Mapping to Mobilize (M2M)

Principal Investigator: Antwi Akom, Ph.D.
Program Leads: Aaron Nakai, Aekta Shah, Ed.M
Funding Support: Robert Woods Johnson Foundation (RWJF)

Mapping to Mobilize (M2M) is a multi-platform project that puts the power of new technologies into the hands of low-income and youth of color, enabling them to map, track, and improve the health of their own communities – and then share their stories of change with each other, with decision-makers and with the world.


Developed through a partnership between the Institute for Sustainable Economic, Educational and Environmental Design (I-SEEED) and UC Berkeley School of Information’s Local Ground, Mapping to Mobilize (M2M) connects youth’s enchantment, fascination, and engagement with digital and mobile technology to their lived knowledge of their neighborhoods in order to transform their own lives as well as the health of their communities while connecting to STEM skills and college and career pathways.


Research has shown that participation and relevancy are critical motivators for learningIn M2M, each step of the research process – the critical research questions, the types of data and information collected, how it is organized, and how it is ultimately used – is determined by the youth themselves. Our unique approach places students at the center of learning, teaches them how to make evidence-based decisions, to participate in public discourse about environmental health and design strategies, and demonstrates how they can influence important educational, neighborhood, and policy decisions.

In summer 2011, youth from all over Oakland utilized a beta form of Local Ground’s mapping tool to “groundtruth” what the State Department of Public Health considered “grocery stores”.    Youth walked the blocks, and walked into these “grocery stores” collecting quantitative and qualitative data including: the amount and varieties of fresh food available, food prices, store hours, safety of the store, and more.  Youth tracked, aggregated and analyzed their data to conclude that the majority of “grocery stores” in East Oakland in fact do not offer much fresh or healthy food and would be better categorized as “liquor stores”.

M2M aims to broaden the impact of a youth-participatory mapping model by collecting more data around health issues that impact youth and their communities – including water, air quality, health care, wellness, transportation, and food access – and expanding the reach of this work regional and nationally.

M2M Technology (powered by Local Ground)

M2M Technology is built around point algorithm technology – an innovative method of data collection and analysis in which youth use GIS, paper maps, mobile phones, and digital media to systematically collect and interpret data about environmental and health issues important to them and their communities.

Using digital technology tools, youth upload data collected into a database that is linked to a digital online community map. The project leverages existing, proven technology, integrating online open-source maps and mobile applications.


M2M is one of the first substantial youth-driven campaigns to utilize GIS Mapping and social media to increase youth activity and encourage a healthy lifestyle. M2M targets proximal outcomes, such as beliefs about inactivity; structural racism such as proximity to liquor stores and grocery stores, and encourages teens to use data visualization to re-map activities that increase PA and are fun and enjoyable. M2M promotes the notion that not only can GIS mapping and social media increase attitudes, awareness, and advocacy related to physical activity, but it can also foster friendships with peers, enhance curiosity, and generate positive feelings of autonomy and action. Creating and maintaining these values are essential prerequisites to adopting and maintaining physical activity throughout adolescence and into adulthood

Preliminary baseline data from M2M evaluations indicate that 78.4% of youth spend 1-5 hours online each day, 80.5% indicate that they primarily use social media during that time, and 72.2% use digital technology (phones, cameras, computers) more than 6-times/week.

Preliminary results from the evaluation data indicate significant positive changes in youth tapping into and utilizing digital technology/social media- to create and lead action and advocacy around improving nutrition and increasing physical activity in their communities.  Importantly, preliminary results also indicate that the M2M curricular intervention increased youth’s understanding of the root causes and structural barriers (built environment, food marketing, access to healthy food) affecting health in their communities.

These results are similar to those of multiple health behavior interventions that use text messages and social media interventions to improve health among youth as well as adults (Patrick 2013: SMART – Using Social Media and Mobile Technologies to Promote Improved Health Behaviors).  These preliminary results indicate the efficacy of the M2M curricular intervention on psychosocial and individual behavioral outcomes – indicating that a low-cost easy to disseminate curricular intervention (M2M) can potentially have a meaningful public health impact on nutrition, physical activity and other health behaviors.

Strategic Plan

I-SEEED, along with its partners, is currently revising the M2M curriculum, technology, and web platform based on our evaluative results and are developing partnerships with organizations across the country to use our curriculum to track everything from food deserts, to diabetes and asthma incidence, to social health and well-being, to access to open space. Groups of youth across California are already engaged in community development work and community mapping around public health issues. But until now, they have not had access to this kind of technology, nor have they had a forum where they can share success stories, strategize together about common challenges, and discuss the public health issues that are of particular concern to youth through digital technology and social media – the tools of transformation.