Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Communications and coordination of shared effort

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business, UN-GAID by Timothy Platt on January 21, 2010

I have been sharing some of the flow of information and ideas with this blog, stemming from the earthquake disaster in Haiti and the response to it coming from members of the UN-GAID community. This group and its Champions Network have been looking for ways to contribute to the development of information and communications infrastructure recovery for Haiti and in support of the larger recovery effort. My postings have, of course, come from my particular perspective on this and as postings in my ongoing series have focused on areas that connect with longer term themes I have been developing in the “all the time and everywhere” capabilities of ubiquitous computing and communications, in social networking, and also in organizational strategy and execution.

One area that has come up in my postings, reflecting part of the flow of conversation in UN-GAID is that of coordination and I have primarily focused in internal coordination within the UN-GAID community and a need for that. I did mention and perhaps too much in passing in Creating Societal as Well as Personal Value through Social Networking the need to coordinate with and work with outside agencies and organizations:

• “Supporting other relief efforts with ICT expertise and hands on effort.
• This would need to be done with the approval and support of local and national governments for the impacted area.
• This would all be done in close coordination with organizations like CARICOM and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (e.g. for an event in the Caribbean), as well as with other UN agencies, NGO’s and private/corporate organizations offering help.”

I have also proposed (see for example Charting a Course for Action and Developing and Sharing Best Practices for Emergency Responses) that UN-GAID and its Champions Network would be well positioned to develop, organize and share best practices information for developing and managing the ICT components of future emergency relief and disaster recovery efforts, working with other UN organizations, NGO’s and a range of other partners in the public and private sectors in this.

Some of this could and should come from our direct experience in the field and from the organizations we directly work with, but good and great ideas and practices can come from a much wider range of sources than just the ones we have directly been involved with. In this, effective due diligence in finding and assembling a best practices and experience-based database would include a networking database listing as many organizations worldwide as we can identify that might contribute to the ICT effort in a disaster or recovery response. This would of necessity be a work in progress, and would need to include a number of key data fields to be of real value, including but not limited to:

• Geographic areas they are involved in.
• Areas of functional expertise and strength.
• Contact information for connecting to these organizations.
• Their functional status and availability for involvement.

A networking database listing organizations that would be involved in emergency response and recovery efforts including possible governmental organizations and NGO’s and public and private sector participants, with their contact and other information. This would also of necessity be a work in progress, and the goal here would primarily be to shorten the learning curve of who should be involved for sign-offs and for direct coordinated effort before a disaster was taking place to facilitate rapid, effective response in support of their efforts when a disaster was happening. Pre-identifying groups and organizations that need to be involved and how to reach out to them would speed up the process of doing so when time is of the essence – in the midst of a disaster and when every minute counts.

The core underlying concept behind social networking is that no one individual or group holds a monopoly on knowledge, experience or value and that good comes from reaching out to and connecting with others for the sharing and synergistic creation of value. That definitely applies here. There are organizations that offer even significant parts of the overall type of resource that I write of here, if not globally at least regionally. Their knowledge and experience base would be invaluable, and so would their meta-knowledge of how to help organize and operationalize their skills and information when and where needed.

Duplications of effort are not and cannot be a problem here, and if an organization such as UN-GAID with its United Nations grounding, and its Champions Network primarily organized the capabilities of others as a rapidly available and usable clearing house resource in time of need that would still create tremendous value.

So UN-GAID needs to connect out to coordinate with and involve with other groups and organizations. And it needs to coordinate internally as a group and organization as well to facilitate that outward reach as being possible too.

When I as a single individual started thinking about who should be involved in this effort on the level of group and organizational participation in the Haiti response I thought of a few specific organizations, and I thought about the fact that Haiti is known for its many, many NGO’s – where I do not know the landscape or capabilities of these individual organizations with any specificity. Others in the Champions Network have come up with a wide range of specific names of other organizations that I did not think of and I am sure that many members of the overall Champions Network know at least one or two additional names of organizations to include for events in the Caribbean to keep this discussion topical to current situation and requirements, and more globally in general. More than that, this larger membership collectively holds information on who to contact and on the status and capabilities of these organizations. And their contacts in these organizations and other members of them are in a position to add still more organizational names and contact and other information. This posting is really all about networking, and with a specific compelling need and purpose in mind to help address shared and sharable goals and priorities. In this I cite my third principle for good networking (see Social Networking and Business) in this context:

• Social networking is not about who you know. It is about who your direct contacts know and who they know, and who they in turn know, in an expanding but reachable circle of potential direct connections.

I will just add one more thought to this posting. In 1997 I was an official observer for a disaster response exercise called Interagency Chemical Exercise (ICE) in New York City. I was working as a clinical research director for a hospital center that was involved in this exercise and was involved in both pre and post-event discussions and evaluations. As part of that I went through what at the time was called the Train the Trainer Program offered through the US Department of Defense Domestic Preparedness Program. I share this information about a now 13 year old and technically obsolete set of experiences to highlight some important points.

• Many members of the UN-GAID community have gone through comparable experiences and with a wide range of emergency response and disaster recovery exercises and for both natural and human-caused events.
• The collective networking reach we have increases this pool of shared knowledge and experience.
• This collective network is also a source of value in helping members find out about training opportunities and other resources with which we can further develop our own capabilities in helping in any response or in its planning.
• Part of what we can do is the sharing of best practices as tested in real world events but shared knowledge coming from exercises and evaluations coming from them offers real value too.
• The more effectively and coordinately we work together, the more effectively we can create and share value from all of this.
• And the real proof of that will be in whether and to what degree we can accelerate effective response to the next disaster.

4 Responses

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