serve.


This project is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this story are the responsibility of and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Contributed By
Molly2 Molly Norris
Interactive Specialist