NYU's GovLab is Crowdsourcing Innovation for the Cotopaxi Volcano Eruption

NYU's Governance Lab (GovLab) is looking for some experts to participate in a series of virtual roundtable problem-solving discussions to help the Ecuador government and its local cities prepare for an increasingly likely eruption of the Cotopaxi Volcano. The volcano has recently become very active. If it erupts, some communities will have less than 30 minutes to evacuate.  

For some background, GovLab is an NYU Wagner School of Public Service lab that helps institutions work more openly and collaboratively by harnessing the power of the crowd in problem solving. GovLab also harnesses the latest practices and innovations in data and technology to support its mission.  

If you believe you can offer expertise or support for one of the sessions below, sign up here. The first session starts October 1. If you know of anyone who would like to participate, forward this on.  

Here are the details that were sent to me:

The City of Quito, Ecuador needs your help and that of your classmates and colleagues in your program and your newsletter readers to prepare for the likely eruption of the Cotopaxi Volcano situated 30 miles from Quito.

Cotopaxi is currently spewing ash (latest images here). The last large-scale eruption was in 1877, and it is believed that another one is now inevitable. If it erupts, some communities will have less than half an hour to evacuate.

The scale of the challenge is overwhelming. Yet there are those of you out there with good ideas for how to mitigate the risks, especially using technology and innovation, or those of you who know others who have relevant experience, skills, and know how.

We will convene a dozen online sessions to help the city address the major pressing challenges in disaster management.

The goal of these online sessions is to:

  1. Better define and understand the nature of the problem
  2. Help connect those people with relevant experience and know how to city officials to help Quito better manage the impending disaster
  3. Identify innovative and practical ways, especially using new technology, to tackle the challenge at hand
  4. Result in at least 2-3 implementable ways per topic of doing things differently that could potentially save lives, save resources, and allow for money to be spent on what matters most.


  • Each session will run online from 11 am EST for 1.5 hours on a Monday or Thursday (see calendar below)
  • Each session will be attended by those city officials with responsibility for that topic, who will share background information about the current state of readiness.
  • Each session will be moderated by an expert in the field.
  • Each session will be staffed by volunteers who will take notes and follow up the session to develop good ideas into more concrete and actionable proposals backed up by research.

What We Need From You?

Sign up (https://the-govlab.forms.fm/cotopaxi) for the sessions of greatest relevance where you have the most to contribute.

  • Coordination of Communication - Thursday, October 1, 11am - 12.30pm EST
  • Evacuation Planning - Monday, October 5, 11am - 12.30pm EST
  • Cost Effective Human and Animal Shelters - Thursday,  October 8, 11am - 12.30pm EST
  • Citizen Sensing and Citizen Science - Monday, October 12, 11am - 12.30pm EST
  • Protection of Vulnerable Populations - Thursday, October 15, 11am - 12.30pm EST
  • Construction of a Skills-Based Expert Network - Monday, October 19, 11am - 12.30pm EST
  • Continuity of Communications Systems - Thursday, October 22, 11am - 12.30pm EST
  • Air and Water Quality and Sanitation - Monday, October 26, 11am - 12.30pm EST
  • Food Safety and Cold-Chain Supply Management - Thursday, October 29, 11am - 12.30pm EST
  • Access to Health Services - Monday, November 2, 11am - 12.30pm EST
  • School Alternatives During a Disaster - Thursday, November 5, 11am - 12.30pm EST
  • Innovative Financing for Redevelopment - Monday, November 9, 11am - 12.30pm EST

The magnitude of the crisis is grave and the timing is urgent. Please take the time to share this invitation with the right people. 

You can also suggest another session or tell us how we can do this better.

Many thanks for your assistance and for volunteering your time and expertise to help the people of Ecuador.

  • Carolina Pozo, Secretary General, Planning and Open Government, City of Quito
  • Beth Simone Noveck, Founder, The GovLab
  • Dinorah Cantu, Director, The GovLab Academy