Disaster Response and Relief Ideas and Topics for the Race for Resilience Hackathon

Carlos Miranda Levy • 10 January 2014

On January 10, 2014, the fourth anniversary of the Haitian 2010 earthquake, the Relief 2.0 team held an international "ideathon" and digital hangout with Civil Innovation Lab partners and friends from around the world to discuss key issues to address and work as part of our participation in the Race for Resilience hackathon organized in Tokyo on Febrary.

Key participants in the discussion included:


Stanford Peace Innovation Lab (Margarita Quihuis)

Tel Aviv

Web Done (Michal Schrieber)


Santo Domingo
Dominican Republic

Alianza ONG, Civil Innovation Lab (Carlos Miranda Levy), Colectivo Revark (Abel), GreEnergyDom (Yomayra Martinó), SirveQuisqueya Volunteer Network (David Javier), Dominican Firefighters Academy (Miguel Angel Váldez & Simón Vargas Guzmán).

Here are some of the key topics discussed and findings. You can also watch the full 1 hour video discussion for more details. This activity was in preparation for the Race for Resilience hackathon and initiative.

The need to validate and monitor official and government issued information

  • Often there is a lot of discussion about validating non-official information, independent reports and crowdsource data. But during the discussion, an unexpected issue surfaced: government issued data or coming from public sources can be distorted or skewed according to the interests of public institutions, political parties or organizations.
  • This is supported by general distrust in government and official information released regarding radiation levels and the state of the nuclear plants in Fukushima, Japan; the number of deaths in the "Mesopotamia" disaster in the Dominican Republic, the high number of casualties (largely unsupported by factual data) in the 2010 Haitian earthquake, etc.
  • So one key issue to work on our future hackathon is a validation tool, service or mechanism for government and official data and reports coming from public organizations and conventionally considered "trusted" sources. Can crowdsourced validation and information question or support this data and make it more useful and accurate?

Communications Platform and Network

  • The need to have a platform in place before the crisis or disaster strikes, including:
    • Designs, generic messages and strategies.
    • Questions and answers for those questions ready in advance.
    • Channels, teams, mechanisms for distribution and collection of information.
    • Map of ecosystem, partners and stakeholders.
    • Have a network in place before disaster/crisis: know the people, not just the organizations and institutions.

Communication channels for addressing the population before, during and after crisis

  • Multiple channels, including the creation of general and specific Youtube channels.
    • General for year-round awareness, education and information on disaster/crisis preparedness and response.
    • Specific for each crisis or disaster.
    • Reach out to all communities:
      • locals, foreigners, youth, mature, religious groups, education levels, languages, nationality, sports groups, remote settlements, urban and rural populations, professionals (drivers, technicians, construction workers, plumbers, engineers, eanyone with specific skills), volunteers, etc.
  • Monitor quality of information delivery and make it adjustable.
    • Need for degradation of channel's technology and bandwith requirement according to connectivity capability of user (all the way from video to text messages).
  • Acknowledge both digital divide and social media divide.

Communication styles

  • Get a civilian to talk to civilians:
    • Military personnel, government officials, public workers are not the best at communicating with people in distress and audiences that need clear information, but also reassurance and humane approach.
    • The messages and conversations, including the delivery of information should not be hierarchical, although it must be clear, inequivocal, and explicitely mandatory when required.
    • Humanized communication: Do not just provide directions as in "do this, follow that, go there", but let the message convey the notion that you understand the audience's feelings and conditions.
  • Keep messages short, clear, visual when possible.
    • Make them easy to follow.
    • Make them easy to share.
    • Understands and applies to the current scenario and changing conditions.

Technologies that work as Social Coordinators or Social Coordination Mechanisms

  • Through multiple objective channels that enable and deliver:
    • Both ways Communication:
      • Inform, educate, instructions and directions.
      • Respond, assist.
      • Give data.
      • Collect data.
    • Collaboration.
    • Coordination.
    • Assessing conditions and understanding current scenarios and changing conditions.
  • Some organizations will choose not to choose all data.
    • Regardless of our position on this and our preferences, we must acknowledge and respect each organization's preferences.
    • Enabling data collection tool that does not require full disclosure and still gathers valuable information.

The need or benefit to validate id's, individuals and organizations in the field

  • How to accomplish this efficiently, but without also creating exclusion mechanisms for independents, non-accredited or non-registered stakeholders and partners.
  • The need to register, record and share meritocracy, actions in the field and establish validated reputation mechanisms that are shared and easily accessible.

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