World For All

Friday, December 31, 2004

Disaster-relief Volunteer Army (DVA)

DVA can have both components - online and offline. I will write about both. Let me begin with more details about the off-line component which will truely make the effect. The role played by internet will directly be minimal but indirectly, internet can provide the ability to convert large number of small groups to large very effective Volunteer Army.

Nothing is very original here - lots of things are already being done. I am writing here to note them or I will write what I think can be done to quicken the process to create much more powerful DVA.

Large disasters are taking place more frequently across the world. Earthquakes, tornadoes/hurricanes, tsunami, large train accidents, floods. People feel tremendous necessity to do their bit to alleviate the sufferings of the population affected by these disasters. Disaster-relief Volunteer Army can provide that medium to enable individuals to make that direct/indirect contribution with maximum effectiveness. For the volunteers who face this situation in their community, they will be extremely well prepared to lead the affected population during the disaster and protect them, wherever possible.

Main objectives of the DVA can be: To prepare for disaster relief in the most economic fashion - utilizing local resources and manpower.

Developed countries have spent a significant amount of money to prepare for disasters and are able to press into action the official machinery in case of disasters - but most of the population living in Developing world has no scope in near future to see their governments spending large money to achieve the same.

What DVA can involve is a basic disaster training for a very very large population (involving an initial 1 day or so training) - followed by regular updates (emails, mails, videos, etc.) - expect normal high school and higher educated people ages 18-45 to take interest in this. Initial one-day sessions organized on community property with some audio-visual aides. Large corporations/Universities/colleges may be extremely good partners for the recruitment and training. All of them come forward with very generous hearts after the disasters - lot of them will be very happy to see some advance preparation being done.

There will be a smaller set of people (say 1% of the DVA) which will have a higher level of involvement in developing and organizing training and leading relief work in actual situations.

Main thing that will set apart this kind of effort will be that it will be powered by simple ideas, lot of initiatives but very little money.

Simple ideas to begin with - all volunteers will always carry a DVA t-shirt (or hand band) or some visibly identifying object - and if they are present at a disaster location, they put it on - and thus DVA becomes easily identifiable. Their training should help them to easily understand the organized plan (preferably developed quickly by Lead volunteers) and get into action. If the DVA dress becomes very familiar then it may be actually easy for other people to seek help and guidance and follow DVA volunteers.

If DVA presence is large in some location, they can actually manage to always carry some inventory locally to use in case of disasters (may be food kits, medicines, portable toilets, tents, etc.) - in case of disaster, it will also be possible for adjoining locations to move their disaster inventory to the affected areas.

Organizations like Red Cross volunteer organizations (like Scouts, etc.), and Government Disaster relief related departments can be leveraged for recruitment, training material, trainers, etc.

Local DVA chapters can be encouraged to develope local relief plans (identify command center, plan emergency communication, hosting out-of-station DVA volunteers, etc.) . Online tools can be of significant help for planning phase - and to some extent during the disasters.

Cash demand for DVA should be at the minimum (and DVA volunteers should be able to bear that minimal costs for their own expenditure) - however, during a disaster, DVA can become a tool to accept donations and making sure that maximum percentage (why not 100%?) of that is used for the direct well-planned benefit of the affected population.

Distributed model of volunteers should be the key to empowering the people! Minimizing the costs, maximizing the benefit and empowering the people!!

DVA should never have to maintain large offices, administrative expense or salaried people -extremely small regional office (if really required!) - but mostly people supporting from their work (with the consent and knowledge of the employers - and not more than 1-2 hours in a month - may be after office hours!) or homes. Community centers, parks, etc. should be the preferred meeting places.

Welcome to the 'World For All'

I sometimes think a lot about how it can become an extremely user friendly 'World For All' (WFA) rather than the 'World For Few' that it appears to be sometimes right now. Best of all, when I encounter more and more of the tremedous amount of work being done by people on the internet, both commercial and free, I get amazed with what can be achieved to make this a 'World For All' using the internet. And it will not even involve/require everybody or even majority to use the internet.

'World for Few' is basically the world where large corporates and riches have far more power than the individuals, consumers, etc.

Some of the very amazing (for me - your list may be different!) ones that are very quickly turning the world upside down - empowering more individuals (against the large corporates) to do more everyday:

1. ebay : large market site - you can easily sell to the globe!
2. google : you publish good content and you earn the advertising dollars!
3. bitTorrents : you distribute large good content to the world (I downloaded tremendous amount of tsunumi video on it!) - similar to earlier Kaaza, Napster p2p sharing.
4. Linux, Firefox, open source software: Good quality software can be developed by volunteers
5. blogs : you can get all sides of news - large media can not control it anymore!
6. wikipedia : amazing free encyclopedia - and yes, if you know more about something, then you can have satisfaction of sharing the knowledge.

There are more and possibilities are enormous!

Large army of volunteers can be raised for any good cause that people may be interested in. Large group of people can get together to have the bargaining power (I normally think of this bargaining power being used against the large corporates against whom consumers are helpless right now. But it can additionally be thought of in terms of collective bargaining powers for Political causes or Environmental protection).

Volunteer - Right now, with tsunumi destruction around, I think of how easy it would be raise a volunteer army (Disaster-relief Volunteer Army) - a global force of volunteers who would have spent some time in training, can locally sustain smal groups and in cases of Disasters, work together, to provide the maximum benefit to the Disaster affected population with least cost. I will write more about it separately.

Music - Another big area where lot of action is already taking place - music sharing (p2p). However, current focus is more on spreading the Music commercially sold - and corporates right claim that it is theft. However, with a small twist in the model, p2p music sharing can help Artists grow up without having to resort to go through the large labels. I am confident that in that model, there will be more money for more musicians and more music for less cost for the music lovers. Wow! Well - who will suffer? You know - shareholders of large music companies and their top executives earning fat salaries. Do we not have to be concerned about their welfare in the 'World For All' (WFA) ? Well, I do not think so. If they are really good in what they are doing, they will find a way to work in WFA scheme of things and will neither go hungry nor homeless. I will be writing more about this also later on. I get amazed by thinking how good it can be!

Consumer groups - US has Costco and Sam's club and discount stores (unfortunately not all these store in their current operating model are good for WFA scheme!) which I feel have contributed to WFA by providing groceries and goods and low to shoppers and small businesses. In the internet era, these shoppers, even outside US will find ways to get together, form clubs, and aggregate the shopping power that they need so that they can goods at reasonable cost. It should be possible for new WFA companies to come up who will facilitate the process (like quality inspection/rating of goods/services, delivery, payment collection, etc) but who will not have to have lot of costs associated with running the departmental stores or shops.

Political causes - Internet is already providing enormous amount of information to people to make right choices in selecting politicians. But people devoted to some causes can do more - they can form voting blocks. Using the internet, they can vote internally in the group to select their candidate. And once their democratic (yes - fully democratic within the group - like it used to be in ancient Greece!) selection process is complete, entire group should support the selected winner with all their votes and money! Wow!! Politicians will have to listen to these powerful groups more and more - as it will become All or nothing game. Well - unfortunately there will be some groups/voting blocks that others will not like but the good thing is during the selection process, it will be individuals who will make direct selection - and I have full faith in large number of people making collective decisions - most (not all but most) of the times it works!

I will pick up these topics and write more as and when I get thoughts - please feel free to post your thoughts and comments about the 'World for All' (or Fantasy World cand come true!)