Volunteers Power the Open Crowdsourcing Movement

A lot is going on behind the scenes for us here at Ushahidi, and though many people think it’s mostly the Ushahidi “core team” doing this work, what success we have had so far can be directly attributed to the quality and number of volunteers involved. This is mappers, translators, programmers, media monitoring, trainers and so many more.

We’re trying to make sure that the Haiti effort is effective, and are at the same time putting in new structures to manage things we’ve never had to do before. Large groups of volunteers, and the organizational structures that are needed to make that work effectively, are new to us and we’ve learned a great deal from the Fletcher Situation Room in Boston.

Organizing Volunteers

It took A LOT of work to get the Haiti crowdsourcing situation room together. It metamorphosed over the first couple days as there was a growing need for organization and compartmentalization needed for efficiency. The team at the Fletcher Situation Room were the first, and they quickly organized around roles and chose leaders for each area.

Below is their org chart for the 70+ person strong situation room:

Ushahidi - Fletcher situation room volunteer structure
Ushahidi - Fletcher situation room volunteer structure

I asked Vanessa Corlazzoli who is the overall Volunteer Coordinator to put it in her own words:

The Ushahidi volunteers are dedicated and extremely capable individuals that continue to pick up new skills every day. They are able to adapt to new circumstances and learn about new technologies quickly. But perhaps most importantly, they are passionate about helping people on the ground and using their talents and time to alleviate crisis.

In just few days, Ushahidi has been able to set up new offices in London, Geneva, New Haven, and Boston. At the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, at Tuft’s University, over 230 volunteers have been trained.

I have learned a lot in the last few days about how to scale up an organization and how to best provide support to a growing number of volunteers. In an environment, where one is constantly making decisions I have learned the importance of communication and working together to achieve our main goals: help Haitians and relief efforts. Another inspiring part of my task is to help integrate the Haitian Diaspora into Ushahidi. These particular volunteers have been crucial in translating SMS messages and are currently working to fill in outstanding street names in Open Street Map. It is a pleasure to work with each and every single volunteer! Without them, Ushahidi would not exist.

List of Fletcher Volunteers as of January 20, 2009*

  • Adam Berkowitz
  • Althea Middleton-Detzner
  • Amy Margolies
  • Amy Patanasinth
  • Amy Truong
  • Anna Schultz
  • Annette Grinager
  • Barbara Martin
  • Beka Feathers
  • Carol Waters
  • Caroline Andresen
  • Caroline Meeks
  • Claudia Bucco
  • Dan Brutlag
  • Dana Binnendijk
  • Denise Roz Sewell
  • Elsa Palanza
  • Engelmann Gregor
  • Erin Linsky
  • Hana Cervenka
  • Helen Ho
  • Hilde Berg-Hansen
  • Ida Norheim Hagtun
  • Jacqui Deelstra
  • Jaroslav Valuch
  • Jen Ziemke
  • Jennifer Catalano
  • Jesse Smith
  • John Floretta
  • Kelsi Stine
  • Laura Gordon
  • Laura Zusman
  • Liz Sullivan
  • Luis Marquez
  • Marcia Kammitsi
  • Maren Christensen
  • Minta Madeley
  • Nona Lambert
  • Ola Ulmo
  • Patrick Elliot
  • Rebecca Perlmutter
  • Sophia Dawkins
  • Suzanne Andrews
  • Vanessa Corlazzoli
  • Yanina Seltzer

* Please note that this list does not include: DC Volunteers, Geneva Volunteers, or Creole/French translators , and overall supporters.

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