HandsUp organizes informal crisis response to effectively fill the gaps of formal response.
In disasters from Haiti to Nepal to Myanmar, everyday people are rising to the challenge of helping affected populations. These informal responders play an invaluable, often life-saving role in plugging the gaps of the formal response community. Working in dangerous conditions, with limited funds and patchy information, they always do more with less. But the question begs itself – how much more impact could they have if they were able to harness the power of the burgeoning socially-conscious, tech-savvy crowd?
HandsUp is an informal crisis coordination system. At it’s core It uses a web platform to connect requests for aid in the field with informal responders who can source and deliver it. It maps these requests in order to minimize duplication of effort and improve efficiency of the informal response, while sharing data to assist the formal response.
The first version of the HandsUp platform was intended as a self-service marketplace where Requesters and Responders could post and search for each other. This was deployed in Fiji in February 2016 after Cyclone Winston. Utilising only social media outreach and limited advertising, the community grew to 250 users and 140 posts, with 45 conversations initiated.
The learnings from the Fiji deployment led to an overhaul of the platform with customised forms for collecting higher quality, actionable requests as well as being multi-lingual. It was deployed in Sri Lanka after the 2016 floods. The team realised that, in the Asian context, a dedicated backend presence would be required to gain traction.
This hands-on approach is being implemented in Nepal, where it can build on the experience of informal crisis coordination platforms deployed in response to the 2015 Earthquake. A team is being assembled to grow and foster a community of Requesters and Responders.
HandsUp envisions the creation of a wide network of contacts in the field through which requests for aid will be submitted, and which can be polled for rapid needs assessment. These contacts will be maintained by district liaisons in part time payed positions. The system will be deployed for small scale annual crisis response (ie floods and winterisation), with the lessons learned used for iterative development. Meanwhile, it will always design for scalability in large scale crisis, with features like microtasking, to allow for efficient processing of requests by a surge of volunteers. It will continually maintain a viable product to deploy immediately in the case of an unexpected large scale disaster.
After a successful pilot phase, HandsUp hopes to create or inspire similar networks in multiple countries.
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