Defining An Operational Space for NGOs Situational Awareness and Decision Making with a Data Fusion Tool A Short Brief By Larry Winter Roeder, Jr. Former Policy Adviser On Disaster Management US Department of State
All NGOs need to become familiar with information and knowledge management as a decision-making support skill set. The follow information-management tool or Date Fusion matrix is an example. Ovals show classes of questions and answers are shown in a matrix. This approach greatly simplifies decision making on resources, when or where to deploy and who best to send by defining the Operational Space in which an NGO might operate. Sample questions are provided in Ovals. Others could be used. Once the operational space is defined, the job isn’t over. Questions on available resources, talents and other issues will also limit the space under a wide variety of circumstances. Keep in mind that even if circumstances might prohibit an NGO from working in a specific situation or country, that might not prevent it from supporting others which can. For example, an American NGO expert in a disease might not be able to enter Iran; but could fund an different NGO that can.
How does the NGO Decide Who to Help, Who is Most at Risk Land Animals Disease YES Operating Area NO Maybe Conflict Disasters SecurityOne NGO Can’t Help Everyone
Situation Awareness: A Continual Iterative Process using Data Fusion TechniquesTo define the basic operating space, many filtering questions need tobe asked, some dealing with laws and visa restrictions, some arepolitical, some are science based or skills based. All of these thingscan be graphed. Using interlocking graphs, the Imagery answers to these questions can Terrain Elevation Data be “fused” using GIS software to Geodetic Data Resources and Talents present a true situational Topographic Data awareness. The following are Aeronautical Data just samples used to stimulate Laws and Regulations discussion. Situational awareness provides the basis for providing professional advice on which NGO resources should be deployed before and Operating Space after a disaster, or in risk reduction.
Choosing Nations -- First Filter Never, e.g. North Korea, or perhaps a particular province or region. (without significant change.Note: Decisions to Possible, e,g, The goal of a matrixlimit operations are Sudan is to put the rightnot necessarily NGO in the right crisispolitically based. at the right time. If Operating an NGO is the wrongMore often, they are Area fit, it should notskill based. intervene.First choose the nations the NGO will not work inside without significantchanges, e.g. North Korea.. Next choose countries which under specialcircumstances, the NGO might operate, like Sudan. This leaves the restof the world. (Operating Area,). An NGO is willing to operate in any ofthese nations, except as further filtered by the rest of the questions.
Second Filter – What if the NGO only Handles Animals?First choose animals the NGO isnot skilled to protect, e.g. insectsor fish (even in countries the NGO Animals Nototherwise might operate in. ProtectedNext choose animals which underspecial circumstances, the NGO Animals Mightmight protect, due to modest skills. Be ProtectedThis leaves the rest of the animals. (OperatingArea). The NGO will protect all of thesespecies, except as filtered out by otherquestions, e.g. even if an animal would other Operatingwise be helped, there is no support from NGO Area:in a country the NGO can’t otherwise operate Primary Animalsinside of. This slide is orientated towards an animal welfare NGO; but the topic might be people, or in the case of an NGO that protects cultural items, perhaps Museums, works of art, etc. The logic is the same
Third Filter – Which Disasters Does NGO Deal With?Choose disaster types NGO is notskilled in or as policy doesn’t work Prohibited Disastersin, e.g. oil spills, nuclear, civil war ornear hemorrhagic fever -- even in anotherwise OK geography.Choose disasters which underspecial circumstances, NGO might Possible Disastershandle, e.g. drought, even if nottop skill set. Operating Area Disasters NGO works inThis leaves the rest. (Operating Area). As an example, an animal welfareNGO might protect any animal in these disasters, except as otherwisefiltered out . In that situation, even if a species would other wise be helpedin a specific geography , the NGO will not intervene, whereas other animalwelfare NGO’s might.
Fourth Filter – What Diseases or Injuries Will NGO Treat?Choose types of diseases or Animal or Humans Notinjuries NGO not skilled to Protecteddeal with, (even in countriesNGO operates in.Choose diseases or Animals or Humans Mightinjuries which under Be Protectedspecial circumstances,NGO might handle. Operating AreaThis leaves the rest of the diseases or injuries. (Operating Area). NGO willhandle any of these, except as filtered out by other questions. For example,even if rabies or broken bones might be handled ordinarily, they won’t be ina prohibited country or circumstance.
Fifth Filter – Levels of Acceptable ConflictFirst choose types of Prohibited Conflictconflict that are not Statusacceptable for NGOoperations, e.g. openwarfare. Problematic ConflictNext choose types ofconflict where NGOmight operate, e.g.peacekeeping like OperatingAfghanistan. AreaThis leaves the rest of the types of conflicts. (Operating Area). Inother words, whereas some NGOs will operate in combat zones, otherslimit themselves to peacekeeping operations where there is morecontrol, whereas others are not skilled in such activities at all; butmight handle political demonstrations
Sixth Filter – Levels of Acceptable Security RiskFirst choose types ofsecurity risks that are not Prohibited Securityacceptable for the NGO’s Statusoperations, e.g. targeting ofNGO’s by insurgents. Problematic SecurityNext choose types ofsecurity risks where theNGO might operate,e.g. high crime. Operating Area This leaves normal security – low crime, low risks of targeting of NGO’s. (Operating Area). Every NGO will have an acceptable level of risk, which needs to be defined. Keep in mind a well defined security package may mitigate against the risk.
There are many questions which could be asked, some as simple as those dealing with costs. Costs of Operations is certainly a filtering questions. If an NGO can’t afford to travel to a crisis, that would prohibit an operation unless supplementary funding were found. On the other hand, the NGO might also supplement a indigenous NGO with the right skill sets.