Dec 18, 2011

Organizing post-calamity chaos

After calamities like Ondoy and Sendong, we could now make out a pattern in the way we respond to disasters, particularly our online response through social media like Facebook and Twitter. It is not a good pattern. 

It is characterized by chaos and disorganization. Ironically, we've used online tools to coordinate other tasks both mundane (eg, organizing reunions through Facebook or egroups) and challenging (eg, coordinating protests and starting flash mobs). Somehow we keep missing to use these same tools more effectively for disasters.

I'm aware of several online projects in the past that are relevant to this issue, but it's safe to say that these aren't really doing much. Perhaps the problem is that these efforts always start after a calamity and are never sustained till the next disaster strikes. There is hardly any pre-calamity activity or plan or program and although the issue points clearly towards government or the lack of it in these times, I'd also put equal blame on us mere citizens for not pushing enough to get a response from our government and private leaders.  

There has to be a better way to orchestrate/coordinate relief efforts in our country. I hope this blog entry inspires many of us to start discussing this problem so that we begin more concrete actions.

Why orchestrate/coordinate our efforts?

Solving this problem will have great benefits: 
  1. Coordination will help reduce/eliminate wasteful, duplicated efforts.
  2. It will help us help better. If we knew what calamity victims really needed, we could maximize our donations by focusing on those real needs.  
  3. Because of the above benefits, we could respond more quickly, more efficiently and more effectively to help  calamity victims. 

The effort sounds daunting. Is there really a solution? 

The elements of the solution are already in our hands:
  1. We have people willing to give help (donate): money, relief goods, volunteer time, etc.
  2. We have people willing to deliver help: shipping companies, private individuals, foundations and NGOs.
  3. We have people willing to go out there and rescue people.
  4. We have social media and we are already using social media to do the first 2 elements.
  5. There are various online, open source, and free platforms like Sahana and even Google Docs/Maps to facilitate the orchestration.
Got any ideas? Please comment.

* * * Pahabol * * * 

In the rush to publish this, I forgot to add that in the elements of the solution, we lack an important category: people who view all the activities from a broader perspective and help orchestrate the efforts.

1 comment:

Data Tolentino-Canlas said...

i suppose because of the hyper-personal characteristics of social networking sites, some people have (un)necessarily limited views of large scale organizing. there's a sense of "if it's not in my network, i prolly am not going to be interested," or the flipside, "it's in my network, so it looks like someone else has taken care of it." it has to affect some users very deeply for them to take action in the offline world, more so action that has so many moving parts. it's much simpler to just click something because it's easiest to achieve. what is interesting to find is, what IS it that moves people to offline action? if this affect/mindset can be recreated and replicated this could provide some building blocks to the solution.