NEW REPORT: Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management


The growing use of social media and other mass collaboration technologies is opening up new opportunities in disaster management efforts, but is also creating new challenges for policymakers looking to incorporate these tools into existing frameworks, according to our latest report.

The Commons Lab, part of the Wilson Center’s Science & Technology Innovation Program, hosted a September 2012 workshop bringing together emergency responders, crisis mappers, researchers, and software programmers to discuss issues surrounding the adoption of these new technologies.

We are now proud to unveil “Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management: Workshop Summary,” a report discussing the key findings, policy suggestions, and success stories that emerged during the workshop. The report’s release coincides with the tenth annual Disaster Preparedness Month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Department of Homeland Security to help educate the public about preparing for emergencies.

The report can be downloaded here.

The workshop charted new territory for the field by prioritizing academic and applied research opportunities and challenges. The report points to best practices, useful tools, and practical approaches for integrating crowdsourced data with more traditional data sources.

The workshop found that concerns about accuracy and liability, the inability to translate research into operational decision-making, and policy limitations on gathering and managing data continue to stymie the adoption of these new approaches. The report further points out five pressing challenges that emerged during the workshop:

• Creating durable workflows to connect the information needs of on-the-ground responders, local and federal government decision-makers, and researchers, allowing each group to benefit from collaboration

• Developing methods and processes to quickly validate and verify crowdsourced data

• Establishing best practices for integrating crowdsourced and citizen-generated data with authoritative datasets, while also streamlining this integration

• Deciding on the criteria for “good” policies and determining which policies need to be adapted or established, in addition to developing ways for agencies to anticipate rapid technological change

• Determining where government agencies can effectively leverage social networking, crowdsourcing, and other innovations to augment existing information or intelligence and improve decision-making (and determining where it is not appropriate)

The blog has also been featuring video podcasts with workshop participants, including Will McClintock and Eric Rasmussen. Please keep an eye out for additional installments in the weeks to come.

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