Introducing Data Models for Human(itarian) Services

This was originally posted at Sarapis Immediately after a disaster, information managers collect information about who is doing what, where, and turn it into "3W Reports." While some groups have custom software for collecting this information, the most popular software tool for this work is the spreadsheet. Indeed, the spreadsheet is still the “lingua franca” of the humanitarian aid community, which is why UNOCHA’s Humanitarian Data Exchange project is designed to support people using this popular software tool. After those critical first few days, nonprofits and government agencies often transition their efforts from ad hoc emergency relief and begin … Continue Reading ››

Creating a Shared Data Model with a Spreadsheet

Over the last year, a number of clients have tasked me with bringing datasets from many different sources together. It seems many people and groups want to work more closely with their peers to  not only share and merge data resources, but to also work with them to arrive at a “shared data model” that they can all use to manage data in compatible ways going forward. Since spreadsheets are, by far, the most popular data collection and management tool, using spreadsheets for this type of work is a no-brainer. After doing this task a few times, I’ve gotten confident enough … Continue Reading ››

DIY Databases are Coming

“The software revolution has given people access to countless specialized apps, but there's one fundamental tool that almost all apps use that still remains out of reach of most non-programmers — the database.” on CrunchBase
Database technology is boring but immensely important. If you have ever been working on a spreadsheet and wanted to be able to click on the contents of a cell to get to another table of data (maybe the cell has a person’s name and you want to be able to click it to see their phone #, photo, email, etc), then … Continue Reading ››

“Open Tech and Open Data: The Key to Whole Community Engagement” at IAEM 2015

The International Association of Emergency Management (IAEM) Conference was described to me as the Oscars of Emergency Management field. The event took place in the Paris Hotel in Las Vega November 14th. It was three days after the Paris attacks. Walking under the hotels faux Eiffel Tower and through its simulated Parisian streets was uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the event was quite informative. Right before my presentation was a session about building your own emergency operations center (EOC) with inexpensive off the shelf tools and another one by the head of St Louis's Office of Emergency Management explaining how he managed the reaction to the … Continue Reading ››

Preparing for the Worst, Hoping for the Best: Data Standards, Superstorm Sandy, and Our Resilient Future

Originally posted at OpenReferral In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, many residents of New York City were left struggling. Occupy Sandy Relief Effort at St. Matthew St. Luke Episcopal Though a broad array of supportive services were available to survivors — from home rebuilding funds to mental health treatment — it’s often hard for people to know what’s available and how to access it. New York City lacks any kind of centralized system of information about non-profit health and human services. Given the centrality of non-profit organizations in disaster relief and recovery in the … Continue Reading ››

“Sharing Data to Improve How We Cooperate, Coordinate, Communicate & Collaborate” at NVOAD 5/14/15

This presentation was delivered at the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster Conference 2015 in New Orleans. I've been an active (and actively marginalized) participant in my local NYCVOAD community, so it was nice to feel accepted by the broader VOAD community. Of all the presentations I've given, this one felt the best. The audience was very engaged and we had a robust back and forth. It felt electric. Outbursts came from the audience. It felt like a unique space. The feedback was fantastic. Much thanks goes to Marie Irvine who helped put the presentation together and … Continue Reading ››

Scattered Showers of Interest

The establishment, at least a very small subset of it, discovered my work the second week of October.  It wasn't a thunderstorm of interest -- more like scattered showers -- but when you've been in the desert for a while, a little rain can go a long way. First stop on my tour was Washington DC, where I spoke on a panel organized by STAR-TIDES at National Defense University about Occupy Sandy, along with Shlomo Roth and Isadora Blachman-Biatch, who was one of the authors of the fantastic Occupy Sandy report funded by DHS.  I think there … Continue Reading ››

NYC:Prepared Presentation at RaCERS John Jay College 10/14/14

"The Christian Regenhard Center for Emergency Response Studies (RaCERS) is a unique applied research center focused on documentation of lessons learned and planning for future large-scale incidents." I had the honor of presenting to one of their classes of students pursuing masters degrees in Emergency Management as well as a number of professors in the school. This presentation was very similar to the one at the IEEE HTC Conference a few days earlier, but since it was to a New York focused audience, I explored the connection between Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Sandy a bit more extensively. The … Continue Reading ››

NYC:Prepared Presentation at IEEE HTC 2014

I had the honor of presenting NYC:Prepared at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Humanitarian Technology Conference 2014 held in San Jose, California. The presentation situates Occupy Sandy within the context of Occupy Wall Street and explains how social movements prepare participants to respond during disaster. It goes on to outline four phases of Occupy Sandy activity:
  • Scouting
  • Networking
  • Relationship Building
  • Autonomy Projects
NYC:Prepared is one of the autonomous projects that emerged from Occupy Sandy. The presentation continue with a vision of how grassroots communities and institutional relief providers can use free and open technology to more effectively collaborate. I review the … Continue Reading ››

Five Ways to Fight ISIS Without Killing People

Like many Americans with a memory, I’m stunned how easily this country can be convinced to support another undeclared war in the Middle East. All the media has to do is run a week of programming alluding to nice folks getting their heads chopped off, then do a big poll that establishes the “fact” that the general public wants action and then BAM: Drop the bombs! No Congress necessary.

Devin Balkind's home for free, libre and open commentary.