Colette Mazzucelli, MALD, PhD
Day Job: WFI Fellow, Citizens for Global Solutions, Associate Adjunct Professor, Center for Global Affairs at New York University and Department of Political Science, Hofstra University
Location: Brooklyn NY
As a WFI Fellow at Citizens for Global Solutions, my work addresses concerns of global governance, particularly the future of the United Nations (UN) system. Emergency crisis response is more important each day to the work of the UN and its agencies. We bear witness to the impact of natural disasters on the lives of millions in fragile states around the globe. The social movements across the Middle East provide other contexts for us to contemplate how crisis mappers could make a difference helping states and societies in need. My curiosity about the idea of a university motivates an acknowledgment of the global reach communications technologies, social networks, and mobile applications have transforming our abilities to teach and learn. Technology is a reflection of the societies in which we live. Today, more than ever, societal demands urge us as citizens and educators to respond pro-actively to the challenges in our world. The invitation to be a member of the Task Force is, in my experience, to embark on a journey to a destination we are still imagining, which begins with a single step.
My goal as an educator in the Standby Task Force (SBTF) is to experience first-hand the wide-ranging influence of information technology in emergency crisis response on the ground in countries around the globe. A Fletcher alumna, the work of SBTF impressed me originally in light of the experiences graduate students at the School acquired in crisis mapping for Haiti as an online community. After presenting a paper about Haiti during the October 2010 Fletcher PhD conference, it was wonderful to join the Task Force learning by doing on the Task Team. Together we worked on the Ushahidi platform simulating a global emergency response to a sudden earthquake in Colombia. My learning experience on the SBTF that week in fall 2010 was incredible. As we interacted with the Ushahidi platform, the Task Force was pioneering a new approach to emergency response. Citizens are making a constructive difference locally and globally by their contributions in the field of transnational security. The teamwork in the SBTF inspires me to share my experiences crisis mapping via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter with students in my courses at New York University and Hofstra University.
My dream is to take the next step by creating a new course, which motivates students to be involved in crisis mapping as global citizens. The experience this spring as part of the Verification Team with Jessica Heinzelman and the small Fletcher cohort has inspired me to innovate in syllabus design utilizing the knowledge gained in my studies of mobile phone learning at Teachers College Columbia University. It would be uplifting to include alumni/ae as well as graduate students in my new course, which could nurture a geographically broad-based learning community of crisis mapping volunteer interns for the Standby Task Force. This is the kind of inclusive grassroots outreach that does facilitate local-global connections transforming our world through the impact of human agency. My vocation is the passion to teach in the classroom without borders guiding learners whose experiences define global affairs education for our 21st century world.
The flexibility of being a member of SBTF makes it an easy obligation to meet. The amount of time given to a particular deployment changes in relation to the demands of the deployment and my personal workload at the time. During a given deployment I may work 10 hours a week with a little extra during peak events. The distributed nature of working on SBTF, with members around the world, makes scheduling easy. There is almost always something happening and fellow members are very supportive about helping guide each other in the most critical tasks at any given time and helping distribute tasks according to who is available.
Day Job: Father, Freelance Web Design/Consultancy, Student
Location: Boston MA
I came to SBTF via Crisis Mappers and the conference held here last October. After trying to create plugins and generate interest in social mapping technologies on my own, it was really gratifying to see the emergence of a discipline called Crisis Mapping. Being able to participate with a group of like minded people has inspired me and I really look forward to more collaboration in the future.
The Boston Crisis Camps and Crisis Commons activities were another set of excellent experiences where real tangible benefit was generated by concerned people with technical skills and the will to make a difference. Geeks Without Boundaries organized hackathons recently that illustrate what a well rounded community this really is. Humanitarian IT, crowdsourcing, mobile convergence and the ability to reach one another across cultures and distance is a game changer. There is nothing quite like the feeling of contributing to the lives of others and being able to do it from where I live is remarkable.
Traveling the world in support of humanitarian efforts has long been a dream of mine, one that will not likely happen soon, so being able to do so virtually has been very fulfilling. What I’m most excited about now is witnessing the emergence of technically enabled thinkers from developing nations applying their practical brilliance to challenges that we can learn from.
Critical events are not slowing any time soon, so the challenges we face will require innovation and best use of resources and I love how the whole world is becoming a playground for positive innovation.
I am creating a volunteer corps at my University to provide assistance to these efforts and spread the idea that we all have things to contribute no matter where or who we are.
Day job: Student at the Fletcher School; Consultant with Konpa, LLC
Location: Boston, USA
I was involved with the Ushahidi-Haiti initiative that mapped thousands of SMS, media and social media reports following the January 2010 earthquake. As a former grassroots organizer and current humanitarian, I was excited by the voice ICTs can give populations in distress and the opportunity they provide to geographically dispersed volunteers to help. While Haiti provided a powerful proof of concept, I had concerns about the sustainability and quality of ad hoc volunteer operations as a long-term solution in disaster response. The SBTF offers a way for people to engage in crises that is both accessible and responsible. I knew I wanted and needed to support this approach.
I would recommend volunteering for the SBTF to other students and those wanting to learn more about the humanitarian-technologist space. It is a fantastic way to get hands-on experience with Ushahidi and other tools as well as gain exposure to some of the challenges the merging of the two fields face. You will also make great contacts and friends with like-minded people!
My time spent on SBTF fluctuates depending on what projects are going on and my own availability. I think the hardest thing to manage is the desire to help and the realities of personal demands. Since the system relies on everyone giving accurate estimate of availability, I have to constantly remind myself to under-promise and over-deliver.
Helena Puig Larrauri
Day job: UNDP Crisis and Recovery Mapping and Analysis
Location: Khartoum, Sudan
I joined the Standby Task Force because I was inspired by the idea that a network of volunteers could provide flexible support to local communities responding to crises. The SBTF provides a service that I believe groups in Sudan (including the UNDP team I work for) could benefit from. In fact, I recently asked SBTF volunteers to support us in mapping polling stations in advance of the Sudan referendum.
I would recommend volunteering for the SBTF to other UN staff members. As an SBTF volunteer, I apply many of the skills that I have acquired in my day job in a different context. Since I work for UNDP, I can also provide insight to the institutional set up of UN organizations that the SBTF partners with. In turn, I’ve learned valuable lessons from SBTF colleagues, not only on the use of various mapping and open data technologies, but also on how to harness crowdsourcing in support of humanitarian and recovery activities.
The amount of time I spend on this initiative varies, both according to the demands on the taskforce and to my own workload. I mostly work in the evenings or in the early morning, and have probably spent an average of 6 hours per week on SBTF tasks. However, volunteer working hours are an individual choice. When I have been unable to respond to a task from the SBTF, other volunteers have picked it up. We are a networked community, which makes sharing workloads easy and flexible. Whilst I’ve never felt time spent volunteering has had an impact on my day job, I have had to be careful about drawing clear lines between the two. I always make it clear that I volunteer for the SBTF in a personal capacity, and that UNDP does not officially back the initiative, or any deployment in which I might get involved.
Day Job: Software Engineer, Cyber Security Researcher
Location: Munich, Germany and Berkeley, CA, USA
I joined SBTF through the recommendation of a friend and because I had always wanted to contribute to something meaningful that leveraged both my technical background and passion for world affairs, humanitarian issues, and geography. Before I knew it, I was handling a real-time crisis simulation with a team of highly-talented professionals from disparate background across the world.
What I particularly enjoy about SBTF is that we aren’t simply building and operating yet-another Web 2.0 app to make life incrementally more convenient or fun for the privileged. There’s real meaning and depth behind the elegant facades — and more importantly, real people with real needs. The ability to help distant communities from home, on my own schedule, and through a medium I know and love as an engineer is incredibly satisfying. What more can be said?
As with most SBTF volunteers, my level of commitment varies from week-to-week, but I try to contribute at least 6-8 hours/week. I find that the collegial nature of our virtual working environment allows other volunteers to take over my responsibilities whenever I am unable to respond immediately. The fact that we are so global (i.e., distributed timezones) basically allows us to maintain a 24-hour response center. I tend to work on SBTF tasks in the evenings after work or during lunch, and they have never interfered with my day job. I simply integrate them into my daily routine.