Start Center - Strategic Analysis, Research & Training Center
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START RAs Participate in Major GIS Convening

START RAs Participate in Major GIS Convening

In late February, 2017, START participated in Radiant’s Thought Leaders Summit hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle. START gathered a group of geography students to serve as rapporteurs for the event, with START RA Jess Long acting as the project manager. The Summit offered students the opportunity to interact with an international group of leading geospatial and development experts.


The goal of the Summit was to help Radiant advance a new, innovative pathway to open imagery, data, and analytic tools. To achieve this goal, thought leaders worked together to produce several outcomes:

  1. Identify the key elements and actions needed to create a new paradigm that would improve access and use of geospatial tools – especially in developing nations.
  1. Gather feedback about existing and planned programs, and factors that may enhance the value and use of these programs.
  1. Define priorities and understand where urgent needs and opportunities exist, which will help drive near-term actions and shape long-term goals.
  1. Build commitment from various partners and stakeholders while garnishing support for the realization of Radiant’s vision.

The Summit was composed of individuals from a variety of sectors and disciplines, ensuring a balance of ideas and bolstering the practicality of outcomes.  Several presentations and panels were held for the entire gathering, including: a delightful keynote from Albert Lin, visionary outlines from Radiant’s core team, remarks from Gates Foundation officers, and several panels discussing technology innovation as a catalyst for change. Dialogues between private, academic, government, and non-profit representatives rendered an electric atmosphere filled with unique ideas and valuable insight.

Radiant Thought Leaders Summit, Photo by Louisa Nakanuku-Diggs
Radiant Thought Leaders Summit, Photo by Louisa Nakanuku-Diggs


Many of the crucial outcomes of the summit were generated during break-out groups. Here, individuals assembled into smaller and more intimate gatherings where more focused and deep discourse could occur. Ten distinct groups were established using a common thread: Agriculture, Food Security, and Forestry; Conservation and Environment; Global Development; Global Health and Humanitarian Response; Property Rights, Government Transparency, & Journalism; Data Providers; Commercial and Open Source Developers; Academia, Value-Added Entities and Consultancies; Funding Agencies; and End Users.

The 10 groups exchanged thoughts and ideas over several break-out sessions. They followed a general guide of key elements to address and synthesized the results of their discussion to be shared among the entire summit. START RAs attended each session to take detailed notes and later compiled a report to be utilized by summit attendees. The sessions provided Radiant key insight into the need for change and action, an understanding of how to advance a technology platforms to address these changes, and how to disseminate information in various contexts throughout the global community. The START Center enjoyed collaborating with the Department of Geography on this project request.


By Travis Axe