As I write this, 23 reported emergencies have ignited in just the last two days. Most will not make headline news. All will leave vulnerable people in need of immediate relief. Timing and speed is essential to deliver humanitarian aid and digital transformation is unveiling a unique opportunity to accelerate aid delivery.
It is with the hope to do good better digitally that, a few months ago, Medair applied to, and was selected to participate in, the social impact accelerator of The Center for the Digital Nonprofit. After months of preparation, including taking the Digital Nonprofit Ability™ assessment, I was grateful to join the brilliant team of Medair leaders and a representative from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to start a Dream, Design, and Deliver program supported by Microsoft and NetHope, and fulfilled by Accenture Development Partners (ADP). The goal for the three-day session was to re-imagine specific aspects of humanitarian aid delivery in the context of the digital age.
Digital transformation, like humanitarian relief, starts with people who are committed to envisioning a hopeful future. When people imagine working and living in different ways, new processes can be created, and current ones reshaped. After that, technology makes change possible, converting dreams into reality. Indeed, many studies point out the critical importance of putting people first; it's the difference between the success or failure of digital transformation efforts. This work is difficult, requiring deep empathy, creativity, and courage, qualities that the Medair team enthusiastically exhibited during the workshop.
For three days, this passionate Medair team melted hearts and inspired minds, empathizing with the needs of the most vulnerable people in the world. The fact that our team included a baby reinforced our focus on humanity, hope, and the prospect for a meaningful future to our work. For three intense days, guided by the masterful Lionel Bodin of ADP, we put people first and consequently achieved amazing levels of innovation and creativity. By the second day we were devising new processes and ways of working to accelerate mission success; and in the final day, we put it all together by including advanced technologies. This productive, creative team created not one, but three distinct dreams, each with the potential to completely transform field humanitarian work.
During the workshop, it was abundantly clear that for-profit solutions did not fit the challenging conditions encountered in the most devastated places in the world. The Medair team had to leapfrog current thinking and solutions though collaboration, advancing more in a few days than many organizations do in months.
"As I reflect on the three days," remarked James Ray, Senior WASH Adviser with Medair, "I am so encouraged and excited. It's not just that I didn't know some of the technologies existed, but I never thought we would be able to make use of them. Having Nick Bannister from International Rescue Committee there provided the extra data point that we know we are not alone." He added, "I also appreciate the commitment from Microsoft and NetHope in supporting Medair.”
We encourage you to join the NetHope community because together, we can provide relief for the individuals and families who count as humanity’s most vulnerable.