Workshop: Flipping the response: What can self-organizing communities do for you during a crisis?

One of the workshops at our CIP Conference 2016 on 1 July 2016 at Antwerp Management School.

Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and many other platforms have enabled citizens to connect, communicate and collaborate with each other in a previously unparalleled manner. Recent critical events, both natural and man-made have shown us that this is not limited to carpooling (Uber) and couch surfing (Airbnb). Today, in times of crisis, people reach back to these platforms for information, communication and even coordination: Facebook groups are formed by spontaneous volunteers to help, Twitter becomes an information exchange platform and Whatsapp becomes a viable alternative to connect and coordinate with others.

Changes in our society, brought about by technology, new communication paradigms and political trends have changed the interactions between responders and communities. Through technology, information and communication spreads quickly, in turn this empowers citizens to make their own decisions and take action. These changes provide both challenges and opportunities to responders. Crisis response organizations can transform spontaneous help from citizens from a liability to an asset, but it will require a new way of looking at, working with and organizing the response and the role of communities therein. The challenge is to transform response organizations from a top-down command and control approach to a more facilitating, collaborative role focussed on identifying and leveraging the potential of the community.

In this workshop, we will share our findings from the COBACORE project, a 3 year program funded by the EU to examine how the power of self-organizing communities can be harnessed during crisis response. We will look at the challenges, opportunities, best practices, guidelines, considerations and directions for solutions.


Kenny Meesters is Researcher in crisis and disaster Information management at Delft University of Technology and Information management consultant (The Netherlands)

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