Volunteer Standby Taskforce

Tiered crowdsourced disaster aid teams


Volunteer Standby Taskforce organizes to provide digital help in the aftermath of a disaster at the request of official aid decisionmakers (like the UN or Red Cross). The various teams invite a wide range of modern literacies on a spectrum between rote labor and deeply technical tasks. Volunteers are invited to join the team and take on roles which they are already proficient in, although informal mentoring and training opportunities allow ascension up the ladder of skilled labor. Teams include:

  • Task Team: general microwork and support of other teams, ideal for new volunteers who have not yet been trained
  • Media Monitoring team: identify information feeds for useful social and mainstream media sources, monitor the feeds, input data into the mapping platform, and flag information that needs translation
  • SMS team: processes and flags actionable messages sent to an established shortcode
  • Technology team: provides support installing, configuring, and maintaining technical platforms like Ushahidi and FrontlineSMS
  • Geo-Location team: identifies precise GPS coordinates for Media team’s reports, information submitted via web, email, or SMS, or information requested by formal aid organization
  • Satellite Imagery team: tags features identified in satellite photos as requested by formal aid organizations, such as destroyed buildings
  • Translation: translates media reports and submitted information into English, and occasionally, the local language
  • Verification team: verifies reports uploaded to mapping platform, checks the credibility of the sources of the reports via online identities and on-the-ground networks, and triangulates reports and information
  • Data team: Curate data, share data, map data, and support after-action reports with findings and visualized data
  • Analysis team: produces printable maps and identifies patterns in incoming reports
  • Reports team: organizes data into reports for formal aid decisionmakers and serves as a quality control layer for other teams’ reports
Commentary, challenges, questions, notes: 
The nature of crises limits the amount of time available for in-the-moment training and skill acquisition, so Volunteer Standby Taskforce holds non-emergency training sessions. They could further flush out their online training resources so that incoming volunteers can get up to speed in a self-directed manner before joining an active deployment. Also, Standby Taskforce is deployed only at the request (and leisure) of official aid institutions, so there is a hard ceiling on self-agency.
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by hriadmin@uci.edu