Disaster Response: Using Social Media to Better Serve Communities

Women in Myanmar using smartphones. Photo: IFRC

Photo: IFRC

How can humanitarian organisations use social media to better serve communities that have been affected by natural disasters or conflict? How can they do it in a very practical way, without spending a fortune?

These are some of the questions that I’m trying to answer as part of a project for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

What makes this project different from many others is that we don’t want to stop at the social media analysis phase, where you are often left with nice looking charts, but little follow-up action.

Instead, we are looking for best practice and examples that show how humanitarian organisations used social media to engage affected communities in a two-way communications process that resulted in concrete action, for example where community feedback on social media has led to new activities or improvements in service delivery. This also includes examples of where affected communities organised themselves with the help of social media and where humanitarian organisations joined the conversation.

We are particularly interested in how you managed the process. Did you experience problems? What resources did you need (people, software)? What would you do differently?

One of the outputs of the project will be a short, practical, written guide, which the Red Cross plans to make publicly available, so it’d be great if you could share your experience with me.

Update 11 October 2017: The guide has been published. Find out more here