Digital Humanitarian Scaling Call

Posted on Mar 25, 2013 in Get to Know, Other Companies

There’s an affiliations group called Digital Humanitarian Network which GWOB (and some other great groups) are a part of. The group is growing steadily, and defining itself as it goes. We played through a scenario together at ICCM 2012, and are looking forward to further interaction with people in the future. Below follow the notes of our call on scaling and succession planning.


Patrick with Crisis Mappers

Chris and Cat with Humanity Road

Max with DataKind

Shoreh with GIScorps

Andrej with UNOCHA

Rebecca with Translators without Borders

Pascal with Crisis Commons

Willow and Lindsay with Geeks Without Bounds

Why are we a part of this?

Patrick – wanted to be a part of it, digital humanitarians didn’t have an ecosystem. Didn’t want to go it alone.

Chris: Humanity Road   Wanted to put information into the hands of aid providers faster and felt the DHN organization of organizations could be very effective for collaborating for disaster response

Max – Datakind – we’re interested in finding ways to interface with our event based model of data dives and having a few people working on specific chalelnges for months.  We’re looking at interfacing with some of the more engaged humanitarians in this group.

Shoreh – DHN has a great promise for us, we can make our volunteers expertise available in a more readily available way.

Andrej -Wanted to do something fun (joke!). Saw several entities, SBTF OSM etc. Realizing that they could be doing a lot of constructive work building on an adhoc structure. Not a special group, but a way for those groups to come together. Build that bridge between traditional orgs and V&TC  [it was a big gap].

Rebecca – Very committed to improving access to knowledge in the world. Connect with NGO groups. Education and humanitarian response (including disasters). We weren’t addressing how to help with the response components. Being a part of a network gives us access to bootstrapping that.

Pascal – Crisis Commons, transition and deciding what they want to do. How do we help with the coordination? While front end work is being done, how do we make sure duplicate efforts not being made on back end? Especially since resources on the ground are not necessarily available.

Willow – Summary: Here to see what others are doing!

Why is it important to have more groups come on board?

Patrick – Growing organically is not *bad*. As we learn about more things, we tack on more groups. Selecting or inviting different groups carefully around cool people but also functionality. This is useful to many groups, they should gain use as well

Chris – Not necessary to press for participation from other groups. It’s the practice of the organizations which are already engaged. Here is a scenario, how would we engage? Don’t restrict open access to other organizations. But need to figure out how to engage first.

Max – Had data dive in DC, would have been helpful to know about other groups to help with translation. Important for communications amongst groups and resource sharing.

Shoreh – Knowledge of groups’ visions and missions for humanitarian response. Keeps everyone aware and on the same page, and aids collaboration. No reason to keep this closed to people who would benefit, even if there is overlap with what we already do. But in order to let others know what we are, we need some structure. Need some vetting? Criteria to join.

Andrej – Can continue to add groups as they are relevant and if they add stability to the system.

Lindsay – Adding more groups might add to instability (if not vetted well – don’t add a billion of one type of group, but instead balance membership).

Rebecca – Communications occurring disparately. Who is who, what they’re up to. Criteria being created. Advantage to critical mass.

Pascal – Support to maintain in a way that it doesn’t become more challenged. Opportunities to join in. Vetting, identification. Dissemination about ourselves and how we interact. What we are as a group is done, now is it expanded or strengthened?

Willow – Org is well-defined, but knowledge of activities of members is not. Barriers to entry options:

  • Monthly call?

  • Monthly curation of activities (RSS)?

  • Nomination of a member of org to a mailing list?

  • Rotating the roles, or having someone hired on to take on that administration. Part-time coordinator?

What does it look like as we grow?

Shoreh – Groups to fill in gaps of support, knowledge of future needs and planning accordingly for membership accrual. Point persons and networking for projects. Part time person needed.

Andrej – Bit ad-hoc. Not grow it in a huge way. Organic, as things are needed or relevant, fill gaps. At a point where members should be the ones recommending other members?

Rebecca – Rotating administration of lists amongst orgs good, need part time person.

Pascal – Wants org to be agile enough to handle whatever comes next and how we will grow in order to be successful.

Max – Listserv, RSS, mailing list (more than one person from each org to prevent bottleneck) something for information stream.

  • Andrej response: google group with multiple managers, RSS feed from digital humanitarians website.

  • Google Group: DHnetwork – RSS feed of latest activity on our website:

Chris / Cat – Not a disaster activation, but a data gathering activation. Define goals. Just response or also blue-sky projects? Guidelines for managing each of those.

  • Disaster perspective, what do you want to achieve in ‘13 or ‘14? Leverage DHN in exercises. Helpful to plan for in advance.

  • Groups within DHN working together on other projects. Practice of working with orgs together. (This is great! – Willow)

Patrick – Want more and more connections to happen. Need a way to share what we’re working on, what we’re thinking about. Participating more, not necessarily a newsletter. Weekly update, maybe by the part-time person to be the bee. Too much going on right now to disseminate and to even read.

Lindsay – Referral process via sponsoring member for new groups to join DHN. Provides thorough vetting.

Willow – Nominations for mailing lists in hacker groups: Vouch for friend, explain the mutual benefit. Members of lists provide feedback (both positive and negative), and friend can be added in an ad hoc manner dependent on community feeling and response.

  • Patrick: This has been what SBTF has used. Seems to work well.

  • Chris: Worth trying as an approach. May be a heavy process as there are so many people on the lists in terms of response.

  • Max: +

  • Shoreh: Worth a try

  • Andrej: Supportive, especially with vouching.

  • Cat: Wonderful idea!

  • Lindsay: yup!

  • Rebecca: good idea, concern about listserv load. Possible to just email that person with your vote?

  • Willow: Transparency – sometimes needed, sometimes cumbersome. Depends on individual basis.

  • Cat: At what point is the person approved in the process?

  • Willow: Straw man trial of this model.

  • Chris: Base criteria needed.

  • Pascal: Doesn’t mind the email traffic. Better than being on 15 conference calls a day. Important to have transparency. Remote working, formal way of validating.

Base criteria for a new member right now (from the website): we are focusing on those entities which are either volunteer-based or offer their volunteers to work directly for the requesting entity

Social Media Presence:

  • Getting initial support from Isaac Griberg [day job is Social Media Officer at ICRC] who will work with Chloe [intern with Andrej] to set-up initial strategy & guidelines for DHNetwork

  • Once initial progress has been made, details will be shared with the group

Rotate Coordinators: (April 9th?) How do people see this happening?

What are the expectations for the Coordinators? How to liaise with requesting agencies. Keep bits organized. Be ready to give people folders for deployments. Writing and followups on overall/group interactions. Find opportunities for the network.

Willow – Distributed fashion. Delineate tasks, who can take on what for how long. Rotate.

Patrick – Advisory board of SBTF. Vote?

Max – Likes the idea of volunteers in other organizations also helping with this. (?)

Chris / Cat – Leaderless movements, but for repeatable process we need some formalization. Approach for this, recommending and selecting coordinators. Not a popularity contest but who knows who and about the organizations. Something in place for the governance prior to our formal conversation. Robert’s Rules of Order?

Rebecca – If you don’t put something in place where you have a schedule coordinator. Enthusiasm closes, no one picks it up. Over time, you get some people doing a lot and others not. Needs to be spread across everyone – fewer and fewer people picking up the explicit responsibility. To be a member, you commit to being a coordinator at some point. Otherwise, resentment grows.

Cat – Red Cross is by week, DHN might be by month.


Andrej to submit the DHNetwork to the UN 21 Innovation competition (old link)

Google Group: “” <>

RSS feed on DHNetwork website: