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Extending our principles outside BlaBlaCar: the RedAlert project

Benjamin Fraud
Sep 19, 2018 · 7 min read

Volunteers of the Red Cross

Everybody knows about the Red Cross, one of the oldest and largest humanitarian organization in the world. Their mission is to protect and bring assistance to victims of armed conflicts or in any situation of violence and to care for people in need. If their actions on the field are well-known (dispatching qualified volunteers to conflicted areas, collecting funds and supplies, promoting humanitarian values…), the way they work internally and organize these actions is most of the time unknown of the general public.

  • They had then to send the scans by e-mail to the person in charge of synchronizing the different teams on the field.
  • That person had to aggregate the many different reports and store them in Google Drive, so they were accessible by the other team leaders before the beginning of their respective round.

Reacting in emergency situations

One of the Red Cross’ missions is to intervene when there is an emergency, like a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. When such an event occurs, the process is essentially a top-down communication: public authorities warn the central entities of every registered organisation such as the Red Cross, which in turn communicates the alert to local entities such as the delegation of the 1st and 2nd districts of Paris. The local Red Cross entities then activate their internal processes to call for volunteers and dispatch them on-site. To do so, there’s a dedicated person in the delegation whose responsibility is to coordinate all the volunteers who are part of it and may be able to help. Volunteers may have a variety of different skills (doctors, psychologists, paramedical staff…), and depending on the event, it might be relevant to ask some profiles for their help but not some others. Pursuing her investigation, Perrine asked a few questions about how things get done when such an event occurs and got an overview of that process.

  • When an event requires immediate intervention, she needs to know who is able to come right away, and therefore sends an SMS containing a description of the situation and asks the volunteers if they’re able to go on-site in no time.
  • She then gathers all the answers and consolidate them in a spreadsheet, and sends individual messages to the people who answered positively to give them as much information as she can (indeed, there is most of the time very little information available when an emergency happens).
  • Once volunteers have been informed, it is also part of Amira’s mission to keep track of everybody on-site, people joining the effort at different moments in time or leaving site once their support is no longer required.
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Taking a few steps back

When working in a tech company, where people are used to identify problems, designing complex solutions and implementing them in their daily work, it is sometimes easy to forget that not everybody has the time and skills to do the same. We discussed a lot with Amira, and with other people from the Red Cross we invited that night, about their dedication and the values they live by, about the stories they had to share on things they struggle with when their action is needed. And it allowed us to understand how our technical skills can be used for something that has inherently a social impact and goes beyond our daily work.

  • Receiving and sorting the answers sent by the volunteers.
  • Allowing them to check in when they get to the event site and check out when they leave.
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Bringing the company’s principles to life

Ultimately, this experience was made possible because the project echoes the values we all work with at BlaBlaCar. One of our core principlesBe the member — is a constant reminder of the importance of empathy in what we do. It invites us to truly understand the needs of our community and to build things that make sense to people using our service. It also encourages us not to rely on what we take for granted and to ask ourselves how we can improve things. Working with the Red Cross during the Coding Night #5 allowed us to extend that principle to a new scope and to reinforce its meaning.

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BlaBlaCar

The stories behind BlaBlaCar, the world’s leading multimodal mobility platform.

Thanks to Nicolas Tricot and Olivier Bonnet

Benjamin Fraud

Written by

BlaBlaCar

BlaBlaCar

BlaBlaCar is the go-to marketplace for shared mobility, combining carpooling, buses and e-scooters. In building the future of mobility, we set ourselves high and ambitious targets, and bring tech and data to the heart of our product experience and company strategy.

Benjamin Fraud

Written by

BlaBlaCar

BlaBlaCar

BlaBlaCar is the go-to marketplace for shared mobility, combining carpooling, buses and e-scooters. In building the future of mobility, we set ourselves high and ambitious targets, and bring tech and data to the heart of our product experience and company strategy.

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