Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Digital volunteers making a difference

Across the world in humanitarian crises caused by war or disasters.

Amplify’d from

Disaster Relief 2.0: What the UN could not have done without the Volunteer Technical Community

The office that I work for – UN OCHA – recently took a big leap forward by engaging the VTCs for responding to the Libyan and Japan crises. We dove into a collaboration with the VTCs in a first effort to try to make the responses better. However, the most common questions I have received are “So what?” and “What was the impact?”.

When the Libya crisis broke out, I asked permission in OCHA to call a meeting between OCHA and many of the VTCs. In the first teleconference, the Stand By Task Force (SBTF), an organized group of 150+ volunteers skilled in online Crisis Mapping, was activated to map out the social media and traditional media reports from within the country – the result: So what?  Well, given that the UN had virtually no access to the country, we now had situational awareness. How much is that worth to a agency planning its response?  Could you plan with virtually no information? I know the site was being used by agencies such as the World Food Programme, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) the Red Cross,and USAID to perform certain types of analysis and to aid in their planning.


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