Relief Today Origins

Source: Unsplash

Relief Today’s origins go back to November 2015, when Chennai faced unforeseen floods. At the time, Vijay and I had been trying to connect with our friends but had very limited success with the existing technologies. WhatsApp calls and texts only gave us limited and occasional updates about our friend’s security, and Facebook check-ins were binary, with no specifics about the ground situation. This prompted us to search for information and practices regarding disaster response efforts around the world, a quest that continued even after Chennai got back on its feet.

Over the next 3 years, we reached out to experts in the field of disaster management, and started building an understanding of protocols, emergency requirement, and response systems. We studied tactical actions and mapped the behaviour of affected communities and aid providers. We even created our own jargon along the way, like “new normal” and “hour zero”, which we still subconsciously call upon. To further increase our understanding of the development ecosystem, Vijay and I both participated in the Unleash conference in 2019 and 2018, respectively. This helped us immerse ourselves in the ecosystem, test our ideas with people in the social development space, and most importantly, build a powerful global network.

In early 2020, we felt prepared to put all our research and experience to use and build a solution for the gaps we saw. The nationwide lockdown meant that our work now had to happen remotely. To build solutions for specific problems, we conducted 3 focused rounds of research by speaking to major stakeholders in the disaster response system. In September, we interviewed employees of disaster relief agencies on the challenges they faced during the different phases of disasters. Our interviewees drew on their experiences from around the world — including the Caribbean, Middle East, SE Asia and India. They helped us identify some of our initial feature sets and how we could cater to both large and small aid organisations in how they connect with affected communities.

Our next round of research in March helped solidify our understanding of the role of volunteers in disaster areas. Our questions were focused on volunteer relationship with organisations, their general behaviours, etc. Importantly, this research introduced us to the importance of community leaders and representatives, which has compelled us to include them as part of our solution ecosystem.

Our last round of research was focused on affected communities. We started in May, when Covid’s second wave was wreaking havoc, and chose Delhi and Mumbai as our primary focus areas, as the Covid responses in these two cities had been quite contrasting. Our intention in this round was to study strategic and tactical actions that can increase or reduce a community’s resilience. Once again, we conducted multiple interviews, and heard many stories of bravery, resilience, and heartbreak, all of which have adding to our learnings, and to future versions of our platform. Through this round of research, we have even hypothesised a new way to analyse community resilience which we hope can be validated and adopted.

Our studies have gotten us to the point of having a full-fledged platform which we will release soon. We are indebted to everyone who has given us their time and knowledge, and we could not have reached here without their support. We hope that after learning about us and our product, many more of you will come forward to share your stories with us, as we continue to improve our platform.

In the coming 3–4 weeks, we will be publishing all our findings in a series of blogs and downloadable reports. The blogs will essentially be shorter descriptors of the long-form reports, so you can follow along here to stay posted on our research. And once again, if you or anyone you know has lived through/ worked in natural or humanitarian disasters and is willing to speak to us, we would love to connect with them. Your feedback and comments in the matter are most essential for us to grow, so reach out through the comments section or through our website’s Contact Us section.

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