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Society - Written by on Monday, February 1, 2010 5:32 - 5 Comments

Tim Bevins
Real-world impact from virtual-world collaboration: Crisis Commons

Crisis Commons (http://www.Crisis Commons.org) is an “international volunteer network of professionals drawn together by a call to service. We create technological tools and resources for responders to use in mitigating disasters and crises around the world.”

The group’s approach starts with facilitating partnerships and maintaining “a network of technology volunteers to respond to specific needs.” Included in its professionals’ network are developers, specialists, communicators, first responders, and project managers, but also “people who just want to help.” Everyone who volunteers usually gets to work on projects that align with their specific talents and interests, but, when dozens of people gathered in Boston on January 23 for a CrisisCamp event for Haiti, a group who intended to create software to identify Twitter messages sent from Haitian refugees did not have all the right programming tools and dived in to work on a non-technical task.

At CrisisCamps, people brainstorm and develop ideas. Special camps tend to address an individual event or create problem-specific tools. CrisisCamps often happen in several locations at once; camps for Haiti, for example, happened on January 30 in New York, Chicago, Montreal, Washington, DC, London, Toronto, and Mountain View, CA, and are scheduled for February 6 in Ottowa, Calgary, London, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City.

Because the next crisis is around the corner, at so-called Hack-a-Thon events, Crisis Commons volunteers prepare for future critical needs by developing new tools. The group’s web site explains: “We’re about responding to specific requests and needs. But we’re also about supporting just good ideas. Before a CrisisCamp, organizers reach out to responder organizations – governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and others – seeking requests for technological supports. We organize into teams to support those requests. But we also develop around things that are just good ideas.” All tools are open-source.

The group has a blog for updates on camp activities and outcomes and uses a wiki (http://wiki.Crisis Commons.org/wiki/Main_Page) for project and volunteer coordination. Anyone who wants to organize a CrisisCamp starts by by filling out a form with basic personal information, background information about skills and interests, and the purpose of the camp. Crisis Commons sets a limit of just one camp per city per day to ensure all local resources are located in one place for maximum impact.

Some of the projects already completed include:

The impact of Crisis Commons’ CrisisCamp events on participants can be profound. Co-founder of Crisis Commons, Noel Dickover described the work he’s doing in the Haiti camps as “more important than anything I’ve ever done in my life.” Thom Goodsell, a software developer at Humedica Inc. in Boston, who participated in the Boston CrisisCamp on January 23, explains the value of Crisis Commons this way: “No one here is going to save a life directly. What we are going to do is build infrastructure to help them do their jobs better.”

Crisis Commons benefits from the desire of people to help in concrete ways in events where they cannot participate on the ground. Social network technology makes it possible to assemble people with and without technical skills to make real differences in virtual ways. Crisis Commons is an example of the potential for good that’s often overlooked or invisible on a day-to-day basis when people think about social media and the Internet, which are often derided as trivial and time-wasters.


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links for 2010-02-02 « burningCat
Feb 2, 2010 10:06

[...] Real-world impact from virtual-world collaboration: Crisis Commons [...]

Dana Elliott MD
Feb 3, 2010 1:33

We will like to share with your readers on what First Aid Corps trying to accomplish with similar collaborative efforts to improve survival rates from sudden cardiac arrests.

In our efforts to locate automated external defibrillators (AEDs) locations, we have collaborated with a volunteer organization The Extraordinaries (www.beextra.org) to get iPhone users to locate AEDs worldwide. You can view some of the AEDs that were located by iPhone users at http://www.firstaidcorps.org. For the public to participate, they just need to follow our org “First Aid Corps” in that app to get access to our missions.

How the world society benefits is that we have an iPhone app to locate AED locations throughout the world. It is called AED Nearby. You can view the screenshots and a video on it at http://www.firstaidcorps.org. You can download it for free from the app store.

tim stack
Feb 3, 2010 16:49

I would like to volunteer for camp crisis in the chicago area please contact me with where I can go to be of service. thank you

Feb 8, 2010 9:43

Dana, here is where you can start: http://crisiscommons.org/. I don’t see a Chicago camp listed, but you could organize one starting here: http://crisiscommons.org/organize-a-crisis-camp.

Two Great Web2.0 Examples « Wikithink
Feb 28, 2010 22:04

[...] first one it’s called a virtual world collaboration. The CrisisCommons is a network which includes professionals united for bringing service to people [...]

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