Updated: Mar 20
Cultural assimilation and indigenous capacity building are two incredible aspects of partaking in a disaster response scenario. There are many facets of the humanitarian assistance and disaster response community (HADR). The large multinational NGOs, the UN Log cluster, a sort of defacto command structure that stands up in large-scale disasters and then there are the small local organizations. Each respective entity plays a vital role, albeit some are more adept at understanding their strengths and weaknesses then others.
The large NGOs are indispensable when it comes time to raising awareness of an occurrence and raising huge aid dollars quickly. They are also great at getting large quantities of supplies into a central staging area of an affected country quickly. The Log cluster, USAIDs and World Food Programs of the world play more of a coordination role. And the small organizations with local area knowledge, fixers who know the streets, and speak the language – these are the organizations that are capable of delivering truly powerful last mile aid. The reality is these little local organizations, while most well equipped from a knowledge perspective are usually the most restricted from a recourse perspective.
The art of HADR arbitrage: In every scenario, despite how horrific and challenging, there is always an opportunity. An opportunity to grow and learn as an individual, an opportunity to contribute, an opportunity to empower, save lives, establish communication infrastructure – whatever the case me be – there is always an opportunity.
When you have experienced a few disasters, you become intimately familiar with how “the game is played.”
I have always focused on a sort of redistribution of assets approach in disaster zones. Working to pair the small and local, highly mobile and situational aware operations who know the lay of the land, the cultural nuances inherent to the affected areas and the most influential people on the ground. Taking this approach, working to empower these types of organizations and individuals ensures that a portion of the international aid efforts work to build indigenous capacity immediately instead of steamroll it.
How this works: Knowing who and how to communicate with in the larger organizations to pair last-mile distribution expertise that the smaller and more dynamic organizations have with the huge stores of resources the larger entities have effectively gotten into an affected area to central staging areas. Pairing large telecommunication companies with small team operations and organizations that do not have the budget to afford such capacity as satellite communication capabilities but that could put it to incredible use to save lives – these are the type of connections I work to facilitate in disaster zones. In Haiti I teamed up with the in country Director of Hope for Haiti and over the course of the first month in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake we moved hundreds of metric tons of medical and food supplies from airport depots into the field running trucks around the clock. Here is a link to a few stories from that response (http://jesselevin.com/about/).
Self deploying to the Philippines: I have connected with leadership at Speedcast and Asia Broadcast Satellite, two large telecom operations thanks to Steve Birnbaum, a member of a team called The Field Innovation Team and the Chair of the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response program at the Global VSAT forum. I am also in touch with Smart Telecom in the Philippines through a Babson college alumni which is the telecom with the largest working communication infrastructure in the country. I am working to secure satellite communication capacity which will be made available for Team Rubicon, a veteran disaster response team I often work with that is deploying to Tecloban, one of the hardest hit cities to work with Mammoth Medical Missions at a field hospital as well as other organizations on the ground that may require the capability.
f you would like to support this deployment please visit the Rally page that is set-up. I am self deploying and all funds are out of pocket. Anything raised goes 100% to purchasing medical supplies and other direct operational costs: