“Disaster Relief 2.0” Research to Identify Pathways Between Large Aid Groups and Grassroots Technology Players

Project Backed By Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, UN Foundation, UN Office For The Coordination Of Humanitarian Affairs, And Vodafone Foundation

New York, NY

December 3, 2010


Megan Rabbitt

The United Nations Foundation and The Vodafone Foundation announced today the launch of new research with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative that will help increase the efficiency of information sharing between large aid organizations and grassroots technology groups during humanitarian crises.  The project was announced during a session of Pulse Camp 1.0, a conference organized by the UN Global Pulse initiative of the UN Secretary-General. Global Pulse was established to leverage technology to help close the gap between the availability of actionable information that could protect vulnerable populations during a humanitarian crisis.

A groundbreaking report, led by a team of researchers at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, will capture interviews with a range of experts to assess humanitarian information-sharing in emergencies and deliver concrete recommendations for more seamless interaction between large aid organizations and grassroots technology communities in disaster preparedness, response and rebuilding.

Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, welcomed the announcement, saying:  “More effective communication with those we are trying to help is a major priority for aid agencies. We know that with access to information, survivors of disasters can make the right choices for themselves and their families. We look forward to the findings of this report and to working more closely with the growing community of groups and individuals with whom we can harness information to better serve beneficiaries in emergencies.”

“The fast-changing landscape of technology holds tremendous potential to improve global humanitarian work,” said Kathy Calvin, CEO of the United Nations Foundation.  “Through our partnership with The Vodafone Foundation, we can work alongside OCHA and Harvard to better understand how the rapid growth of mobile and cloud-based technologies can unlock access to information, empowering disaster-affected communities and strengthening the ability of relief workers to save lives.”

The UN Foundation, through its partnership with The Vodafone Foundation, has invested over $7.4 million in leveraging information and communications technologies (ICTs) to support and strengthen preparedness for and response to major humanitarian emergencies, and recently published New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts: The Role of Information and Social Networks.

“This work reflects our mission of promoting evidence-based approaches to humanitarian assistance to advance the science and practice of humanitarian response.  We look forward to engaging with a broad group of stakeholders who make up the humanitarian technology ecosystem, and to promoting this dialogue through the publication of this report and beyond” said Dr. Gregg Greenough, Director of Research at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI).

The research team will be led by John Crowley, Crisis Dynamics Research Coordinator at HHI, a practitioner and researcher who works at the interface between volunteer technical communities and large crisis response institutions like the UN.

Initial findings will be released at the one-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake on January 12, 2011, and the full report will be available at the 2011 Harvard Humanitarian Action Summit, to be held March 4-6, 2011 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


About the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
OCHA is the arm of the UN Secretariat that is responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure coherent response to emergencies. OCHA also ensures there is a framework within which each actor can contribute to the overall response effort. OCHA’s mission is to mobilize and coordinate effective and principled humanitarian action in partnership with national and international actors in order to alleviate human suffering in disasters and emergencies; advocate for the rights of people in need; promote preparedness and prevention; and facilitate sustainable solutions.

About the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) is an interdisciplinary research and academic program that aims to relieve human suffering in war and disaster by advancing the science and practice of humanitarian response worldwide.  HHI fosters interdisciplinary collaboration at Harvard University and other academic centers in order to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian strategies for relief, protection, and prevention; instill human rights principles and practices in these strategies; and educate and train the next generation of humanitarian leaders.

About the UN Foundation & Vodafone Foundation Partnership
The Technology Partnership between the United Nations Foundation & Vodafone Foundation is a leading public-private alliance using technology programs to strengthen the UN’s humanitarian efforts worldwide.  Created in October 2005 with a £10 million commitment from The Vodafone Foundation matched by £5 million from the UN Foundation, the Partnership has three core areas of focus: (1) to strengthen communications in humanitarian emergencies though capacity building and support for disaster response missions; (2) to support the development of mobile health (mHealth) programs that tackle critical public health challenges and improve public health systems, decision-making and, ultimately, patient outcomes; and (3) to promote research and innovation using technology as a tool for international development. The UN Foundation and The Vodafone Foundation are among the founding partners of the mHealth Alliance. More information about the Technology Partnership can be found at: www.unfoundation.org/vodafone.

Press contact: Ingrid Madden, imadden@unfoundation.org, 202-887-9040