We’re focusing on knowing about more people affected by emergencies

Harry Trimble
Aug 21, 2019 · 3 min read

Our discovery into fires and floods is done. As a result we’ve decided to focus our next phase on knowing about more people affected by emergencies. As we get on with the ‘alpha’ phase, we wanted to explain a bit about this decision.

Finishing our discovery properly to make a decision

Will Myddelton has handily written a guide about finishing off a discovery to do justice to your work. After reading this we blocked out the last three weeks of our discovery. This gave us dedicated time as a team to:

  • agreeing key findings
  • prioritising which ones to focus on
  • generating initial ideas for alpha
  • communicating our decisions to stakeholders

We started the three weeks with 620 insights from 50 interviews. We then group these insights into to 98 findings.

Group 620 insights into 98 findings. It took several days but was well worth it.

By the end we’d agreed our 18 key findings and decided which one we’d focus on in alpha. How we did this is quite useful to know and probably warrants it’s own blog post.

Invisible emergencies

One key finding stuck out for us more than any other – in fires and floods we simply don’t know about everyone who’s been affected. By ‘we’ I mean organisations who are responsible for supporting affected people, like local councils and national charities such as ourselves.

We kept hearing this in interviews; many people affected by fires and floods had no contact with an organisation who could help them. Not because organisations don’t want to help, but because people affected by emergencies can be invisible in these situations.

Why are some people not visible in emergencies

In our discovery we heard several reasons why people affected aren’t always visible to organisations:

  1. Firstly, many people affected by fires and floods don’t know they can register for support. They don’t know councils set up rest centres in emergencies, or that these are places where they can go to say they need support such as accommodation or cash for living costs. In many cases the burden is on the individual person to know about registration and is not set up for proactive support.
  2. Second, people want to keep their emergency private. They’re embarrassed to come forward. They don’t necessarily want to go to a public space like a rest centre and ask for help.
  3. Third, people want to keep their dignity. They take pride in being self sufficient. They don’t want to see themselves as someone who needs supports or charity – even at vulnerable times when they could really benefit from some.
  4. Finally, people want support from those they can relate to and feel safe with. They might not be comfortable going to an official setting like a rest centre. They might prefer to go seek support in a place where they already know people – for example their local mosque, church or youth club.

Why we’re focusing on this problem

Knowing who’s been affected in an emergency is the foundation to any humanitarian response. Without it we don’t know what we don’t know. We can’t fully respond, because we don’t know how many people have been affected. We can’t totally coordinate, as we don’t know how people have been affected. There’s an emergency data gap about who’s in need and what their needs are.

As an organisation we’re well placed to try help solve this problem. Last year we responded to 1426 UK emergencies, so we can draw upon a lot of experience, expertise and opportunities to learn and test ideas. Also our independence and role to convene other organisations responding to emergencies puts us in a great position to help design and adopt new standards and processes for knowing who’s in need.

Onwards with alpha

We spent the last week planning our alpha in more detail. Christina and Laura have joined our team from the London Emergency Response team. We’ve got lots of ideas and assumptions to test. Along with extra research into how people affected by emergencies are identified by organisations now. Stay tuned to our blog to find out what we are testing and learning.

Digital and innovation at British Red Cross

Latest work and opinions by the digital and innovation…

Digital and innovation at British Red Cross

Latest work and opinions by the digital and innovation teams at BRC

Harry Trimble

Written by

Head of Design, Made Tech, previously Red Cross, GDS, NHS

Digital and innovation at British Red Cross

Latest work and opinions by the digital and innovation teams at BRC