28 Jun Good360 Disaster Recovery Council Takes Big Steps Toward Data Mapping and Education on Purposeful Giving
This time last year, Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma had yet to form and unleash a level of devastation that would eventually put them on the list of the top 5 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history. While experts are expecting a tamer Atlantic hurricane season for 2018, weather predictions don’t always hold up and the long-term outlook for large-scale natural disasters is dismal. In fact, a new study of global data on hurricanes shows that since 1980, the number of storms with winds exceeding 124 miles per hour (or a strong Category 3) have doubled, and those with winds stronger than 155 miles per hour have tripled. The analysis showing a definitive trend toward more destructive storms is a sobering reminder that the challenges of disaster recovery are only going to get tougher, and the need for more innovative, collaborative, and effective solutions is more crucial than ever.
With an omnipresent sense of urgency, the Good360 Disaster Recovery Council (GDRC) recently convened for its second annual meeting. We established the group in 2016 to advance collaboration and engagement among private, public and nonprofit sectors to address major gaps in disaster recovery and to improve the efficiency of giving in all stages, from preparedness to initial response to long-term sustainable recovery. Members of the GDRC include representatives from CVS Health, UPS Foundation, RH (Restoration Hardware), EcoLab, Wrangler, United Airlines and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Guests at this most recent annual meeting included officials from Coyote Logistics, Kohler, Amazon Web Services, AIR, Center for Disaster Philanthropy, the OneStar Foundation, All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response, and Global Citizen. Gathering in Alexandria, Va., our organization’s hometown, the Council focused its agenda this time on two of its key mandates: data mapping the disaster recovery cycle and promoting education around thoughtful giving.
Since its inception, the GDRC has looked at how data from previous natural disasters can be better leveraged so that smarter decisions can be made about future disaster response. Knowing the “recovery curve” of a disaster on the level of Hurricane Harvey, for instance, could help nonprofits and companies understand how to best pre-stage relief supplies in the event of a similar Category 4 storm hitting the southeastern United States. Recently, more organizations are seeing the potential of applying “big data” to disaster response. For example, Facebook has agreed to provide data maps — near real-time information on where people are located and whether they’re in immediate danger — to global relief agencies in the aftermath of natural disasters. At the annual meeting, representatives from Amazon Web Services (AWS) outlined their approach for helping the GDRC “jumpstart” and scale a proof of concept for its data mapping initiative.
Council members examined the myriad data points and issues that could be important in developing a long-term predictive model for disaster recovery, including:
- Understanding how the demographics and socio-economic profiles (and diversity) of the impacted areas could affect the recovery path and timelines
- Will there be enough contractors and skilled laborers in an impacted community to do rebuilding work?
- What does the local logistics and transportation infrastructure look like? What about warehouse space and capabilities?
For next steps, a council sub-committee will identify available data sources, define an initial study for the proof of concept, and begin to develop the model accordingly.
The GDRC also spent considerable time looking at ways to promote education on thoughtful giving within the philanthropic community. The statistics on disaster giving underscore the need for a more strategic approach: 60% of unsolicited goods given during a disaster end up in landfills or otherwise go to waste; and 80% of giving generally happens within the first two weeks after a disaster. Our goal is to give companies and individuals strategies to drive sustainable behavior change around disaster giving and reinforce it with education. Council members discussed ways that they can influence their own corporate leadership, internal decision-makers, employees and maybe even their customers.
Along with other stakeholder groups it could directly influence, GDRC identified two important audiences: the media and elected officials. A well-intentioned, but misguided media report or an elected official’s statement that the community should hold clothing drives (or something similar) and send those goods to the impacted area can easily undermine the disaster community’s emphasis on more purposeful philanthropy (giving cash, for example, because it can be deployed to address actual on-the-ground needs as they evolve). Clothing donations usually end up contributing to inefficiency by clogging up supply chains and diverting attention from more urgent recovery tasks.
Officials from Global Citizen, an advocacy group aimed at engaging people around large-scale social issues such as extreme poverty, brought a concept to the table of a “pledge” outlining how organizations can and should approach disaster recovery. The pledge would be aimed at educating people who are trying to do something in response to a disaster, but don’t necessarily know the best way to act. The pledge would harness that enthusiasm, drive action, and help individuals and organizations take a more thoughtful approach to disaster giving.
The GDRC reviewed a draft of the pledge and its core pillars, and agreed that its roll out and application would be valuable and appropriate. Throughout these in-person meetings and during quarterly phone calls, Council members have seen how cross-sector collaboration can be difficult because of differing success metrics, values, priorities, and organizing principles. They also see the great need to find common ground and build bridges precisely because of these barriers.
For example, members are seeing the value of sharing basic information such as which organizations has warehouse space near an impacted area or which companies have trucks or other shipping capabilities locally that could provide opportunities to move needed goods more efficiently.“We should all be thinking about how we can move from being the hero of the story to being part of a heroic story,” said Good360 CEO Howard Sherman.
By bringing their unique strengths and capabilities, and sharing their experiences and best practices, the Council is making substantial progress on its mission of driving sustainable improvements in disaster philanthropy.