Not sure if you caught the article, "Will Twitter put the UN out of the disaster business?" the other day as a result of the #commisaid event in London. Just the title alone will get folks talking. It's a silly title really. Of course that would never happen. I'm sure Twitter likes its business just fine.
Why that title is interesting is what is represents or perhaps reinforces an identity that large institutions and agencies have an inability to innovate or desire to do new things. From what I have seen from the last few years this is not true. Not in the least bit. There are many in institutions who are slogging it out everyday and doing more with less. Some are doing amazing things. Just take the American Red Cross and their new digital operations center. Times are tough for government budgets -- really anyone's budgets. It's hard to innovate when every year there is less and more to do. Change happens with small wins.
I'm a hybrid kind of blogger. I understand what its like to be in a large institution (i.e. Homeland Security) but I can also understand the agility and possibility of those who are not encumbered with institutional challenges (resources, authorities and expertise). Both have challenges equally.
From my perspective, I would offer that what is happening today in organizations large and small, public and private sector, non-profit and academia is a fundamental shift of how society operates. No one knows where this all will go, not even the technology companies. They have a pipeline of products for the next five years but who knows what will happen in the future. Just putting it out there. The world is shifting. So much is happening. It hard for everyone to keep up.
Just to scope out #disasterbytes, maybe we'll start with four areas. First, I'd like to explore how crisis management can move beyond the conversation of "if we should do something" to sharing what actually works. If you have something that works in your organization, let me know, I'm happy to share that broadly. Maybe we can do a little video series?
The second area that might be interesting for #disasterbytes to look at is the inclusion of technology and telecommunications considerations (including technical expertise, donation management, volunteer and data coordination) in its doctrine and public policy. For example, what are the major changes with the new field of frameworks and how will they support greater use of technology and increase digital literacy of practitioners and volunteers. As of the end of February, FEMA posted the draft policy documents and have been open for comment. Public input closes on April 2, 2012. If you didn't catch that -- almost all of the US crisis management policy is up for comment! Comment today!
The third area that I'd like to look at is how online communities engage with institutions. For example, how are (or not) technology volunteers (donated skills and resources -- including the private sector in a philanthropy) connected with official response systems? How can local response systems request federal technology and telecommunications mission support (i.e. imagery, visualization, data coordination)?
Finally, I'd like to share what's happening as #heardonthestreet. For example, how does Justin Bieber's prank the other day when he purposefully tweeted a phone number missing a number and some people in Texas received a deluge of phone calls. Today there is a legal action pending. Why should crisis management care about it? Well, what happens when you put a false piece of information (or information that is old) out there and people react to it and its implications? How can that situation of information and deluge matter to crisis management?
So there you go. Another blog is born (like we need anything else to read!). I'm totally into getting your feedback on what #disasterbytes should be about. Let's start a sub-hashtag of #smem while we are at it. Feel free to tag ideas, thoughts and diatribes to #disasterbytes. Don't forget to follow #smem - that's where all the cool kids are. I'll be following both.
While I might be in Paris physically, I'm online most of the day. Yes, even in my classes. Puts a new spin on passing notes in class. You can find me on Twitter @poplifegirl pretty easily. You can always LinkedIn and Facebook. If you want to see my slides from past presentations you can check out Slideshare and of course if you want to see what kind of terrible music I listen to you can follow me @rdio. I also am very much interested in music and technology. You can check out my blogs on #midem here. Yeah, and good old fashioned email works too at email@example.com
About Heather Blanchard
Heather Blanchard is currently conducting research for a book at the American University in Paris where she is finishing her Master of Arts in Global Communications. Prior to her sojourn in France, Heather was a co-founder for CrisisCommons a community of volunteers who use technology to support crisis management and international humanitarian relief efforts. She served the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington D.C. in various roles including serving the Office of the Secretary's Private Sector Office as a Business Liaison Director for Technology and Telecommunications and the Office of Public Affairs as Deputy Director of the Ready Campaign. She began the first eight years of her career in the private sector working for the Marasco Newton Group.
In May 2011 Heather testified before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Social Media and Disasters. In March 2012, Government Technology named Heather one of the Top 25 Dreamers and Doers in the public sector.
Heather received her Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Radford University in 1995. Representing Homeland Security, she participated in Harvard University’s Leading in a Crisis program and Oxford University’s Comparative Law and Policy’s Summer Institute on Global Media and Technology Policy.