The Resilience Network Initiative

February 1 2014
The Resilience Network Initiative (RNI) is a partnership between Ushahidi and the Rockefeller Foundation to support resilient cities by helping connect city governments and citizens through technology that lower barriers to exchanging information between them. The expedition charts our projects progress as we learn about, plan, and implement resiliency projects around the world. Read background

February 1 2014

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Mission Underway

TrendsOnline wins $20k in seed funding from RNI! As part of Understanding Risk Boulder, RNI developed a “Tech Challenge” to provide $20k in seed funding to find innovative solutions using open source technology to improve resilience in Boulder and strengthen citizen engagement. Five finalists, whose ideas ranged from apps for better volunteer coordination, to urban climate change adaptation analysis, pitched their ideas to a juried panel. The winning submission is “TrendsOnline”: a community data dashboard created by the Community Foundation of Boulder and Code for Boulder, a local brigade of Code for America. TrendsOnline is a community indicators report that has been a valuable resource to nonprofits, government, business and residents in Boulder County but remains only available in print form. The new online version will complement the print edition by making allowing easier access to data, analysis, and provide a forum to convene government and residents about them. It will help identify the most pressing resilience needs in Boulder and help connect organizations and individuals to take collective action. TrendsOnline will provide open data and analysis through an online dashboard and apps. The code created to run the site will be open source, allowing any city to quickly and easily establish their own version of the dashboard. More information at bit.ly/1UlHpLk

URB was an important milestone for resilience in Boulder: as an open event, it drew in more than 100 attendees from private sector, government, community-based organizations, researchers, and the general public. This provided a venue to share information and develop new partnerships. In a follow-up survey more than 80% of respondents felt that it URB was excellent’ for ‘developing new partnerships’ and almost 90% found that it was an excellent event for knowledge exchange. Many attendees commented on the great environment for sharing and learning about resilience and hazards from new perspectives.

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RNI, together with the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery launched the Understanding Risk Boulder conference and Tech Challenge in Boulder, Colorado. The two-day event convened the talent and expertise of the region’s communities, scientists, technologists, private sector, and government to develop shared understanding of the challenges they face in building long-term resilience to natural hazards and the impacts of climate change. The opening ceremonies included “Ignite Talks” to preview weekend panels and keynote speeches. More information at urboulder.ushahidi.com.

RNI’s work in Semarang, Indonesia came to a close with a community event that drew hundreds of residents and an Ushahidi deployment for the city. The project met the goals of the Rockefeller Foundation by demonstrably connecting citizens with city government: members of the project have been recruited to a city government steering committee for resilience and active social media exchanges between the city government and Peta Kota show consistent engagement.

So far the project:
● Mapped 188,679 buildings in OpenStreetMap
● Created 551 reports/posts in the Ushahidi deployment: petasmg.com.
● Trained 13 people
● Produced an Indonesian training manual for use through the country: bit.ly/1TSQMUt.

The project made extensive use of innovative communications to increase citizen engagement: including neighborhood murals with URL and instructions for reporting; using large paper maps to collect analog reports for transfer to the deployment; and creating highly attended community events to launch the project.

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Grobak Hysteria has wrapped up a phenomenal OpenStreetMap effort and is prepared to launch their Ushahidi deployment at the end of August with a massive street festival Semarang! This great video showcases their efforts and the incredibly detailed geographic information that can be created by working with local organizations.

In early August, RNI traveled to Boulder, Colorado to meet with a variety of stakeholders regarding our tech challenge. We also had an opportunity to present our work with the fantastic Analyze Boulder! If you're in the area be sure to check out their meet ups for data nerds: meetup.com/analyze-boulder.

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Working with Ushahidi’s User Advocacy group, RNI piloted a community training and meet-up in Milan, Italy, which allowed city representatives to better understand both Ushahidi tools and the network of users that exist within their city. These users are an important resource: they understand the technology and can be representatives of community groups, companies, or institutions that offer important insights to resilience. They may hold the key to instituting a new technology to promote citizen engagement or they may help identify unmet needs or resilience gaps within a city. At the Milan meet-up we were excited to have a wide range of attendees with representatives from: GeoBeyond, the CIMA foundation, The Urban and Regional Planning department of the Politecnico di Milano, GnuCOOP, and representatives from the 100 Resilient Cities team in Milan. For full write-up about the event see: ushahidi.com/2015/07/27/of-ushahidi-training-days-milan-recap

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Grobak Hysteria has completed mapping the neighborhood of Purwodinatan and will now begin working with residents to submit reports about resilience challenges and capacity in their neighborhood. This will be Hysteria’s first training in Ushahidi and will be led by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team. Follow events on the @petaSMG Twitter feed.

RNI was invited to present about how Ushahidi encompasses resilience in its business practices at seminar for the Politecnico di Milano. I’m also excited to announce that this led to an opportunity for Ushahidi to provide an Ushahidi training and meet-up to help connect Ushahidi users to some of the University and city staff who are involved in Milan’s ongoing resilience efforts as part of the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge.

RNI was invited to participate as a speaker for this expert consortium that explores how resilience knowledge is produced, shared, maintained, and used by affected communities and other stakeholders. RNI presented the talk “Digital Volunteers and Web 2.0. in supporting international relief efforts.” More information about KNOW4DRR is available here: know4drr.polimi.it.

As part of the Global Resilience Partnership’s challenge to explore how resilience information can improve life in Dhaka’s slums RNI attended a series of stakeholder meetings and conducted field work in the slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh. For more information on our project see: http://bit.ly/1gAnMyX.

Hysteria has held a series of mapping parties, stakeholder meetings, and other events to map the neighborhood of Purwodinatan. They’ve mapped tens of thousands of features. For a detailed look at the data they’ve created see this 100RC blog post: http://bit.ly/1gAn2dd

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Hysteria quickly put their new OpenStreetMap (OSM) skills to use by hosting their own training for residents of Semarang who would like to get involved in the project. Follow events on the @petaSMG Twitter feed.

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The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team held the first training for Hysteria about how to use OpenStreetMap. This kicks off our project in Semarang!

In March we began to organize our fantastic steering committee for the first ever Understanding Risk Boulder workshop and tech challenge. More details here: urboulder.ushahidi.com.

Spent the week in Jakarta finalizing our training schedule and signing our contract with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team there. They’ve done amazing work teaching OpenStreetMap and Ushahidi to development and humanitarian organizations and we’re looking forward to having them onboard!

RNI spent a week in Semarang finalizing our project design and signing our contract for the project. So excited to be moving forward with Grobak Hysteria as our lead partner!

RNI spent two days visiting the neighborhood of “Bustaman” where Hysteria has successfully launched several products that have led to creating public spaces for food vendors, a reduction in traffic, and improved street clean up.

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During the yearly, week-long, team retreat in Kenya RNI was able to gather important communications support that will help us push our message forward in 2015. Moreover, given the success of the program so far, Ushahidi has decided to grown the program moving forward.

The Ground Truth Initiative has years of experience using Ushahidi tools to build resilience in marginalized communities. RNI has worked closely with them to develop our project in Semarang, Indonesia. Ground helped us create a scope of work based on many lessons learned, which included details about hardware, training, and key social components to the work that we likely would have missed. We are grateful for their insights. Find out more about their work on their blog (groundtruth.in/blog).

The 100 Resilient Cities workshop in Semarang kicked of the official beginning of strategy development phase and provided RNI with an opportunity to meet with city leaders and better understand how Ushahidi’s tools can support their resilience needs. During our time in Semarang, we met with Grobak Hysteria (twitter.com/grobakhysteria) a community group that’s done brilliant work using art, film, and music to explore urban issues in Semarang (kotamasadepan.com). RNI is currently defining a community project with Grobak Hysteria to capture resilience challenges and needs in a neighborhood of Semarang. The project will include support from the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team in Jakarta (openstreetmap.id) and are excited to have them as a partner for our work in Semarang!

RNI met with the American Red Cross country representative in Vietnam to better understand current and past policies for disaster assessments. Because governmental work in Vietnam is highly centralized it’s important to understand trends at the national level to ensure that any pilot that’s being introduced will respond to existing needs and specifications.

The 100 Resilient Cities workshop in DaNang kicked of the official beginning of strategy development phase and provided RNI with an opportunity to meet with city leaders and better understand how Ushahidi’s tools can support their resilience needs. Long-time Rockefeller partners, the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (i-s-e-t.org) provided extremely valuable insight to this process and we look forward to working with them further!

This meeting of the 100 Resilient Cities platform partners was RNI’s first opportunity to meet in person and discuss synergy across platforms and coordinate our efforts with the early phases of the program. Find out more about the 100 Resilient Cities Platform of Partners here: goo.gl/bv0NV4.

We’ve started! RNI met with Boulder CRO, Greg Guibert, and several community-based organizations to provide technical advice on citizen engagement; assess existing resilience capacity and challenges; and generally get the lay of the land! Boulder is host to a very robust volunteer community. Would you like to know more about who’s doing what in Boulder? You can follow groups we met with and those sharing important information by using this Twitter list: twitter.com/Shadrocker/lists/rni-boulder.

Preparation Stage

RNI met the CrisisNET (crisis.net) team in Austin to discuss how the underlying technology of CrisisNET could be used to create a unique pipeline of civic data for cities. This approach would be best suited for cities that have strong analytic capacity, whether in city government or in the local community. It’s important that a pipeline such as this be curated by local stakeholders and continually added to. This is especially important when compiling hyper-local data streams such as prominent Twitter users, etc. Once established, the pipeline could be a valuable resource for local government, community analysts, but also for local journalists and researchers. See CrisisNET’s Github account to for technical details and code access: github.com/ushahidi/crisisnet

We met with briefly with the Rockefeller Foundation to deliver our findings based on 6 months of research and stakeholder discussions. We are proposing to create an original pipeline of local resilience data in each city by using the technology behind CrisisNET (crisis.net). This pipeline will combine data from a wide range of sources and be publicly available. RNI will work directly with communities and CROs to build upon this pipeline for their own needs; produce analysis as a convening point for better decision-making; and turn this knowledge into action. The pipeline will also be available to all Rockefeller Grantees and partners to inform their program planning and or as an input to their analytical work or tools.

In Boulder, Colorado, RNI had it's first opportunity to begin meeting with city officials. Boulder has always been a progressive city with regards to sustainability and environmental stewardship. Now, as they recover from historic flooding in 2013 – just three years after experiencing the state’s most financially destructive wildfire in history – Boulder is once again leaning forward to develop communications tools that will better connect the city to the needs of the citizens. This introductory meeting allowed us to learn more about Boulder’s needs and begin brainstorming for the future. The City has already made some attempts at citizen engagement through technology but are looking for ways to increase participation. In my time in the area I've found a wide variety of existing, community-based, organizations that focus on nature and environmental causes. I believe that tapping into these existing groups will provide this increase.

One of the challenges of being part of a globally distributed company is that, occasionally, you just need to get everyone in a room face to face! RNI spent 3 days in Washington D.C. to create our initial website and collate documentation about the initiative into one, central, place. One immediate discovery is that, when starting initiatives like this, you must clearly and succinctly communicate who you are, what you do, and how others can engage with you. It's a simple, oft forgotten, truth!

As word of RNI spread, we were invited to attend a workshop hosted by “KNOW4DRR” to explore how knowledge on mitigation and adaptation is produced, shared, maintained, and used (or not) by a variety of stakeholders. We spent 3 days talking to a broad range of resilience “networks” and connected with the Asian disaster Reduction and Response Network (adrrn.net) whose work in India, VietNam, and Myanmar (Burma) could be a starting point for RNI. The primary concern around building networks discussed at the workshop was ensuring sustainability of the networks themselves and how they communicate their findings, challenges, and solutions more broadly.

A meeting at the World Economic Forum gave us the opportunity to meet with organizations who are finding new ways to leverage the role of big data for improving security and resilience to catastrophic events. This meeting gave us the opportunity to meet counterparts from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs who graciously connected us with valuable datasets they currently maintain for Colombia. We also met with our Rockefeller counterparts and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to brainstorm about how they could partner with RNI in the U.S.

Managing urban growth and building resilient and sustainable societies requires robust and accurate data to inform decision-making. Because the creation of timely, accessible, geographic data is a critical need we met city officials and community based organizations who all use OpenStreetMap (OSM) at the annual “State of the Map U.S.” conference to see how community mapping might play a role in RNI. This shift in using on open, "community-based" platform for map data is still quite new and offers exciting new possibilities for transparency in government and greater citizen engagement. These valuable conversations lead to connections with OSM users in the cities we hope to support and connected us with a diverse range of groups interested in collaborating with our initiative.

Our next stop was to meet our counterparts at the Rockefeller Foundation and the 100 Resilient Cities challenge to discuss which cities we should focus on. Our goal is to create a broad suite of tools and methodologies to eventually serve a wide variety of cities. However, to begin with, we choose a sub-set of ‘candidate cities’ from the current short-list of 32. You can see our selection criteria and analysis on Github: github.com/Shadrock/RNI_select

The Resilience Network Initiative takes its first steps at the annual Ushahidi team meeting were we began a comprehensive survey of the tools and capacity at our disposal and began developing a work plan.