The following are examples of innovative practices philanthropic organizations have supported, developed and/or implemented regarding communications:
Funded the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative to support the development of KoBo Toolbox: a suite of tools for field data collection for use in challenging environments. The software, which is free and open source, is intended to improve coordination between disaster responders.
Addressed difficulty in assessing affected areas and coordinating interagency response. Their funded Disaster Response Team (DRT) (see also Immediate Relief) features satellite communication devices to assist in coordinating major NGOs and military support teams converging on the disaster site. It is a rapid telecommunications damage assessment designed to accelerate restarting critical communications.
Supported NetHope’s rapid, coordinated assessment, and communications response strategies which typically results in at least 20-fold impact of their dollars.
Worked to make critical information more accessible in times of disaster. This includes 1) Creating a resource page with emergency information and tools; 2) Launching Google Person Finder to connect people with friends and loved ones; 3) Hosting a Crisis Map with authoritative and crowd-sourced geographic information, and 4) Public Alerts – a platform to disseminate relevant emergency alerts to users when and where they’re searching for them.
Used social media such as Twitter and Facebook to communicate. They had supported disaster relief efforts in other parts of the country and the world, but when Tropical Storm Irene hit, no policies were in place for what to do “at home” in Vermont. With many communities cut off from the road and other types of access, they successfully used social media to communicate.
Created a weekly funders conference call after the 2011 Alabama tornadoes. This practice informed the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers to do the same when Superstorm Sandy struck in 2012 and these funder briefings included representatives from the Governor’s office, FEMA, HUD, emergency management, healthcare and mental health, and other nonprofit leaders.
Supported The Citizens Campaign to develop and launch a project (Post-Superstorm Sandy) aimed at educating, empowering and engaging citizens to constructively participate in the policy decisions that need to be made at the local and state level to repair the damage from Hurricane Sandy and to better prepare for the future intense storms that are predicted as a result of continued climate change. The project included a regional series of citizen journalism trainings to educate citizens and practicing citizen journalists on ways to write about and focus attention on Post-Sandy activities. The goal was to generate the continuing saturation coverage with examples of effective citizen action that research demonstrates is essential for constructive citizen engagement.
Created HelpBridge, a free mobile app designed to help people connect quickly with one another during a time of disaster, discover and donate to organizations involved in disaster response work, and find relevant volunteer opportunities. This cross-platform mobile application (Windows Phone, Android, iOS) provides individuals with the ability to send status updates to pre-selected contact groups via email, SMS, Twitter and Facebook. Through the phone’s GPS capabilities, users can also choose whether to share their location in their alerts.
Launched after the Boston Marathon bombing to serve as a central clearing-house of information.
Organized events bringing survivors of past disasters together with survivors of current disasters to bring insight, experience and empathy as residents begin organizing for long term recovery and rebuilding.
Organized a conference call series after Katrina and Sandy to provide updates to public officials and community development industry leaders on the latest with FEMA, any federal legislation/relief packages in the works, damage estimates, etc.