How Open Online Tools can Help us Build Resilient Communities

Sandy recovery

Today, Google published a map of the secretive dictatorship of North Korea.   Up until today, North Korea was a blank space on public maps.

That changed when a group of citizen cartographers (living all over the world) used Google’s mapmaker tool and pictures/info from visitors to North Korea to build a map of the country (via the WP).

North Korea

The result was so good, Google’s now using it as part of their global mapping service.

For us, it’s a great demonstration of how a community of interest can solve a complex problem if given the right online tools.

For example, here’s how online tools can make coordinating local support easier.

Todmorden, UK is using an egg map to help local egg producers find local buyers.  Occupy used  software to help coordinate disaster recovery after Hurricane Sandy.

Online tools can also help us build the techniques and tools we need easier.  For example, Github simplifies open software development, like this effort to build an open/secure texting system called Splinternet.


And Wikis can make it easier to capture and share knowledge when building useful tools and other hardware.  For example, the open ecology development wiki is charting efforts to build open source farming equipment.

Hey, I’m using online tools to share and discuss my thinking about resilience with you right now.

So, while you might not be a fan of how technology is negatively impacting us (food, finance, etc.), it’s also playing a very positive role in helping us build the future.

There’s still so much that we need to do.

By the way.  IF you have an online tool that you’d like to share with people.  Add a comment below.

Resiliently Yours,



PS:  There’s also lots of room for new online tools.   For example, I’m still waiting for a tool that makes open source development of permaculture guilds possible.  There’s been some progress on plant databases, but nothing that goes the extra step.

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  • Paul Rector

    The first thing that came to mind when you mentioned an open online tool/community was the homemade 3D printer community at,

    full of instructions, advice, modifications made from the community, etc. I’m about to embark on making my own reprap Mendel (based on the Arduino, another amazing opensource thing, which you can build for yourself for less than $5 if you follow the instructions here:

    The second thing that came to mind was the Global Village Construction set at

    I first heard of it here:

    I also use YouTube ALL the time for all sorts of information, from how to graft apples, to how to troubleshoot and fix my washing machine that no longer spins, which saved my hundreds of dollars on a service call with a $5 part from online. As a hopeful tinkerer/prepper I also find videos about sterling engines ( to how to get water out of your well when the power is out for $70 in PVC parts ( to even how to simply drill your own well with an air compressor, garden hose and 6 free hours (I want to add another well for my garden area away from the house:

    I also get tons of gardening ideas from your page on facebook, and from other pages on facebook such as:

  • Greg Bell

    Well, there’s Plants for a Future

    and I also really like using Google’s Custom Search Engine feature to build my own search engine that contains only my favorite permaculture sources. See

  • Scott James

    For our island, we’ve partnered with the Recovers software team to make a site that will enable open (and hopefully easy) coordination of both professional and citizen level resources for recovery after a widespread natural disaster. More details here:

  • Corey B

    JR, what do you mean by guild?

    I’m in the tech research phase of building a website for resilient communities, a kind of social intranet that provides digital tools for things relevant to communities. Team and project management, governance, and local economy (alt currencies) are a few features I’m including.

    But the closer to Suarez’s Daemon I get, the better 😉 There will be game-like aspects and public recognition for projects completed, and I like the idea of guilds… but I’m not sure what value they’d add. What would a guild do that a mentor-apprentice relationship can’t? With a wiki backing, a guild seems obsolete.

    • John Robb


      A permaculture guild is a collection of plants that work synergistically. An micro ecology.


      • Corey B

        Ok. That was not at all what I thought it was. Carry on >_>

  • Rod Williams

    There are other crowd sourced mapping resources, and the derived, that integrate with handheld GPS.

  • Alec Mclean

    Some areas of covers in this tool like fundraising, buying tools, sponsorship, membership, location options, volunteers, legalities, fees, tool maintenance and repair, records, and outreach.thats why its very helpful for you.

  • Darren

    Another plant database, that also uses the data from PFAF, this time nicely wikified so anyone can edit :-)

  • Valerie

    Since adequate and reliable community water supplies are the true baseline on which to build resilient living, take a look at this detailed water resource tool from Aqueduct:

    Quote: Otto discovered a number of striking things while putting together the map. Places that haven’t traditionally had high water risks–the East Coast of the United States, the upper Midwest, Europe–now have medium to high water risk. This is because of changes in water demand, withdrawal patterns, weather, and water-supply patterns. At the same time, places where there’s already high competition for water (i.e. India) are at serious risk when combined with annual variability in water. “When thinking about resilience in the face of risk, it’s not just baseline stress, but what the disruptions are that could really wreak havoc,” explains Otto.

  • Brian

    BBC News Video – covers hack shops, makers co-ops, Raspberry Pi, etc

    Can anyone do DIY tech?

    Duration: 06:27

    If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing yourself – at least according to people who own more than one power tool.

    But what of those who swap circular saws for circuit boards? Can you really do techy DIY – and make something useful?

    LJ Rich got her soldering iron out to see how far she can get.

    Available since: Friday

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