Forum: Reimagining the Catholic Landscape

As the Young Champion of the Earth, the United Nations highest environmental honor for individuals between the ages of 18 and 30, Molly Burhans has been provided the opportunity to coordinate and facilitate bilateral sessions with the support of the United Nations. These bilateral sessions were proposed by Ms. Burhans. Due to the importance of the proposed sessions, GoodLands and the United Nations have jointly decided to make these all-day events. GoodLands will to leverage their position during the UNGA to seek the funding, additional resources, and partnerships that will enable all-day workshops focused on the topics of each proposed session.

Dates and Location:

September 22-27, 2019: Affiliated partner meetings surrounding the United Nations General Assembly, New York, NY, USA

Workshop: Winter/Sping 2019, Location and Dates TBD

If you are interested in financially sponsoring these meetings please contact

We have a pre-curated list of invitees. Invitees to this forum are current partners, have expressed an interest in supporting or partnering with us on the development of this geospatial data infrastructure, or are strategic partners who we have identified through our research. This event is closed to the public, however proceedings will be available.

Day 1

Geospatial Infrastructure for the Catholic Community


This forum will bring together key academic, governmental, private sector, and philanthropic partners who can enable the development of a geospatial infrastructure for Catholic organizations and institutions.


Covered Topics:

  • What is Geospatial Infrastructure
  • Governance and Ownership
  • Working Groups
  • Relationship to Various Institutions and the Vatican
  • Timeframe and Budget



Bringing geospatial infrastructure to the Catholic community is an area of opportunity for growth, as well as imperative for future innovation within Catholic organizations and their respective missions. Over the past few years, a GoodLands representative has independently coordinated ongoing conversations to propose critical development in this area. GoodLands has also developed a relationship with Esri, the global leaders in geospatial technology, to develop a white paper for this infrastructure (2016) and deploy a beta-version through an internal, intraorganizational data portal.

Invitees to this session have expressed an interest in the development of this type of data infrastructure and its value as a long-term strategic investment or are strategic partners who we have identified through our research. Over the past few years, GoodLands has led the development of a library of datasets concerning presently established Catholic infrastructure, a necessary foundation for future geospatial infrastructure development. This library is critical to the work presently being performed to support GoodLands’ environmental and social missions. As a reference for your consideration, the following link contains a noncomprehensive list of GoodLands’ select datasets and respective analyses [].

Although the current library is essential to GoodLands’ work, its broader applicability is untapped. From its developmental inception, the data sets we created, as an informational source, had broader implications for the greater community, including being a transformative resource for other mission-oriented sectors. Furthermore, GoodLands’ work would benefit from having the capacity to access geographic data from additional Catholic organizations. In short, a geospatial infrastructure for the Catholic community would enable secure information sharing, decrease member costs through shared infrastructure development, reduce of duplicative research efforts, and increase interoperability of Catholic NGOs, philanthropic organizations, the hierarchy, and academic institutions. Based on ROI of comparable geospatial infrastructures the potential costs savings of a centralized hub of information for Catholic organizations is >$1B in less than a decade.

Expected Value:

The Catholic Church oversees the largest nongovernmental networks of humanitarian aid, education, childcare, and, very likely, land. For example, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care workers estimates that around 26% of healthcare facilities are operated by the Roman Catholic Church, comprising the largest global network of healthcare. Further, religious communities and NGOs give vital housing and community support to refugees, migrants, and people in need of basic amenities. Using data to understand these networks in relation to geography has the potential to transform the world by improving program efficiency and effectiveness by ensuring that resources are properly allocated. Stated differently, proper application of a geospatial infrastructure will safeguard that resources are utilized in the right places at the right times, and that programs impacts are better tracked and managed. Consider the following case studies which illustrate only some benefits of geospatial technology in the following sectors:


Health Care – Research in Nigeria shows that tackling a polio outbreak was only possible when accurate, complete maps helped pin-point where intervention was needed. Accurate GIS mapping has been critical for highly successful efforts to eradicate Polio, led by the Gates Foundation. [1]
Migration – Georgetown University and its partners developed a predictive system for migration which models when people will migrate and where they will leave from and go to. This could help governments and NGOs proactively allocate resources to areas with increased migration. [2] Mid-range climate sensitivity projections estimate that by 2050, 10 to 25 million people per year will be displaced by climate change. [3]
Housing – Local governments and organizations are increasingly using GIS technology to address Homelessness. The City of Baltimore used GIS to find the most suitable locations for homelessness shelters. [4] Community Solutions used GIS to ensure social and health services that are critical for successfully reducing re-entry into homelessness were accessible from shelters, increasing their program’s viability and decreasing the recurrence of homelessness
Humanitarian Aid – Direct Aid uses GIS to coordinate multi-dimensional relief efforts, which integrate sectors such as health care, economic development, and research. GIS enables their “partners [to] understand links between all of the various inputs (material goods, training, repair and maintenance, test outcomes, etc.) which comprise the structure and operations of the system.” [5]  GIS allows complex aid problems to be addressed, without ignoring important variables.
Education – In Northern Ireland Roman Catholics (Nationalists) and Protestants (Unionists) had violent conflicts for the latter part of the 20th Century. Elementary and Highschool students in N. Ireland used GIS tools to record data across sectarian lines and explore their religious roots. Catholic and Protestant students reported increased understanding of their commonalities and friendships amongst each other – mapping not only helped students learn valuable technology skills, it allowed them to build bridges for peacekeeping. [6]
Environment – GIS is an indispensable tool for environmental programs. Operations at The Nature Conservancy, African Parks, the United States Forest Service, the National Parks service, Trust for Public Land, and most other conservation organizations require GIS for their operations. Without GIS they cannot understand how land management and conservation easements will contributes to key factors, such as water quality and habitat connectivity. 
Food Security – GIS supports the United Nation’s World Food Progamme, which assists 91.4 million people per year, “delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience.” [7] One way that GIS is critical to their operations is by allowing them to track disasters in real-time, understand food availability, and ensure that they and their partners deliver food to people as a key part of disaster response.
Economic Development – GIS guides key decision making for economic development. In Pueblo Colorado, USA, GIS allows policy makers to coordinate and connect zoning legislation, project investment, and funding for public transportation and infrastructure. [9] Across the world, GIS helps microfinance organization connect farmers with loans and land that is accessible to marketplaces.


Each sector identified above, all of which have significant Catholic organizations as sectorial actors, would benefit greatly from effectively leveraging geospatial information independently. A shared geospatial infrastructure will compound the impact further and, ultimately, decrease programmatic and technology costs over time. The geospatial infrastructure will enable partnering organizations to communicate, plan, and exchange data with Catholic entities, facilitating the synergistic exchange of information critical to the collective benefit of each organization’s individual project development.

The heart of the geospatial infrastructure is cloud-based geographic information systems technology that provides organizations with secure systems of records for storing their location information, which can be updated, shared, and analyzed as necessary. The platform brings together technology systems and systems for engagement that provide platform users with content for intra- and interorganizational applications, promoting collaborations and intuitive decisions between member organizations and their shared content. Further, it reduces time with geodata usage guideline development duplication across organizations because it will necessarily affect the creation of working groups to address data policy for the shared infrastructure. The geospatial infrastructure will provide the technical and social frameworks to enable efficient and secure access, retrieval, and dissemination of Catholic information and knowledge management tools. By providing a centralized infrastructure for information management, communities are no longer required to invest in their own data infrastructure.

GoodLands developed the first global data-based vision of the Catholic Church in history on administrative 1 (episcopal conference), administrative 2 (province) and administrative 3 (diocese) boundaries. These were premiered in Rome as part of the Vatican Arts and Technology Council in late 2016. GoodLands has received numerous requests for university partnerships and formally established some (for example: Georgetown University). Recently, GoodLands began intentionally delaying formalizing additional university partnerships due to our prioritization to increase capacity before accepting them. Beyond the academic domain, GoodLands has developed several NGO partnerships, including with Catholic Relief Services through a pending Master Service agreement, the UISG in collaboration with the GHR Foundation for our work mapping women religious and Catholic healthcare, childcare, and welfare institutes around the world. GoodLands has also received interest about future NGO partnerships, including the Jesuit Refugee Service and the Pontifical Mission Societies. GoodLands received papal approval to establish a Cartography Institute in the Vatican in the Summer of 2018 and is currently renegotiating this contract for future development. The demand for partnerships from Catholic institutions is primarily from those seeking to collaborate with GoodLands’ data, rather than collaborate with land-use and property management projects. To meet these partnership demands, it is imperative to develop a geospatial infrastructure that will enable information sharing globally. This infrastructure will allow GoodLands to multiply the positive impact of its land and property data while significantly benefiting Catholic aid, healthcare, missions, research and education.



[1] Kamadjeu, R. (2009). Tracking the polio virus down the Congo River: a case study on the use of Google Earth™ in public health planning and mapping. International Journal of Health Geographics, 8(1), 4. doi: 10.1186/1476-072x-8-4

[2] Dimolitsas, Dr. Spiros, et al. Extendable Open Source Database. Georgetown University. Unpublished presentation. May 2018.

[3] Nicholls, R.J., and J. Lowe, 2004, “Benefits of mitigation of climate change for coastal areas”, Global Environmental Change, 14: {see figure 6, pg 240 of reference}.

[4] Loubert, L. (2010). Mapping Urban Inequalities with GIS. Retrieved from

[5] Schroeder, A. (2013, July 13). Why GIS Mapping Technology is a Powerful Tool for Humanitarian Aid – World. Retrieved from

[6] (2018, July). Featured Guest Speakers, Esri User Conference. Retrieved from

[7] (2018). World Food Programme, Overview. Retrieved from

[8] Baumann, J. (2018). GIS Supports WFP’s Food Security Program. ArcNews. doi:

[9] (2012). Best Practices: Gis for Economic Development. Best Practices: GIS for Economic Development(p. 5). Redlands, CA: Esri.

Day 2

Religious Institutions’ Land-Use: Addressing Conservation, Migration and Food Security


This forum will bring together religious leaders, faith-based organizations, academic institutions, private sector, and philanthropic partners to discuss how religious institutions around the world can support the UN Decade of Ecosystems Restoration and address climate change and its concomitant social impacts, such as migration.