Digital humanitarian and disaster response is an emerging field where we have a chance to apply our social justice brains and hearts. Doing so opens new opportunities to close technology capacity and socioeconomic gaps. By being strategic and collaborative in our involvement in this space, we can address both short-term needs and long-standing issues.
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For a long time, it wasn't possible to include everyone's voice in planning or decision making without investing unfeasible amounts of time. There was no way to listen, at scale. Aggregation and centralization made some small sense, especially in times of urgency, even with the systemic troubles these tend to cause. We now have new communication, coordination, and parsing technologies. We have the ability to listen, in high resolution and in high fidelity. But technology isn't a silver bullet -- we also need the political will, and the personal values to make that happen. We have a great deal of historical momentum to overcome in order to make these shifts to inclusion and empowerment. With Aspiration's new digital humanitarian response program, we get to support some of the people and organizations willing and able to make these changes.
We welcome your feedback, contributions, and questions.
Join the Conversation
Our mailing list includes updates about digital responder call-ins, upcoming events, and cross-sector collaborative discussion.
Check In Calls
These call-ins / check-ins are at their most basic a way to strengthen the connections across response organizations (traditional, digital, and otherwise), individuals, and projects. Some calls are focused or topical, but are always meant as open spaces for cross-sector and -organizational collaboration. Defined organizations, networks, and other ways of delineating and focusing response are absolutely necessary, but so too is a space external to that for emergent possibilities.
There is a template for how to conduct a digital responder checkin call on the checkin call category page. That page will also give a process for adding your own calls to this wiki.
- 2016 May 23 : updates on HumTechFest, discussion on the blockchain in response, and questions about international consortium, health site data, the digital response ecosystem map, and urban resilience.
- 2016 April 12 : updates from Resilience CoLab, JIFX, prosthetic environments, Coordinated Data Scramble, and decision maker's needs.
- 2015 Nov 27 : updates on Humanitarian Services Data Standards Project, Resilience CoLab, Witness Engines/Crisis Archiving, Secure Web Integration Framework, JIFX, Sahana Eden supply and volunteer management database, and RHoK
- 2015 Sept 23 : updates on the handbook, ResilienceCoLab, and 2W doc. Also talked about RefugeesWelcome, JIFX, the Earthquake Coordinated Data Scramble, and communication methods (the drafted Code of Conduct for open comms channels, how the call-in platform was working, and how to select other comms platforms).
- 2015 Aug 06 : the band is back together! A firehose of a call, many folk gave a quick overview of themselves and their organizations. We also did quick indicators of projects we're working on and how we could use help.
- 2012 Sept 12 : updates about how to get data into and out of FEMA.
- 2012 Jul 31 : notes from a call while with Geeks Without Bounds with organizational updates from Crisis Commons, Humanity Road, and Standby Task Force about a data commons.
Have a question about this program, but don't necessarily want to talk to a whole group? No worries! Reach out to email@example.com to be in touch with us directly.
Humanitarian Technology Festival
Ever wanted to know about, or work on, disaster and humanitarian response technology from a people-first perspective? Aspiration's #HumTechFest strives to build capacity for humanitarian aid and disaster response efforts through technology and community. These are participatory and community-driven convenings designed for field practitioners, media makers and storytellers, technology developers, information security practitioners, members of affected populations, researchers, and everyone in between. The agenda is co-developed with participants, facilitators, and partners in the time leading up and during the event.
Please check out our Participant Guidelines before the event.
- 2016 June HumTechFest : June 4th and 5th in Cambridge, Mass. We played a scenario, talked a lot about institutional and grassroots collaboration, and worked on the Digital response ecosystem map.
- 2015 May HumTechFest : our first HumTechFest! We talked about how frontline communities could hold responders accountable, did skill shares around open data, and spec'd out easy-to-create after action report templates.
Digital Responder Meetups
Many digital responders often work alone. And just as independent consultants migrate to coffee shops and coworking spaces to seek out human company, so too do those of us in the humanitarian and disaster response sector. Whether working on the code for tracking infrastructure, struggling with how to tell a story about refugees using mobile technology, thinking about how to invest in a project without disrupting local economies, or wanting feedback on the latest design of your incident-reporting dashboard, we want you to be with friends and cohorts. Many digital humanitarian and disaster responders are the only person in an organization working on this topic, OR you're on a dedicated but distributed team, OR you're just coming to the topic and wanting to put faces with all those online usernames. So it's just nice to hang out, get to know each other, our projects, and brainstorm about challenges.
We also rely on the networks we already know when a crisis occurs. By establishing bonds of trust, knowledge, and having explored and bettered our own projects and understandings, we'll be able to more effectively respond to the next extreme event. We'll know where we can meet up for physical solidarity, a solid internet connection, and people we know and have worked with before. All those background technical links that allow data and knowledge to be shared for a more holistic response are more likely to happen when we're all in the same space as each other.
So please bring your questions, your projects, your challenges. We'll provide the soda, beer, and snacks. We are tool- and sector-agnostic, so long as you are dedicated to listening, sharing, and empowerment.
Want to host one of your own? Here's how! All we ask is that you let us know you are, so we might support you.
Find yourself in the Bay Area when one isn't happening, or simply don't want to wait until the next one? We welcome digital responders (and others) to come cowork from the Nonprofit Technology Center at 16th and Mission in San Francisco any time. Just give us a heads up.
- 2016 August Meet Up : August 11th in San Francisco, CA. We chatted about HAM radio, community mesh networks, and why we do what we do.
- 2016 June Meet Up : June 16th in San Francisco, CA. We reviewed MapSwipe, how cross-sector communication works, the ecosystem map, and basic ways of plugging into digital response activities.
Projects listed on this wiki are held by the wider community, and are listed here only for reference. Our goal is that they be worked on and owned in a distributed and communal way, and are thus Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike. All projects should be seen as open to feedback and as continual works in progress. Questions, comments, suggestions, etc can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our knowledge base is housed in the Digital response ecosystem map. This is a living knowledge base of tools, personas, resources, etc is maintained collectively by digital responders. The wiki page links to the context, concept note, backend, and places to have further conversation. We view this as a baseline for decision making, for gap analysis, and for resource creation.
- You can add resources and tools quickly to the ecosystem map by using a Bookmarklet to log projects.
- The ecosystem map may eventually be presented in more detail similar to our Communication tools matrix. Every extreme event is different, but all involve coordinating across many different organizations, timezones, politics, etc. We're working to understand the potential constraints and needs of each response, and to map existing communication tools to those needs for speedy selection and setup.
Projects informed by the ecosystem map
The ecosystem map points at a few gaps in resources available for personas at various points in their workflows. We have started working on creating resources to fill these gaps. These might be Before You Jump In Guides, which are for digital responders and the intermediaries working with them. These help to scope challenges, point at other possible challenges, and lay some ground work for taking next steps. After a choice about implementing a certain aspect of digital response has been come to, Field Guides help by providing a series of questions to ask before starting. These questions can help in searching the ecosystem map for a tool which is best suited for a specific context.
- Before you jump in: Missing Persons : a guide in how (and when) to build or contribute to a missing persons application.
- Extreme event preparedness and response for small nonprofits : guide for small non profits and other community groups to prepare for, and respond to, crisis.
A handbook for digital responders
Once the ecosystem is better defined (and those definitions tested and socialized); resources are located, curated, and created; and trends emerge, we might begin to work on a handbook for working with digital responders.
- Frontline communities holding responders accountable : response organizations and individual responders are vital contributors to safety, rebuilding, logistics, etc in many extreme events -- but who holds them accountable? Are there mechanisms by which those most affected by the extreme event might do so? This project suggests a transparency report for how the needs of an affected population were (or were not) addressed by those claiming to do so.
- Media guide for extreme events : crises are often accompanied by a media frenzy, and those already stressed because of the impact on their lives are also expected to be spokespeople for their neighborhood. If you're a reporter, how can you act in good faith in an affected region? If you're a member of the affected population, what are ways to approach media inquiries from a social justice perspective?
Response Groups and Projects Aspiration Works With
- Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre : on games about citizen reporting, on crowd integration.
- Dialling Up Resilience : on accountability mechanisms and local indicators of resilience.
- Hirondelle : on visually representing their communications network.
Words on the Subject
The topic on our blog
Follow and comment on topical blog entries.
- A Paradise Built in Hell : an easy-to-ready overview of disaster sociology, how people behave in crisis (spoiler: it's not every person for themselves).
- Black Flags and Windmills : review of the politicized relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina performed by the Common Ground Collective.
- Do No Harm : review and framework for how to deploy resources into conflict zones without exacerbating the conflict.
The GovLab also has a list of selected readings worth checking out.