I’m thinking of using Ushahidi to make use of empty buildings in European urban cities, focusing on Central London to begin with. This will be a more legitimate continuation of DA! something I did until I grew up in 2009. I’ve written this text in response to the fantastic and thought-provoking Preliminary Practical Considerations (hence the numbered paragraphs). I’d appreciate your thoughts as to whether or not Ushahidi is appropriate. Thank you in advance.

1 I’m doing this so the crowd makes good use of long-term empty buildings. I’m trying to fill the gap between people’s various desires for space and the proliferation of vacant space. The support resources needed will be provided by the crowd. a. Information about i) the building owner, location, etc and ii) how the crowd will use the building needs to be collected, shared and developed. The communication goals are to convince the owner to allow use of the buiding on a peppercorn rent or on some equally preferential basis, considering the buildings in question will have all been unused for over a year. b. The information will be collected to facilitate collaboration amongst the crowd. This task is crowd-suited because it requires too much administration for a regular non-profit and dosen’t provide the revenue needed by a reg for-profit (otherwise the building would be rented) c. The info about the building will be made public and used to persuade the owner (i above) . The info about the buildings’ use will be refined & developed to benefit the owner and idea proposer and also disemmenated via facebook etc and in the real world (ii above). d. The info will be totally open because it is not of a particularly sensitive nature and, it’ll have gravitasional attraction to collaborators when openly shared. Furthermore as documentation it’ll enable owners to witness who wants to use their building, establishing trust. e. The change that will come about is that long-term empty buildings become public spaces for the crowd.

2. a. The benefit of visualising the information on a map is that people can research buildings local to them. All the information is fundamentally about places, so it makes sense to visualise it on a map. The benefit of using mobiles to gather information and spread the word is that a wide range of people in the real world, can contribute to the overall process at their leisure. The information will also be current. b. A list of similar initiatives for & from whom existing indicators, information needs and formats can be sought is here. Local authorites also have information on empty buildings. Mainstream media and research orgnaisations such as datamonitor are mines of information. The crowd will, of course, be the richest source and sift these sources for the most approproate to a particular building. I would like to use Swiftriver to help research the mass media for articles on owners. c. Local organisations will be involved by being invited to contribute to, and be kept informed of particualr buildings and/or areas of use depending on the nature of these organisations. [eg Hackney’s artinemptyspaces may like to be kept informed of empty buildings in Hackeny whose owners are being approached by artists]

3. a. The target audiences are: Owners of empty buildings; Users who want to use buildings; Visitors & Assistants who want to see stuff done with/in empty buildings. b. To reach our goals we show:

Owners - CSR info about ways in which our use will benefit their business / Financial info about potential rates savings.

Users - Info about who the owner is so as to decide upon / adapt useage to help with persuasion / Info on type of building / Info about the environs.

Visitors & Assistants- Visitors:info about activities that’ll interest them to be shared & Assistants: info about obstacles we may be up against, eg cantankerous licence agreements. c. Feedback from myself may be expected, but it would be better to come from professional advisers such as CL, PD, MP, SL, AC, DL, CKL, DT, PK or better still their trainees who’ll act as a network of assistants etc. d. People will find out through guerrilla marketing around the building. e. The oveall publicity strategy is a combination of this site, Facebook, Twitter, QR codes, word of mouth, communication via DA! networks, mailchimp, and mass media. it’ll be more of an publicity orgy than a strategy.

4 a. The geographic range for data collection at first will be Central London then locally focused, then perhaps much further afield. b. Map info is abundant and continuously developing c. People are familiar with the internet and use smartphones extravagenlty. d. Collecting information will be from a broad public in as many ways as possibe and also from more trusted sources.

5 I see no risks to individuals providing information, the’re will be no private info held, anonymity will be optional.

6 a. Having submited information about a building there will be a Thankyou message along these lines: Thanks! // You too can DO something in this building or as soon as something’s happening VISIT. // You can see more buildings & ideas at b. By making it clear in an about page using the illustrative story of the litle red hen i will manage expectations. c. The information will be displayed as it arrives restyled into a clear colour/shapecoded / logical manner which the crowd can understand and act upon, according to how it sees fit, information will not be sent to “HQ” for decisions to be based on, rather each individual involved will take action as s/he sees fit more like a game of trial and error with all trials welcome. d. shortcodes will be chalked outside, QR codes stamped and leaflets left in buildings & businesses otherwise publicised around the buildings in question. Alot will be offline but this will be documented by video/photo/text and sent to ushahidi. e. By leaving cards in cafes, w/shopkeepers, speaking door-to-door to local residents informing them of the many ways in which to get intouch. Saturday night meetings will be held outside the building’s door at 18:15 from where attendees will go to a pub/restaurant (groupon) and meet/discuss. Aafterwards each person will be expexted to upload photos of their notes to the site to act as a record/mins.

7 a. Long term InEmptyBuildings will have revolutionised the face of vacant commercial real estate, Short term it’ll probably be absolute chaos. b. I won’t be intrinsic from the outset, refer to 3C above, ie advisers network. c. The funds needed for the evolution and development of this infrastructure (Ushahidi etc) will come from (pref local) advertising on the site. Each building that comes into use will be its own appropriate legal entity self goverend by the crowd members who bring it about.Thus it’s own approach to costs etc will be in place.

I have a hunch that Ushahidi is just the ticket for this project, because it is A open source therefore extendible, B map based and therefore real-world orientated, C democratising and crowd-orientated.

I think it would be great to intergrate some open source CRM (eg civicrm) to help track communications with the owners and forum software (eg phpBB) to help develop ideas for building uses.

If you think Ushahidi & Swiftriver are not approproate please let me know what you’d recommend.

If you do think Ushahidi & Swiftriver are the best way forward I’d be most greatful of offers of help.

Thanks again.


I'd like to edit this but I can't see the edit button.

I'd like to delete it and start again, but i can't see the delete button.

So please accept these edits:

1 Title should be "Should I use Ushahidi"

2 I know cities are urban, so please ignore the word urban

3 Bound to be more to come...


Hey Simon!

Just a few random thoughts:

Would owners of empty building be OK with info on their buildings being publicly available like this? I used to be a Londoner but know very little about squats so this question could be completely irrelevant.

Overall, I think Ushahidi sounds like a great fit for your idea! You would certainly need a bit of customization and a lot of moderation/administration though.

Also, I imagine clustering of reports would work very well for you as it would allow anyone interested in a particular building to see all the reports about that building on the same page. (FYI, if clustering is activated and multiple reports are submitted for the exact same location, the furthest zoom level will still make it appear as one cluster.)

Perhaps every time someone adds a report about a new building, you could add it to some KML file or a plugin like Location Highlight to make sure any subsequent reports are also filed at the same location (and not a few meters away, where it might create confusion).

If you have any questions, I'd be happy to give it a go. I'm perhaps best qualified to help out on technical questions. This is one of the Ushahidi instances I'm currently working on:




Hi Simon..! Great stuff, thanks for providing such valuable information. Platforms like Ushahidi makes data accessible, that meets you where you are and no new devices needed to interact with the data. I would like to know more from you about how Ushahidi can continue and provide tools for processing data easily and most importantly. Thanks in advance and keep up the good work!

open source erp