Snippets of my world of humanitarian data and the people processes, successes and challenges that lie ahead

IMG_0331time rushes by, and rarely stays still

Humanitarian crisis and disasters grow in size and frequency at a pace that is surprisingly dwarfed by the swirling sea of humanitarian data. The expectations that we all have for data and its use in effective decision-making, accountable actions and durable change are daunting but a necessary pressure to change the system we are in.

I rarely finish a blogpost from crisis to crisis or from ER shift to ER shift. I’m currently post overnight from a very very busy shift –  one that reminds me of why I live for and enjoy the uncertainty of high acuity situations. But this is the time for me to finally hit the publish button on the series of blog posts suspended in draft format that I have written over the past couple years.

I hope this will be an opportunity to reflect upon, pull, and share snippets of my streams of thought on humanitarian data, information management, people, politics and progress.

I hope that a slice of my world will spark conversations across communities. For there is much learning we all need to do— to make this world a better place

“War torn” Chicago – a brief view from an ER doc & humanitarian in Chicago 

This is my first time making a commentary re politics on my blog. I didn’t anticipate a venture down this pathway but I do think it’s important to speak up about our ideas during this election cycle. Whatever views we have- the conversation is important. Because the deep-seated problems that we have are pressing and its important to for us to make progress toward a better country of people moving forward in a global world.

In last night’s debate, the Republican candidate Donald Trump referenced violence in  Chicago with his statement/question “Is this a war-torn country?” We are not in a “war torn country” here in Chicago. As an ER doc who works in a level 1 Chicago trauma center (although neither the most busy nor the most acute one IMHO) and a humanitarian,  this is a gross example of the lack of understanding of a potential future leader re the differences and similarities between the challenges that we face here in Chicago and the conflict spaces around the world.

Our future leader should know and be able to contextualize – and specify- the similarities and differences between violence, vulnerability, the direct and indirect consequences of protracted conflict/ war vs protracted violence domestically and globally. And what this means for the human dignity of all those involved- individual, community and beyond.

Serving those affected by conflict and protracted urban violence is hard and unbelievably complex – and we will keep moving forward regardless of the rhetoric. We need help both locally and globally, and the right people to help us along the way. We should expect no less and advocate for more. Because those we serve- deserve it and have a right to safety, dignity and fruitful lives moving forward.

Friday’s thought of the day

although we may write about breaking down silos as academics about the spaces we study and explore, how well are we breaking down silos amongst our interdisciplinary colleagues and institutions. Easier to urge others to change

rather than ourselves sometimes.

Those of us who have been referred by fellow academics as a practitioner and by some practitioners as an academics. 

Let’s de-silo for a moment and consider the cadre of similar folks to be recognized as both as an option.

Onward Ho… in the world of grey

because realty is just that…

Change can also happen in the space of grey whether society is ready to recognize that tides may be changing

Where do those products go? And what does it mean about our contributions?

I just revisited this post created just less than two years ago. It’s amazing how much has change, and perhaps how much has stayed the same. What do you think?


A good colleague of mine posted a great blog recently on the challenges with understanding the impact of digital humanitarian activities during humanitarian crisis.

This is certainly not a new question. It’s one that has been resonating amongst digital humanitarians, some traditional humanitarians, researchers and policy advisors alike.

My good colleague Kenny Meesters has an insightful views about these challenges as well.

Many of the digital volunteers wonder about the use of the products. And while through the existing exchange and communication channels feedback is received, for example with thank you notes, anecdotes and even some ‘success’ stories, some wonder how these products are actually being used, deep in the field.

To some degree the publicity and communications over the years have established an expectation that the great work that digital humanitarians have contributed over the years is more frequently linked with direct impact, and at times with “saving lives”. While for…

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