Coastal Communities



Mobilizing communities to share microdata about climate impacts to better inform adaptation and infrastructure design

Team Lead

Julia Kumari Drapkin

Basic Information

Our tagline:

Mobilizing communities to share micro-data about climate impacts that enable cities to improve modeling, infrastructure design, and emergency preparedness.  


Our pitch:

From New Orleans to Kenya to Kerala, ISeeChange’s global community documents local change and helps connect the dots to bigger picture trends that unite us all. We are seeding an international neighbor-to-neighbor movement that empowers communities to connect, co-design and evaluate climate solutions together.

ISeeChange uses lived experiences and street-level data to verify and add detail to models that cities, engineers, and insurers depend on to inform climate adaptation, public safety and infrastructure design. Our award-winning global engagement platform mobilizes communities to collect and centralize their own climate stories and weather measurements to empower local resilience and adaptation.

On the Gulf Coast, we’ve seen traditional data approaches fail to account for important block-by-block variations in flooding events. Most local data sources lack accessibility, integration, and community context. Understanding residents’ lived experiences is needed to evaluate solutions for viability and cost effectiveness.


In addition to missing crucial context, top-down data gathering misses two-way engagement opportunities that foster public trust. Community leaders and residents tell us they feel overlooked in the design and planning process. Engineering and design companies may not be required to do public engagement until they are well into project design, resulting in reactionary rather than participatory engagement. Additionally, these methods tend to favor residents with disposable time and resources rather than those most impacted by climate extremes. The net results are less impactful resilience and inefficient adaptation efforts that may not justify their base-cost for federal funding.

ISeeChange’s approach to community-sourced data gathering begins with the meaningful qualitative data updates from residents. We empower the community to identify and share what they care about through their phone or computer. We then grow this neighborhood knowledge by syncing it to hyper-local temperature and precipitation measurements and sensors, allowing our residents to co-investigate how they are impacted by changing weather, flooding, sea level rise, and aging infrastructure. This informed engagement dialogue with the public cultivates an invested community that can participate anytime, anywhere.


Our community has verified or groundtruthed modeled data that engineers and infrastructure designers rely on, provided critical community insights to stakeholders tasked in civic resilience planning, and supported emergency management with real time updates on weather events.

We launched our crowdsourced climate platform in rural Colorado with farmers and ranchers impacted by drought in 2012. In 2016, we proved the power of ISC’s micro-data in our award-winning “Harlem Heat” project, which explored public health risks of urban heat waves by syncing community input to heat sensors. Since 2017, we have been actively refining our stormwater and flood monitoring methods in a third pilot focused on the New Orleans’s Gentilly District, where community data helped groundtruth models and was incorporated into design proposal requests for federally funded resilience projects.

We are currently partnered with the New Orleans Department of Emergency Management and Disaster Preparedness in a citywide effort to increase flood risk awareness and reduce the community cost of flood insurance. With improved quantitative data inputs and analytics, we are also prototyping real-time visualizations of community-sourced flood measurements and computer vision applications.


Watch our elevator pitch:

The dimensions of the Challenge our solution addresses:

  • Resilient infrastructure
  • Using data to help people make development decisions

Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

New Orleans, LA, USA
About Your Solution

What makes our solution innovative:

ISeeChange empowers communities to make informed decisions about climate-related issues by cross-referencing their real-life experiences to real-time data. We utilize existing technologies with a community-driven approach: we integrate qualitative and quantitative data to produce reliable, relevant, and actionable information in real-time that’s easy to access and affordable.


Our process adds granularity and context to groundtruth models that planners and officials rely on to make resilient infrastructure solutions more economical and effective.

Unlike emergency-only applications, we track patterns over time. We are experimenting with new technology such as computer vision and AI to better support long-term weather and climate monitoring.


How technology is integral to our solution:

The ubiquity of mobile devices combined with our low-barrier user experience makes citizen science and environmental observation available to a wider audience. Our data model and architecture provide flexibility and scalability across climate topics and global geographies. Our APIs allow us to easily integrate heterogeneous data sources, from hyper-local LoRaWAN sensors, to manual rain gauges, to satellite-powered earth observation data products. Our platform renders these external data sets visually and brings them into community context. Our natural language processing enables pattern recognition and we are developing new ways to create low-cost environmental monitoring with computer visioning and artificial intelligence.

Our solution goals over the next 12 months:

In the next 12 months we will:

  • Transition from pilot to growth and formalize our service offerings.
  • Complete a large scale flooding and urban heat pilot with both manual and automatic sensor data this summer with the departments of Homeland Security, Emergency Management, Public Health, and the Office of Resilience and Sustainability in New Orleans.
  • Work with engineering and design firms responsible for green infrastructure projects within our pilot communities.
  • Scale our flood monitoring investigations to two additional coastal communities.
  • Launch our first LoRaWan sensor network integration, new data visualizations and maps, and our first digital vision application to help monitor flooding.

Our vision over the next three to five years to grow and scale our solution to affect the lives of more people:

ISC is the go-to platform for community-sourced adaptation. With 8 billion people connecting to the web in the next 6 years, we will grow internationally, accommodate multiple languages, and target resilience issues where community context and data are missing. Government agencies, engineers, and insurers use ISC data to groundtruth models and drive civic discussions as local adaptation investments face greater pressure to guarantee returns. ISC will be augmented with AI, smart city networks, and remote sensing. ISeeChangers will see use of their data as evidence of their crucial role in resilience planning and appreciate their deeper connection to the environment.

Our promotional video:

The key characteristics of the populations who will benefit from our solution in the next 12 months:

  • Adult
  • Urban
  • Suburban
  • Lower
  • Middle

The regions where we will be operating in the next 12 months:

  • US and Canada

Where we plan to expand in the next 12 months:

  • United States

How we will reach and retain our customers or beneficiaries:

ISeeChange is free for anyone to record climate impacts and micro-data on their desktop and mobile devices. We target communities with resilience needs by partnering with civic entities and engineering firms.  We find a combination of local businesses, community groups and creative placemaking in strategic neighborhoods provides the right momentum to reach residents. We acquire partners by facilitating early outreach, and demonstrating the value of micro-data to modeling and design. We retain our community by reporting back: our platform showcases and quantifies community needs to stakeholders tasked with resilience planning. We maintain dozens of media partners to amplify our findings.

How many people we are currently serving with our solution:

Thousands use ISeeChange globally: our value organically resonates with anyone impacted by climate change. Our largest US concentrations are in the Southwest, Gulf Coast, and Northeast. When ISeeChange launches local pilots, our monthly acquisition rate triples. In one pilot we received over 170 flooding trouble-spots in less than two weeks. Pilots demonstrate that focused engagement with invested members as opposed to total membership produces higher quality impact data. Returning members sharing stories:

  • express a compounding knowledge of their environment.
  • see the value of diligent documentation for resilience planning.
  • possess empathy and community connection through a common purpose.



How many people we will be serving with our solution in the 12 months and the next 3 years:

ISeeChange will serve two communities along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. We will focus on active resilience projects and demonstrate how community-powered data makes modeling, planning, and infrastructure investments more effective.In three years, the platform will serve 30+ communities, with multi-lingual support and flooding,heat, and drought monitoring at scale.

ISeeChange’s current user base is predominantly located in the US, however, the platform is already global.  With the right partners, we expect to grow internationally and experiment with scientists, sociologists, and other “solvers” to co-create research and adaptation solutions with communities as partners.

About Your Team

How our solution team is organized:


Explaining our organization:


How many people work on our solution team:


How many years we have been working on our solution:

3-4 years

The skills our solution team has that will enable us to attract the different resources needed to succeed and make an impact:

ISeeChange is a resilience tech company headquartered in America’s frontline of adaptation - the Gulf Coast.

We are a diverse award-winning team of journalists, user experience designers, developers, engineers, artists, and anthropologists. Julia Kumari Drapkin, a mixed-race Gulf Coast native, leads the team with over 15 years in climate and environmental science, disaster response, field anthropology, and journalism. Our team  includes civic tech veterans who have been working in the field since 2008. 

With frequent requests to collaborate, leading journalists, scientists, and civic organizations recognize ISeeChange as an innovator who knows how to listen and speak with the public.


Our revenue model:

We’ve built our company with tenacity, innovation, and scrappy resourcefulness.

In a 2017 pilot, we tested our data services with a selected number of potential customers, including but not limited to city agencies and engineering companies. We successfully proved our use case as an effective and affordable option for including community voice during the groundtruthing, design, and base-cost evaluation stages of HUD-funded projects focused on flooding mitigation.

We have since defined a sustainable fee-for-service business model that incorporates community into infrastructure design with public and private funding sources. As the pace of climate resilience investments increase, our engagement services and community-sourced data are increasingly in demand by civic entities, engineering companies, and design firms. In less than a year we’ve been approached by six engineering and risk modeling firms interested our services.

ISeeChange is committed to being a free tool for citizens and has a mission to make a difference. We are well positioned to enhance civic resilience planning in an economical and equitable way. By 2020, we aim to be revenue positive while staying on the frontlines of technology.

Partnership Potential

Why we are applying to Solve:

While people have suggested we apply to MIT Solve for several years, it was the potential to work with RISE that prompted our application. The opportunity to apply our services to an active project that advances our work from the New Orleans pilot would accelerate the refinement of our flood and sensor features significantly. In addition, our team aims to deploy new machine learning applications in 2019 and we would benefit from networking with other Solvers and departments at MIT. Finally, ISeeChange is a global platform and we would benefit from the visibility of the Solve Challenge.

The key barriers for our solution:

Our greatest advantages can also be our greatest weakness. Our motivation to create a platform that serves the community’s voice has proven to resonate with citizens facing climate adaptation. However, this initial starting point resulted in a longer path to discovering our value to potential customers and funders. Additionally, choosing to incubate ourselves near communities in need and not to relocate to Silicon Valley - as was suggested by advisors - left our team with less networking opportunities with tech investors. Solve can help us through access to resilience stakeholders, like-minded investors and civic tech / science advisors.

The types of connections and partnerships we would be most interested in if we became Solvers:

  • Technology Mentorship
  • Connections to the MIT campus
  • Media Visibility and Exposure
  • Grant Funding
  • Preparation for Investment Discussions

Solution Team

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