Saturday, April 9, 2011

FieldEx 2011 Wrap-Up

At 9 am this morning, we arrived in Fletcher to begin the Field Ex Crisis simulation. With limited knowledge of the background situation in Comootros, including political unrest, ethnic tensions and NGOs on the ground, we brainstormed a structure to organize the workflow for our crisis mapping team.

We divided into 3 teams to assess and map data:
Administration maintained phone contact with trusted sources on the ground as well as the public information officer who interfaced with the media.
Logistics gathered and categorized SMS data, while maintaining and monitoring blog and twitter posts.
Operations mapped raw data on Crowdmap to share with individuals to aid in NGO and UN efforts on the ground.

The process of mapping and verifying reports is an intense one, as reports come in faster than teams can approve them. The lightning speed of this crisis bonded our team together through an urgent shared goal. We devised a system to accurately and efficiently move information through our clearly devised workflow as we all kept in constant communication. David Meyers, our technical expert, commented on technology’s role with the group:

“At first, we tried using FrontlineSMS and things didn’t work out, which often happens when using technologies like this. Backlogged for an hour at the start of the day, we eventually created a new system using completely different software. But in the end, while it was tedious copying messages over into usable data, we managed to pull together as a group and get caught up to where we needed. Soon after our transfer we were back on track and stayed on top of it until the end.”

Miriam Ross-Hirsch, our social network liaison, speaks to the dangerous capacity of information to alter an outcome:

“It was hard to find a balance between tweeting sensitive information that seemed important for those on the ground to know, and keeping some information private to avoid increased turmoil.”

Operations member Ben Wang discusses the challenges of working with our mapping platform.

“Often reports we were mapping were not occurring in one place, which was difficult when creating static points on Crowdmap.”

When word reached us that a peaceful, democratic solution had been reached in Comootros, we were finally able to take stock of what a challenging and important experience this was. We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this project and we sincerely hope our efforts aided in this favorable outcome.

-Tufts Crisis Mapping Team

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