Inform your EEIs with Crowdsourcing
In our Crawl, Walk, Run approach, start your crowdsourcing program by identifying a few EEIs that are most important to your emergency operations. When looking to inform your EEIs through crowdsourcing, ask yourself three questions:
1. What existing crowdsourcing tools & platforms inform your desired EEIs?
Many crowdsourcing tools & platforms already exist that can be leveraged by emergency management. As an example, you may decide that the status of roads in your jurisdiction is an important EEI. An existing tool like Waze can easily add a new source of data to inform this EEI. Leverage their platform instead of spending considerable time creating your own. The use of an existing tool or platform may require some work to crosswalk & integrate the crowdsourced data into your existing workflows. Check to see if the data is publicly available or will require a license or use agreement. With our example, your organization would need to apply for participation in Waze's Connected Citizens Program in order to leverage the crowdsourced data.
A rule of thumb is to leverage the tools & services where the crowd already resides. Will citizens post damage photos to existing popular online social media platforms or will they download your custom damage reporter app?
2. Is there an emergent group of digital volunteers already collecting the desired EEI?
Before, during and after a disaster, spontaneous digital volunteers may step up to start providing assistance to survivors through existing & custom built apps, tools, and services. As an example, a local civic-hacking group could come together after a disaster to establish consolidated online shelter map featuring official government & Red Cross shelters in addition to churches, community centers and other locations. You determine that shelter occupancy status is a critical EEI for your organization but you do not have a good handle on the smaller shelters that have been popping up after the disaster.
Just like traditional emergent groups after a disaster, these grassroots disaster relief networks can be a great resource if managed effectively. In some cases these groups are aware of needs in the disaster affected area but are not sure how to connect their services to formal disaster response structures. It may make the most sense to work in partnership with them to provide direction and connect them with your data and services.
How do I find out about these groups working in my area?
- Are local news media outlets referencing apps and websites that were not created by government or other non-governmental organizations operating in the disaster (i.e. http://harveyneeds.org/). Check with your Public Information Officer and your Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD).
- Contact the FEMA Crowdsourcing Unit to see if they are aware of any groups working the disaster at firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you find out about an emergent group, see if you can find contact information or an online chat room they are coordinating through (i.e. Slack) to introduce yourself and your role.
- Some resources to assist in coordinating these spontaneous volunteers include:
- Emergent groups and spontaneous volunteers in urban disaster response (Article)
- DHNetwork Guidance for Collaborating with Volunteer & Technical Communities
- FEMA Management of Spontaneous Volunteers in Disasters Student Manual
- CNCS Managing Spontaneous Volunteers In Times Of Disaster (eCourse)
- Managing Spontaneous Volunteers In Times Of Disaster
3. Can a Digital Volunteer Network be activated to collect information from the crowd on the desired EEI?
In some cases, the desired EEI will have limited traditional data sources and no out of the box solutions are available to leverage crowdsourced data. As an example, status of restaurants may be a critical EEI to your agency, but you have no access to existing traditional or crowdsourced sources for this information. An approach may be to leverage your organization's technical experts and/or a Digital Volunteer Network to create a status map and dashboard through a combination of social media listening and manual volunteer phone banking to restaurants.
With this approach, you will be able to work through the process described Data Framework section to craft the data model, attributes, and format for the project to ensure alignment with your traditional data sources. You will work with the Digital Volunteer Network to develop a scope for the project within their capabilities. Using this scope of work, your organization is able to craft an official mission assignment for the organization.
Keep Track of Your Crowdsourcing Projects
Coordinating crowdsourcing projects with multiple Digital Volunteer Networks, emergent groups, Tech Sector partners, and partner emergency response agencies can be challenging. To help keep track of important information and resources for each project, we recommend using a Crowdsourcing Coordination Project Sheet. A sheet will be created for each crowdsourcing project to include points of contact, datasets, workflow procedures, and other resources that are available. A Crowdsourcing Coordination Project Sheet can be used as a "mission assignment" to a DVN to ensure all all project components and resources are accounted for. These can also be established in advance as "pre-scripted mission assignments" for those EEIs expected to have crowdsourcing needs during future incidents.
Some agencies are unable to officially request or deploy Digital Volunteer Networks. In this situation, the Crowdsourcing Coordination Project Sheet can be used as a "mission idea" and help inform the crowdsourcing community of information gaps and where assistance would be appreciated. At a minimum, this can reduce the amount of conflicting tools and services that will be created during an incident.
NOTE: These sheets should be placed in a collaborative Google Drive folder to enable all crowdsourcing partners to keep each project’s information up to date with new links and contacts.