Introducing Local Digital Response Networks (DRN)

During the fall of 2015, I had the opportunity to work with Andrej Verity at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) in Geneva, Switzerland. Together, we were curious to explore how to create a Digital Humanitarian Network (DHNetwork) at the local instead of global level. The DHNetwork, is a network of networks that bridges formal emergency responders and organizations with Virtual & Technical Communities (V&TCs). V&TCs are volunteer-based communities who apply technical skills to assist with disaster & humanitarian response, but also supplement technical capacity in projects beyond crisis (Capelo & Chang, 2012).

First, we studied the initial evolution of the DHNetwork and developed the timeline: The co-founders story of establishing the DHN network. We felt that understanding the origins of the DHNetwork would lend insight into how to create similar networks.

Second, I conducted a series of interviews with key DHNetwork members and partners to answer questions like:

  • Are there challenges at the global level of a DHNetwork that could be solved through the creation of local DHNetworks? What should a local DHNetwork be able to do?
  • What is required to enable a local DHNetwork?
  • What factors may impact the development, implementation and sustainability of a local DHNetwork?(e.g. contextual, environmental, political, etc.)
  • What were lessons learned from developing and operating the DHNetwork that could be applied to local DHNetworks?
  • How can global DHNetwork and a local DHNetwork work together?
  • How would you approach developing resilience in DHNetworks?

The data collected was used to formulate the broader concept of local Digital Response Networks (DRNs) — social networks of physical responders (e.g. local government, authorities, emergency responders, communities) and digital responders i.e. Volunteer & Technical Communities (V&TCs) connected through a central hub. We see the purpose of a DRN is to build resilience into local communities by connecting local V&TCs with one another and the larger response community to enhance communication, coordination and information sharing.

With the aim to not only introduce the concept but also guide individuals, organizations, citizens to decision makers, we developed a guidance document (below) explaining the concept and, more specifically, outlining the process of how to create your own local Digital Response Network.

Here is our document: Guidance for Developing a Local Digital Response Network (DRN)

For more information about the document, I recommend reading Andrej’s blog post titled “You can do it too: Guidance for Developing a Local Digital Response Network (DRN)

Special thanks goes to Ignacio G Rebollo for his superb design of the document. Editorial thanks also goes to Ignacio and Roxanne Moore.

Enjoy the read! I hope it helps those interested in creating their own local DRNS. Please do not hesitate to contact me or Andrej with any questions / comments – we’d love to hear from you!

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