Project Status: The project started in October 2017. This next phase started in August 2018 and has no end date.
Location: Cordoba, Argentina
Email – Facebook – Website
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Our goal is to expand our existing system for managing health and safety risk in wilderness areas into an dynamic online system that allows mountaineers and other visitors to wilderness areas to contribute to the collection of information regarding the local environment and communities. Our specific objectives are as follows:
- To streamline the acquisition, storage, and retrieval of data, as well as to curate statistics about individuals’ health risks so that those in charge of safety (whether they be governmental or private authorities) can operate with the best possible information.
- To provide a system by which mountaineers can register their trips and alert loved ones or authorities if they do not return by a specified time.
- To acquire data about the health, quality of life, and unmet needs of the inhabitants of alpine areas which may not be accessible for typical governmental authorities and aid organizations.
- To obtain data in order to inform and hopefully resolve environmental problems in remote natural areas.
- To convert visitors to alpine and wilderness areas into agents of outreach between local communities and society-at-large.
- To concentrate resources and direct them towards practical solutions.
- To share our understanding of the realities faced by alpine communities and to encouraging meaningful connections between them and visiting mountaineers.
- To organize and create synergy between the contributions made by some mountaineers so that they might be inspire or be continued by others.
We have a variety of potentially idealistic goals, but we are essentially hoping to create a place, on-line and in an app, in which the community of mountaineers can contribute to the on-the-ground needs of aid organizations, governmental authorities, and researchers.
RELATIONSHIP WITH LOCAL COMMUNITIES
Small mountain communities often exist in isolation, beyond the reach and resources of many governmental authorities. Little is known about their demographics, their health, their resource needs, or their struggles. We plan to enable the users of our platform to record, survey, and study the health, homes, needs, and issues of local communities – essentially becoming amateur census-takers who can relay the data, through us, to organizations and agencies which might act on it.
We also believe our project might benefit local economies. A mountaineer who encounters a local community and finds that they have a resource to offer (be it clean water, food, shelter, or pack animals) can note it for future travellers, as well as the resources which the community might lack, and could be provided in trade. In this way, our project may foster connection between locals and mountaineers, and, in turn, the larger world.
COLLABORATION WITH LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Our proposal has been presented to the Cordoba Agencies of Tourism and the Environment , as well as the Federation of Volunteer Firefighters of Cordoba (la Federación de Bomberos Voluntarios de Córdoba) and the Federation of Volunteer Firefighters of the Sierras (la Federación de Bomberos Voluntarios Serranos). They have expressed interest in the role that the data we collect from individual mountaineers could inform their search-and-rescue efforts, as well as the type of information that may be gleaned from the health statistics of people who hike, climb, trail run, mountain bike, etc. Alternative tourism is not the most easily regulated or understood industry, and our project has the potential to fill in some of the knowledge gaps.
ENCOURAGING BEST PRACTICES IN MOUNTAINEERING & MOUNTAIN-BASED SPORTS
We have heard of, witnessed, and participated in many activities from social work and health care to scientific research and governmental management. On an expedition with the company, Alto Rumbo, in Jujuy, Argentina, one woman, a teacher by profession, offered her services to several local children. They lived two days by foot from their school and were struggling, so she used her time acclimating to the elevation to help them in what way she could. On a separate expedition, the local livestock benefited from an check-up by two veterinarians. The men offered their professional advice to the animals’ owners and upon returning to their home cities, they arranged for vaccines to be donated. In the province of Cordoba, mountaineers have worked closely with biologists to conduct surveys of the Andean Condor and participate in the reforestation of a native tree species. Mountaineers in Cordoba have also participated in self-regulation, documenting photos of illegal 4×4 usage, paint and other marks, and trash, in this way enforcing “leave no trace” doctrines.
As these examples demonstrate, there exists within the mountaineering community a passion for the places we visit, a passion to not only “leave no trace,” but actually have a positive impact on the people, animals, and environment. We believe that their are mountaineers out there who would gladly take this step “beyond business as usual,” if they only had an idea how. We want to foster this by establishing our platform as one which facilitates the dissemination of information about exactly how one might be an active steward.
We took inspiration from citizen science projects, which encourage public participation in the collection and analysis of data. Rather than depend on the recruitment of volunteers for specific tasks, it encourages the public to contribute to science while engaged in the tasks they typically do. For example, the online platform eBird encourages birders and bird enthusiasts to record their observations with a time and locality — data which can be requested by scientists at a later date.
We imagine that our project can facilitate access to, and awareness of, these types of projects, whether they be related to animal populations, environmental conditions, or the status of local communities. When our users register themselves on our site and associate themselves with a location, we can provide information about what might need their assistance in the area.
The project was initially financed personally by the founder of Tracks Safety, with an initial investment of approximately $25,000 ARS (~$1,000 USD). We have since secured some revenue from brands wishing to advertise on our site. We specifically sought business relationships with brands related to mountaineering and other outdoor sports, as we share a target audience, in order to avoid the potentially intrusive advertisements from general ad services. We have established a system by which the for-profit companies which use our medical record/health management service will pay for this service. We currently charge monthly, at a rate of about $0.30 USD (currently $10 ARS) per medical record. We also hope to come to an agreement with various governmental agencies for the statistics we gather on participants in alternative tourism activities. Beyond this, we are constantly being made aware of new opportunities for start-up funding and grants for social/environmental projects.
Stewardship is a central tenet of the sport of mountaineering and played an integral role in the genesis of this project. We want to encourage conscious engagement with our surroundings, and enable every individual mountaineer to serve as eyes and ears for a wide variety of projects which will care for local habitats and communities. It is difficult to be effective stewards without up-to-date information, and mountain regions in particular struggle from the challenge of access, so we have designed a platform which could convert every visitor into an agent of change.
By collating a wide variety of projects in one platform, we will be able to offer something for volunteers of all skills, experience, and knowledge. Information about available opportunities will be directly tied to the locations people are already planning on visiting; this may be essential to promoting volunteer participation. We know first-hand that the will to volunteer in mountain regions exists, and that people often devote their time to such activities. With our online system, we would be able to help newcomers find their niche as well as support existing efforts with some organization, data collection, and new volunteer recruitment.
HOW WE COMMUNICATE
The most effective method of communication which we have is word-of-mouth. The for-profit companies, clubs, schools, and friend groups who currently use our website are part of a broader community of mountaineers, capable of disseminating information about our project to those most likely to participate in it. They can also, through their personal experience, help us to guide our project and make it more accessible to the general public.
We also believe that as more mountaineers become aware of our platform, they will encourage others to use it. Clients of travel companies who have used it for one trip may ask other companies they travel with to use it as well, due to how it simplifies the process of maintaining an updated medical record. In this way, our project can grow and diversify in its quantity of users, activities, geographic areas, environments, and communities.
We also have, to our advantage, collaborators with photography and graphic design experience, contacts in a variety of disciplines, the support of an entrepreneurial ecosystem, and contacts with television programs. We continue to attend events such as Expo Impacto, communicating our idea to broader audiences, and maintain a social media presence on Facebook and Instagram.
The support of the UIAA would lend to our project a degree of prestige which would facilitate its growth beyond the province of Cordoba and the country of Argentina. If the UIAA recommends our system to mountaineers for safety, governments for census-taking, and scientists for research, we will expand much more rapidly than we can on our own.