Digital Volunteer Networks

Digital Volunteer Networks support emergency management during disasters curate, analyze, and visualize crowdsourced data. DVNs are comprised of trained volunteers, who often in their professional lives are experts in social media, communication, coding, or GIS, and work within that DVN's procedures. This section will cover the different types of DVNs, from independent non-governmental organizations to government-managed Virtual Operations Support Teams (VOSTs). At the crawl stage, emergency managers should know how to activate and work with DVNs and as you advance to the run stage you might establish a VOST that works on behalf of your EOC. DVNs and VOSTs are force multipliers that provide valuable support when properly integrated into the response structure.


Digital Humanitarian Network

For emergency managers just starting out in the process of establishing a crowdsourcing capability, working with an existing DVN can be the easiest. The Digital Humanitarian Network is network-of-networks that aims to form a consortium of Volunteer & Technical Communities (V&TCs) who can provide an interface between formal, professional humanitarian organizations and informal yet skilled-and-agile volunteer & technical networks. The DHN website contains a wealth of resources on what types of volunteer groups exist, how to work with them, case studies, and how to activate the network. Many but not all DVNs are part of the Digital Humanitarian Network.

More information is available on the DHN Partners website with the skills and capabilities of each.

The DHN can be activated on their website through a short form.

Digital Humanitarian Network has developed many resources and guides to assist organizations in the process of managing digital volunteers, collaborating with volunteer & technical communities, and how establish a digital response network. These guides and others are available in the DH Network library.


Volunteer Management, Considerations for working with volunteers

Guidance for Collaborating with Volunteer and Technical Communities (V&TCs) - Version 1.pdf

Guidance for Collaborating with Volunteer & Technical Communities

Guidance for Collaborating with Formal Humanitarian Orgs.pdf

Guidance for Collaborating with Formal Humanitarian Organizations

Guidance for Developing a Local Digital Response Network - Phillips and Verity - 2016.pdf

Guidance for Developing A Local Digital Response Network

Other Digital Volunteer Networks

While many Digital Volunteer Networks are part of the Digital Humanitarian Network, there are a number of additional crowdsourcing groups that provide important service before, during, and after disasters. The spreadsheet below describes additional organizations that can be activated directly, their capabilities, & how to contact them. If you have an addition to this list, please recommend it here.

Catalog of DVNs

Virtual Operations Support Teams (VOSTs)

Emergency Management Agencies across the world have recognized the need for volunteer teams that can support in social media monitoring and crowdsourcing. The concept of Virtual Operations Support Teams (VOSTs) was created to enable emergency managers, usually public information offers, to tap into volunteer support to take on the task of active crowdsourcing. The DHS Science and Technology Directorate developed the Digital Volunteer Program Guide to walk agencies through the process of establishing VOSTs. Just like a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), VOSTs require program management, training and exercising to ensure they are capable of supporting the EOC. For this reason, establishing a VOST is aligned to the run stage of developing a crowdsourcing capability.


In October of 2018, subject matter experts from VOSTs around the country worked with FEMA's National Integration Center to develop draft resource typing for the VOST concept. While these documents are not finalized, they provide a good template in the development of your own VOST. Typing currently exists for the Virtual Operations Support Team, a VOST Member, a VOST Supervisor, and a VOST Administrator.


VOST Typing


VOST Leader Typing


VOST Administrator Typing


VOST Member Typing

Example Virtual Operations Support Teams