How You Can Help: Crowdsourced Volunteering

May 12, 2015 by  
Filed under Response

Lauren Biscombe [& Erica C. Fischer]

People like to help. But not everyone can, or should, go to Nepal to help out in person. There are, however, a variety of different ways you can help out from home. And considering today’s large aftershock, there may be a renewed need for online volunteers. What follows is an assortment of resources. Check them out, see if any are specifically suited to your skill set, and if they seem reputable (I haven’t verified any of these in any way), maybe you can help!

Online mapping and verification

“The Standby Task Force (SBTF) organizes digital volunteers into a flexible, trained and prepared network ready to deploy in crises.  The concept for the Task Force was launched at the 2010 International Conference on Crisis Mapping (ICCM 2010) to streamline online volunteer support for crisis mapping … and to provide a dedicated interface for the humanitarian community.” (from the SBTF blog) The SBTF got a shout-out in MIT’s Technology Review for their crowd-sourced verification tool. This allows users to answer yes or no to verification requests, provided that they can supply supporting documentation.

“DigitalGlobe has activated Tomnod, the crowdsourcing platform that allows web-connected volunteers around the globe to help disaster response teams by mapping damage from this earthquake. … By visiting the Tomnod website, users can participate in the Nepal campaign by tagging damaged buildings, roads, and areas of major destruction to inform disaster response teams on the ground.” (from the DigitalGlobe blog) For further reading about the effort, see this article.

Another organization leading some online mapping efforts is the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. Here’s an article about the kinds of tasks its volunteers have been performing, including searching for wells and pharmacies and labeling roads and buildings. Check out their website where you can find prioritized task lists and blog posts about partner organizations like Kathmandu Living Labs, a group that was featured by the BBC. There’s also more information on their wiki page.

Ushahidi’s recommendations

Ushahidi, a global non-profit technology company, has put together a great list of resources for people wanting to volunteer online. The Rockefeller Foundation granted this organization $1.2 million in 2013 to fund CrisisNet, The Resilience Network Initiative, and their core Ushahidi Platform. The following are some online volunteering ideas and humanitarian projects that they’ve shared (including some of those listed above):

The Digital Humanitarian Network’s (DHN) stated purpose is “to form a consortium of Volunteer & Technical Communities (V&TCs) and to provide an interface between formal, professional humanitarian organizations and informal yet skilled-and-agile volunteer & technical networks.” Coordinators work to assemble teams of member organizations with specific skill sets to match activation requests.

According to Ushahidi, The Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) is a “project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to make humanitarian data easy to find and use for analysis.” This includes key figures like number of deaths and injuries, but also maps, reports, and geodata, etc.

Humanity Road volunteers wade through the wealth of information online and “amplify official messaging. Volunteers route critical emergency aid information to those in need, connecting official charity, aid organizations and nonprofits with those requiring assistance or aid.”

Further resources has 3 primary goals:

  1. Consolidate everything relating to this earthquake and future disasters
  2. Archive information for future research and study
  3. Motivate people to use their skills in innovative ways to help earthquake victims looks to be a site with a little of everything, including links to various other organizations listed above, and also, where people can list resources that they either need or can supply. They are attempting to help coordinate as many relief and recovery efforts as possible.

This site has a lot of different types of humanitarian maps.

Some efforts led by Google and Facebook:


And of course, you can always donate.


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