Matter. Every day we want to do something that matters. This sense of ‘matter’ or ‘purpose’ differs from person to person. How can research matter a bit more in Qatar for Humanitarians? How can we activate and remix our lessons learned globally locally?
The Qatar Red Crescent 6th annual Disaster Management Camp was held from March 31 – April 9, 2015. Participants were from across the MENA region and included humanitarians who are staff of QRC, other Red Crescent Societies, IFRC, Qatar Civil Defense, Qatar EMS, and more. The range of skills included new volunteers to seasoned field deployers. Some of the participants attended training classes throughout the week based on the UN Cluster system. There were scenarios including a wide range of responders. There were camera crews from Al Rayyan. It was an intensive professional live classroom.
When we think about Aid and Humanitarians in the context of data gathering, it is so important to see the information flows from their point of view. They rush to respond based on their trained skillsets. The work we do at QCRI could create research which results in information products or insights to support their so important work. But, these digital skills are not meant to supplant humanitarians but respectfully support their work. If 1%of my time over 20 years makes a difference for these brave people, then that is impact. But, this type of long term data is a work in progress.
What does information collection and decision-making look like for a humanitarian team? Well, this DMIC or NOC is not in the field, but a head office. I imagine there are varying types of DMICs in the field with less screens. But this is where the information and data insights flow.
Mobile phones, sat phones, cameras. These are the leader’s tools as they navigate all the information deluge. While they may have access (connectivity) is unlikely that they have time to review any social data. One responder (not at DMC) told me that he doesn’t even answer the phone, only SMS messages during an emergency because it is more efficient.
In a real deployment, there may be communications towers active. But this is variable.
Data Centers may not be in fancy Swedish caves (google this), but in the back of a truck. And, humanitarians may only get 3 GPS units to share among many people. Sure Information officers and others like Search and Rescue might get GPS and Maps training but at a raw level, I have been advised by some humanitarians that this is very realistic. New technology in the field is waning. A friend was deployed by CISCO TACOPS to Vanuatu. 2 weeks after that emergency the President’s office was put back online. So, technology while important, is maybe available.
The Media and Communications Track at DMC6 included sat phone, GPS and media relations training. This is Mejed from IFRC training on the basics. All humanitarians will need to quickly learn all the various communications tools and techniques during camp. They have one full day. After class, they are responsible to practice on these and try to integrate them into their workflow.
Ali El Gamal of QRC and I lead the Social Media and New Technology class where we featured some of the QCRI tools which my colleague Patrick will talk about next. We did this class 6 times for 6 different teams. On the day of the big sandstorm, we did this with no power or slides. Another day Ali had to cover a scenario, so I had some guest translators. Students had many questions about impact, volume and veracity of social media informatics. They were very earnest to learn new skills but were firm that it needs to be in their own language. Having users consider the work we do at QCRI resulted in over 40 pages of notes, 3 blog posts (so far) and countless tweets, a storify and on and on. Getting a chance to learn from them will help me work to meet QRC half way with our QCRI research.
The Scenarios included everything from a fake bomb blast.
To an earthquake.
I should mention that the Al Rayyan team and a camera crew were on site capturing all the responses and lessons for future learning and outreach.
Participants had cameras everywhere. The volume of social media use was high. There were often conversations about ethical use of images.
And, we had helicopter rescues. All of this was training at a meta level. How will people respond – each of the participants.
Dust blowback from a helicopter was also a teaching moment.
In my class I did a casual survey of the use of social media and technology by the classes. This is a window into the Humanitarians. I very much explained that during an emergency the affected populations will use these devices. During the camp they used so much social media. It was great to get a window into their learning arch of realtime engagement and communication. This graph was created with Infogram.
The communications teams used their social savvy to practice online verification and human computing (harnessing ‘your network’), they live-tweeted events, crushed rumours and held press conferences with Twitter. They used WhatsApp to relay critical information during scenarios between two emergency sites, thus having the medical center receive updates via radio, phone and a WhatsApp messaging group. Pictures were also sent via WhatsApp by the response team to medical team to help them prepare. - See more at https://storify.com/heatherleson/qatar-red-crescent-disaster-management-camp
Students received certificates and may continue on to more intensive topical training. This is Eman and Khadra.
Digital Humanitarians - One idea would be to hold a casual meet-up to determine the next steps. This could be followed by some more formal training workshops. Youth engagement - we could work with QRC, Youth Beyond Disasters and others to build a capacity and resilient youth outreach project for volunteering for QRC both online and off.
Sarah Vieweg, Research Scientist, attended and did some primary research with field humanitarians. Sofiane Abbar, Senior Software Engineer, provided a Humanitarian Big Tent keynote about QCRI tools and the new technology space. We are very keen to continue our research in support of the QRC and the wider GCC community. This , Research Scientistis a first step to have some meaningful embedded understanding of how technology is used or could be used by the QRC.
All photos by Heather Leson CCBY
Report from the Qatar Red Crescent Disaster Management Camp
Humanitarians in Action
Report from Qatar Red Crescent
Disaster Management Camp
April 15, 2015
Key Opportunities/Next Steps
These are some first draft ideas on what we learned. We will work with QRC to
see what best suits their focus.
Digital Humanitarians MENA: Participants and staff are very keen to learn more
Youth Engagement: With a large youth and high mobile/digital populations, one
of the goals of youth engagement as cited in the World Humanitarian Summit
MENA reports could be activated locally.
Translation: QCRI tools and key Digital Humanitarian documents should be in
Charity Data: One of the largest sets of social data is charity data. We could
potentially use Social Computing tools and techniques in concert with a QRC