[APPLY NOW] Coaching for Tech-Enabled Disaster Management Projects

[APPLY NOW] Coaching for Tech-Enabled Disaster Management Projects

Last year, I wrote about a similar coaching opportunity with The Governance Lab at NYU. The lab has since moved to the Tandon School of Engineering from the Wagner School of Public Service (my master's alma matter), however, that does not mean they are any less focused on doing good.  

This year's coaching program focuses on tech-enabled disaster management. This program is ideal for you if you have specific project in mind or are actively working on a project. You will have access to great mentors and support. While the focus of the program is on developing a solution, you do not have to be technically oriented. In fact, this program works for anyone motivated to solve a real problem in the disaster or humanitarian space.  Also, they have instituted...

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Building Better Disaster Response and Resilience with Information and Technology

Building Better Disaster Response and Resilience with Information and Technology

For nearly five years I have been in higher education exploring how information and technology can improve disaster response and resilience. I have explored complex issues in great detail and I have learned a lot about the challenges and opportunities being faced by communities, organizations and people trying to leverage information and technology to better respond to disasters and build resilience.

But as I begin my transition back to the working world in the near future, I am forced to reflect on how I can apply this new knowledge to help address current problems while also preparing for an innovative future beyond what we can imagine today. I find myself writing about my philosophy on leveraging information and technology to improve disaster response and resilience...

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

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...

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[APPLY NOW] Free Incubator for Disaster and Humanitarian Innovation!

[APPLY NOW] Free Incubator for Disaster and Humanitarian Innovation!

I just got word of a great FREE coaching program at my master's alma matter.  If you have been considering an idea and want to work on it more with great mentors and support, this is a great program for you.  While the focus of the program is on developing a solution, you do not have to be technically oriented.  In fact, this program works for anyone motivated to solve a real problem in the disaster or humanitarian space.  Also, if your idea is disaster related, I might be one of the mentors you have access to as well.  Here are the specifics...

The Governance Lab at NYU's Wagner School of Public Service is searching for highly motivated and passionate individuals with good ideas but who may not know how to develop them without help! 

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Can Evernote be a Planning Tool? Training? Evaluation?

I am usually very excited when new tools disaster tools come out on the market. But I am equally excited when everyday tools can be applied to the disaster context to better meet our needs and more often than not achieve significant cost savings.

In the past year, I have used Evernote religiously to capture my thoughts, research and any other type of information I can think of. I can then search Evernote with its powerful search features to inform my blog posts, support my PhD research and consulting clients, manage class assignments, and take notes...for everything.

Evernote has an easy capture tool for clipping things from the web (including PDFs) and an easy to use architecture that can easily link and/or publish notes within the program. Additionally, I can use it on ANY of my devices with online and offline capabilities and integrate it with MANY other applications. Needless to say, I am a big fan of the tool.

But I really wonder if Evernote can be used as an emergency response or continuity planning tool. According to Wikipedia:

Evernote is a suite of software and services designed for notetaking and archiving. A "note" can be a piece of formatted text, a full webpage or webpage excerpt, a photograph, a voice memo, or a handwritten "ink" note. Notes can also have file attachments. Notes can be sorted into folders, then tagged, annotated, edited, given comments, searched and exported as part of a notebook.

To put this a bit into perspective, Evernote 's motto is:

Remember everything. Capture anything. Access anywhere. Find things fast.

Hmmm....sounds a lot like a lot of our fundamental planning needs for disasters? We need to collaborate well and then access our information easily and fast. Evernote Business provides many of the collaboration features missing in the consumer product.

The incorrect approach, though, would be to ask Evernote to do everything our word processor does. Conceptually, it is an entirely different tool  that must be approached in a new way.

For example, what if we could have each note represent a chapter and all linked back to a Table of Contents note?  What if we could create a notebook solely for our base plans and then have other notebooks dedicated to our functional annexes? Add supplementary or supporting PDF, Word, PowerPoint, Excel Documents with ease?

In another case, what if your incident commander could easily look up and reference relevant procedures and protocols directly on his or her phone or tablet?  Better yet, can it provide a checklist for action within seconds?

Or what if you could get real time information back from the field by having them taking pictures, record audio or mark up a screen shot of a map directly from their phones and tablets?

Evernote is such a powerful repository of information that it can do all the things mentioned above.  I am just wondering what the workflow is for organizations with emergency response and business continuity planning needs.  Does it end up being more expensive than other tools or are there any work arounds?

What are your thoughts?  Would you consider Evernote for your organization?  Why or why not?

White House Poised for Further Innovation with "Design Jam"

I had the distinct pleasure attending a White House design jam (think "design-a-thon") on Disaster Response and Recovery with over 90 colleagues from all over the tech and innovation space last Tuesday. Honorable mentions include MicrosoftGoogleNYC Digital, Twitter, Airbnb, Twilio, TopixLiquidSpace, Reddit, Rackspace, Palantir, DirectRelief, Recovers.org, APCO International, and Singularity University to name a few.  And yes, FEMA was there along with a couple White House Presidential Innovation Fellows!

Here is a quick description of the event:

The event, to be led by Todd Park, US Chief Technology Officer, and Richard Serino, Deputy Administrator of FEMA, will convene leaders in technology, design, academia, entrepreneurship, and philanthropy, as well as local and state officials to develop ideas for innovative solutions to emergency management challenges.
Participants will brainstorm creative new solutions and ways to support the development of prototypes for some of the best emerging ideas. Solutions will focus on: empowering disaster survivors; enhancing the ability of first responders as well as Federal, state and local officials to conduct critical recovery and restoration activities; and supporting integrated, whole-community efforts to better prevent, protect, mitigate, respond to, and recover from disasters.

We spent most of the day "jamming" to not just discuss, but actually create designs.  We worked through a cycle that included problem definition, design & build, test & evaluate, and iterate.  At the end of the day, we chose team captains to spearhead ongoing development efforts.

There were a number of fabulous projects that, if continued, could really help us leap frog forward.  Here are a few:

  • DisasterRSS - Creation of a "disaster.txt" publishing standard & ontology for websites (like RSS for blogs).  This simple idea is for any organization that has data or information useful in disasters.  The organization would create a .txt file on its website that would have all relevant information for data geeks and others to access its data.  Here is a very basic example.
  • SMS Survivor Survey - Designed to get specific information from specific population groups, the simple prototype simulated sending a short text message survey to a list of durable equipment owners with a tree of questions asking for their current location and the battery needs for their life-saving medical devices.  That information is then saved for disaster responders to deliver aid for the folks that need it.  This model can be adapted to a variety of use cases .  Check it out by texting (415) 236-3575.
  • Disaster Response Data Interchange - Geographically aware data interchange that will intelligently aggregate disaster recovery information from social media and other sites. The system will include Customer Relationship Management (CRM) functionality to autonomously engage “customers” to connect the “haves” with the “wants” across multiple sites. Additionally, it will have an Application Programming Interface (API) that will allow third parties to push/pull information automatically into and out of the data interchange.
The big question on many peoples' minds, though, is "so what's next?"  Innovative ideas are simply not enough to leap frog us forward.  We need action-oriented and sustainable projects supported by a correctly aligned policy and operational environment.  Additionally, resources including funding and expertise are also needed.  While these sentiments were echoed throughout the day, this may take time to realize.  I am hopeful as we push forward and the "design jam" format certainly seemed to be pushing us in this direction.

Check out the full Storify here.

So what is your opinion on what we need to go from innovative ideas to action and sustainability?