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Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management: Workshop Summary

December 06, 2016 by Ryan Burns, Lea A. Shanley

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The growing availability and use of social media and other mass collaboration technologies present new opportunities and challenges for disaster management. Platforms now exist that permit collection of data from broad constituencies and rapid communication with endangered communities, but this new interface between the informality of “the crowd” and the formality of policy frameworks raises important questions. These questions pertain to best practices, ways to integrate crowdsourced data with more traditional sources of data, and the identification of tools and approaches that should be leveraged in particular contexts. Groups engaging with these tools to support disaster response are often from disconnected industries and institutions, compounding the challenges. The “Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management” workshop was held to identify, assess, and address these opportunities and challenges. The workshop brought together the formal disaster response community, technology developers, digital volunteers, academic researchers, and the private sector. This report documents the conversations that emerged in this workshop, with particular attention to confirmed or disputed presuppositions, priority research opportunities, and the formal response community’s needs and capabilities.