Connecting Grassroots to Government Community Review

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I am releasing the community draft of the Connecting Grassroots and Government for Disaster Response. This is not intended to be Disaster Relief 2.1, which examined the links between crisis mapping and the IASC/UN-led cluster system. Rather, it is a 0.1 version of another thread of work around US federal agencies. It is offered in a very different spirit: as a draft to be edited. We'll go into final edits on 26 May. I hope these ten days give a fair bit of responses. I love criticism that improves ideas. Continue reading

Newtown's Chanticleer

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Newtown's emblem—the chanticleer, a rooster—watches over our small New England community from its perch as the weathervane of the Meeting House's white steeple. It has several bullet holes in it; a common myth claims that these date from the Revolutionary War, when troops used it for target practice. For those of us who grew up in Newtown, that rooster represents the heart of our town, and those bullet holes—whatever their origin—symbolize the hardships we faced during our three-century struggle to preserve a community where town meetings can still be the means by which we make decisions. On Friday, a young man—about to be committed to inpatient mental care—added twenty-seven more holes to the heart of our town, robbing us of the laughter of twenty innocent children, the lives of six dedicated educators, and a mother whose struggles to raise a child with mental illness may never be fully known. Continue reading

Connecting Grassroots to Government

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In the coming days, the growing connections between the crowd and US government agencies will become a major meme in the news. The stories will focus on how grassroots communities--digital volunteers--are transforming the way that the government processes data for development and emergency operations. As a board member of one of these organizations, it gives me great pleasure to see years of work finally gaining recognition. Thousands of volunteers are changing the world of information management. We need to celebrate this accomplishment and trumpet it loud and clear. And to thank those volunteers who have given so much time and skill through each of the various communities involved in crisis mapping. But there is a backstory here and more credit due. As one of the facilitators who has helped the government champions create the interface between the grassroots and the government, I need to give testimony to dozens of federal employees who stuck their necks out to make this moment possible. Continue reading

Roman Totenberg

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Today, one of my chamber music coaches, Roman Totenberg, passed away at 101. He represented the vitality that music brings to life: the gentle power that comes from drawing a bow across a string, the life that even old hands can find in notes which are themselves hundreds of years more agèd than the player. His memory lives on in those of us who follow the same gentle path--the one that he showed us through his grace, his class, and his softspoken wisdom. Rest in peace, Mr. Totenberg, knowing that you touched us all. Continue reading

Humanitarian Songbook

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As I awoke this morning to news that we might be replaying the Boxing Day tsunami from 2004 all over again, I watched the actions across my various email, skype, and twitter channels and got anxious. We have made so much progress on technology and practice since 2004, and we now have a community of dedicated and talented crisis mappers, and yet, our coordination is still not where it could be. Continue reading

Disaster Relief 2.0

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As the lead author of Disaster Response 2.0, I had to face a difficult reality: with such a short timeline for research, the report would be imperfect. As a synthesis of more than 40 stories of Haiti, it would need to reduce a complex, multipolar world into a linear narrative oriented at a general audience. So I littered the report with caveats–so many, that my editor asked me to remove about 80% of them. In hindsight, I should have left more them in. Continue reading