By Gisli Olafsson, NetHope Emergency Response Director
In the humanitarian response world, we are faced with a dilemma that we are having a hard time dealing with. We all know that having access to the right information is the key to being able to make the right decision on how to respond. But even though lives are at stake, organizations are not sharing information with each other. When asked why they are not sharing information they say that at first they tried to share the information, but they did not get much in return, so they did not see any value in sharing.
When we share something with another organization, especially if that organization is responsible for the overall coordination and if all they do is ask for information but don’t provide anything in return, this can be understandable.
But why aren’t they receiving anything in return?
Often it is because those same organizations are too swamped dealing with their own data that the task of integrating the data from others into a common database that can be shared back and analyzed means that they don’t have anything to share.
Technology can play a key role in enabling value to be added in the area of information sharing. First of all, we need to free up people by replacing time consuming manual tasks, such as keeping contact lists updated, with technological solutions that automatically know your contact information and share that in a standard way in any place you want to share it (imagine checking in and out of a disaster or humanitarian cluster similar to a mobile Facebook user checking into a restaurant online and seeing which of his friends are nearby).
Secondly, we need to have simple data standards for information sharing so that we can directly use data we get from other organizations and coordination agencies and can easily join data from multiple organizations into a single common operational picture. If we really start harnessing the power of technology, we can get organizations to start sharing information again because they will feel value is being added by providing their information into the common data pool.
At NetHope, we look at the importance of adding value in everything we do, including how we deal with our supporters and partner organizations. When we establish relationships with what most organizations refer to as donors, we see them as partnerships. For us, it is important that both organizations involved are receiving value out of that partnership.
If all we get is money and all that the donor gets is a good feeling of having helped out in a particular emergency and maybe some media mentions, then that is a relationship that will not last for a long time. If you, however, ensure that both organizations receive value way beyond the financial interaction that occurs, then you build a long-term partnership between organizations.
When we started our relationship with The Patterson Foundation, we saw an organization that was interested in learning about the way effective disaster response and preparedness could be done and wanted to share that knowledge with the broader community. This aligned well with one aspect of our core mission, which is to pay back to the broader nonprofit community through sharing our lessons learned. In this manner, both organizations received value way beyond what any financial support could do.
So, the next time you establish a relationship with another organization, ensure it is a win-win relationship from a value added perspective.
Next time you are faced with a dilemma of organizations not wanting to share information or collaborate, identify ways to add value for both organizations and you can enable change in their behavior.
Just like marriages, relationships and friendships where both parties are not providing value to each other are doomed to fail, so are partnerships, processes and coordination mechanisms that are not based on adding value to both sides.
Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.
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