What can ordinary people do in the face of catastrophe?
Jeremy Pepper and Richard Edelman believe natural disasters are events that leave bloggers and wiki-builders powerless. Warren Bickford believes there’s little that IABC can do. (Addendum: Jeff Jarvis is hard at work with a coterie to solve the next disaster – Jeff, why don’t you and your group help solve this one first: Keep reading for how you can volunteer.)
Nothing could be further from the truth: bloggers can make a difference. While I agree with Pepper that few bloggers seem to be doing more than complaining about government efforts, I’d like to point out a huge exception.
I’ve written earlier about the incredible South East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami blog/wiki effort that went into action hours after the tsunami. Grassroots- organized using blogs, wikis, IM, and Skype. And effective at a time with most governments and relief organizations were in shock.
The same team has swung into action with the Katrina Help blog and wiki. The team, spanning three continents, including professional communicators, has used the blog, the wike, IM, and Skype to set up:
- A comprehensive blog, operating since August 29th.
- A wiki, updated seemingly hourly, with job offers, transportation offers, housing offers, updated emergency management information, info about conditions on the ground. Comunicators: PR-blogger Constantin Basturea is one of the moderators.
- A PeopleFinder effort to help locate missing persons and reunite them with families. They need volunteers, including communicators!
- A ShelterFinder effort: ditto above, you can volunteer.
- A KatrinaHelpLine, staffed 24/7 by volunteers. This is Skype-based, with a New Orleans area Skype-in number (+1 504 208 1564).
- Well, we can donate your time. Plenty of information about that on the Wiki.
- We can also donate money or services to keep the effort going. It’s a volunteer effort, and they are using free software (Blogger, Skype, etc) but there are some hosting costs. You can read more about their needs here. Microcontributions or contributions-in-kind appear welcome.
The lesson here for communicators? Bloggers and micro-media users — real communicators — can make a difference. It’s a question of rapid organization and will. We don’t have the tools is no longer an excuse for us.
Via Conversations with Dina and other sources.