Using technology to make a difference

I’ve worked in the world of business collaboration for coming up 6 years. The holy grail of success is being able to answer the big question “what is in it for me” or WIIFM for short. People like me write strategies, join tweetups, attend conferences and share ideas about how we can tackle this question for executives, middle managers, remote workers etc.

In the last few weeks i’ve witnessed the most unbelievable collaboration and sharing of information, the levels of engagement a community manager like me can only dream of and the WIIFM is simple – humanity, saving lives, because I have to, because I can, because if we don’t who will?

I’ve been overwhelmed by the innovation that is taking place on a daily basis, the continuous improvement approach and the ability the volunteers have to organise themselves around skills, knowledge and strengths rather than a structure or hierarchy.

Whilst my blog was in draft Mashable published this article How entrepreneurs and aid groups are helping refugees with digital tools if you haven’t got time to read the article in full it is a summary of this wonderful low bandwidth information portal for refugees http://refugeeinfo.eu/

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Another example is refugeemap.com an interactive mapping platform using Google tools that provides details on where refugees are traveling and what needs they have – the map is able to assist volunteers in best ways to provide aid and volunteer. I have personal experience of this map, I used it when planning our trip to Slovenia in October, the network of people updating it were able to help me find Brezice and Rigonce. You can read more about refugeemap.com here.

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On facebook there are a number of co-ordination groups for refugee hot spots, we’ve joined Volunteers Co-ordination (Lesvos) group  it is a great source of information and collaboration for people on the ground. The group was getting flooded with questions about best flight deals, where can I stay?, does anyone want to share a car? etc. Through self selection some members split off the activity into a different group, they’ve created essential information for volunteers in google docs and sheets. And another group Information Point for Lesvos Volunteer  leaving the co-ordination group to focus on people in Lesvos reacting to the needs on the ground, this all happened in 3 days.

There are similar groups popping up throughout the Greek hotspots and along the Balkans route refugees take. These groups are filled with ideas on how to do things better, work with NGO’s, authorities, links to supermarkets who will do deliveries, lift sharing, accommodation tips, the situation, the facts and kindness.

WhatsApp is being used for on the spot translation services with refugees who have special medical needs putting them in touch with a native speaker. Google translate comes in handy on a daily basis, I’ve recently been using it to decipher the refugee situation in Finland for research (a sentence I never thought i’d find myself writing).

5kWe can not forget that most of this is possible because volunteers are taking to sites to crowd source funds, like gofundme.com. We also have first hand of this tool, our own GoFundMe site has already received £5k in donations. Grass roots groups are making the impossible seem possible.

In time the refugee crisis across Europe, will be analysed, it will make history books and i’m certain it will be a turning point for how we see the world today. Underpinning the entire movement will be the part technology played in telling the story, helping the refugees on their journey and providing people who want to help a digital guidebook to make a difference.

No one has sat in a boardroom thinking up these plans or visions, there is no big social media marketing budget, it is quite simply people helping people to make a difference. Thankfully we have the technology to help us make this difference faster and in full view of the whole world.

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Personally i’m in awe of some of the innvoation, collaboration I see daily and I can only hope that I am able to play a small part in making a little difference.

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