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Software for 21st-century decisions

Madrona is a software framework for effective place-based decision making

How will we all thrive on a densely populated, rapidly changing planet?  For over twenty years, Ecotrust has been tackling this question, through the creation of innovative mapping and software solutions that bridge different perspectives on land and ocean use.  These tools empower people to understand complex information and solve problems collaboratively.

People gathering in a circle.
Discussion at the Resilience Convening 2011.

One thing we have learned is that one-size-fits-all software solutions often fall short, especially when it comes to supporting a complex decision-making process.  Instead, the most successful solutions provide carefully chosen features that are tailored to the specific goal, process, audience, geography, and culture.  This takes time and often multiple iterations to get right.  As an organization that creates many of these decision support tools each year, the question we faced was how to make this process more efficient.  The answer we found was to distill our best practices and most popular software features into a modular framework that allows a developer to choose only what they need for the problem at hand and to customize it quickly.  We’ve refined this framework over many projects this last year and in the spirit of sharing good ideas, we are now proud to announce the release of Madrona, a software framework for effective place-based decision making.

Madrona provides software developers with a set of building blocks that can be mixed and matched to create cutting-edge, web-based tools for decision support and spatial planning at any scale.  It can be used in sectors ranging from natural resource management to ocean and land-use planning, urban and community planning, energy, transportation, health care and more.  These building blocks have evolved through extensive work with project partners, including our award-winning work with the MarineMap Consortium designing marine protected areas in California, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identifying conservation priorities in the coastal rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, and in helping regional leaders around the world visualize future vulnerabilities and resilience-building opportunities.

Madrona tools are helping the state of Washington plan for offshore renewable energy.
Madrona tools are helping the state of Washington plan for offshore renewable energy.

Conceptually, you can think of Madrona like you would the materials and plans for building a house. There are core materials that form a strong foundation (group collaboration, a spatial content management system), various rooms and options to choose from (2D and 3D mapping, scenario planning), and the flexibility to make your own additions and alterations.  Ultimately, how you build it is up to you. The goal of Madrona is to let you focus on the bigger picture and not get distracted by all of the nuts and bolts.

To learn more visit madrona.ecotrust.org.  We offer case studies, step-by-step tutorials, generous open source licensing, a community forum for asking questions, and a full range of consulting services.  We invite technologists from around the world to use Madrona and contribute to its ongoing evolution.   Together we can achieve a larger global impact through improved decision making.