Monday, October 4, 2010

A Virtual Crisis Crowd Coordination Center

When disaster strikes there is an immediate flood of people who want to help out in any way they can. At the same time you have various tasks that need to be done that these people might be able to assist with. In the past there have been systems that focus on matching requests for supplies and those that can donate these. But what I am referring to is the ability to match and coordinate people who want to use their free time at the computer to work on tasks such as geo-tagging, data cleaning, data processing, data analysis, etc.

In this blog post I will describe what I think should be the functionality of such a virtual crisis crowd coordination center.

First of all you need to have a place to register their interest in helping out. In this registry they should denote what skills they have and also potentially what time they can provide help at (distributing tasks across time zones can often do magic). This kind of registry should be built on top of an already existing system like Facebook or LinkedIn so that people don’t need to register all their basic information again, but rather just things specific to crisis support.

Then there needs to be a place for organizations (both formal and crowd based ones) to register information about themselves into the system. Registering an organization provides them with an ability to create requests and to send those to the appropriate groups of crowd volunteers based on attributes they define.

Third thing you need is a form of a ticketing system that allows you to create tasks that require volunteers and then the ability for volunteers to sign up for those tasks and perform them. It should be possible to assign tasks to multiple individuals at the same time and then possibly even compare the results from each afterwards.

To provide a sense of quality control and also some “competition” then you could integrate some kind of rating/reward system into this coordination center. Those that finish tasks get “badges” for the work done and can achieve higher levels of status depending on how much work they do. Those requesting work to be done can also rate the work of people and thereby get quality control when they chose who to assign tasks to.

By building this kind of a coordination center you could ensure that there is a ready community to reach out to every time a crisis occurs instead of having to build it up again and again.

I am pretty sure most of the components for such a solution already exist and that it is just a question of putting the right pieces of the puzzle together. Of course this would have to be a scalable cloud-based solution so that it could handle the massive outpour of volunteers we could get this way Smile

If you want to work on making such a coordination center a reality comment below…


  1. Gisli, Terrific blog! I would love to work together with you on this.

  2. Hello,

    I'm an experienced Project Manager and am pretty good with software, and have time available.

    If interested in my services, please let me know.

  3. Hi Francois,

    We have created a page ( to start gathering a project team around this. Not much done yet, but if you go to this page and sign up for the CrisisCommons Google Group then we can make use of your time :-)


  4. Gisli - Great idea - let's not reinvent the wheel.

    Most if not all of the functionality you describe is already available within the Volunteer Management Systems of both our Sahana Agasti and Sahana Eden Project.

    The Sahana Agasti Volunteer Management System was developed by the H-FOSS project at Trinity College. It is included in our current stable release (Krakatoa) and will is also a part of the current trunk development (Vesuvius). See for the code and for the user guide which will describe its capabilities.

    The Sahana Eden Volunteer Management System is currently used by Humanity Road. See for its status and a demo is available at

    These might be a good starting point for any extensions that are needed to coordinate the VTC community. We'd be glad to host something public that could be used.

  5. Now all we need is a smart group of people who can bring these different parts together and add the few little things missing. Any volunteers from the volunteer tech community???

  6. And, not to blow hard on this, it's exactly what we started building for volunteer management in the Random Hacks of Kindness CrisisCorp tool