The closing event for the COBACORE project was full of creativity and fun and featured an exciting list of speakers. Everything from banana peels to paper planes added to the inspirational mix on the day!
Experts from the disaster management and related fields gathered in Leiden, Netherlands and immersed themselves in the spirit of co-creation which is an integral part of the project’s vision.
The event was opened by Bartel Van de Walle of Delft University and COBACORE Technical Coordinator Martijn Neef who introduced the audience to the project ethos and its journey ‘from an interesting idea to a well-supported concept’.
‘In times of need, we all stand together’ said Suzanne Laszlo of the Dutch Red Cross in her keynote address. As Director of Operations in the organisation she has direct experience of societal changes and her presentation emphasised the dynamic nature of communication. News used to be linear, but it now comes from all directions, and a member of the community is likely to know of a disaster before the professionals. The Dutch Red Cross has 24/7 online volunteers now, because expectations have shifted and people demand ‘fast tailored responses’ to their queries in crisis situations. Also underlined was the necessity of communities pulling together in times of crisis.
Dick van Gooswilligen, Head of the Crisis Communications Team in the Dutch National Police gave a presentation which reiterated how communication mediums have diversified. He explained the evolution over the years and how citizens have adapted social media for their own ends. WhatsApp has surpassed its original intent and is now used to alert communities to suspicious activity in the neighbourhood, making it an effective burglar deterrent that has cut rates by 80% in some areas. ‘Be prepared for the crisis after the crisis’ was the advice given, referring to the length of time that recovery can take.
The final keynote speaker was Ulrich Mans of the Centre for Innovation in The Hague who and focused on responsible data in disaster recovery. He spoke of the passion and skills of volunteers who mapped the damage caused by the 2015 Nepal earthquake within 48 hours and ‘navigating the red ocean’ in disaster recovery – assessing data from humanitarian organisations, many of whom are doing the same work. In disaster recovery, trust is paramount for there to be impact, and the abuse of data, such as passing it on to the government or military, leads to mistrust of data collection.
Shifts in the popularity of social media channels will continue, he continued. Facebook is now the dominant app, Snapchat is preferred by the young and will gain popularity in coming years as a result. The issue with the move from public to private social media channels like this is and WhatsApp is that they may lose their effectiveness as a tool for community preparedness in advance of a crisis.
Key members of the COBACORE consortium followed the guest speakers and gave the audience an insight into the history, development and results from the project.
The crowd took part in a survey via an app on their smartphones and answered a series of questions about community and technology which stirred conversation and encouraged new ways of thinking about existing issues.
Kenny Meesters of Tilburg University gave an overview of disaster recovery, pointing out that population growth and urbanisation mean that the financial costs of disasters have risen over the decades, although the death rate has decreased.
Kim Anema of the Dutch Red Cross explained how COBACORE principles affected the work of the organisation, specifically in the context of the current refugee crisis.
After lunch, participants gathered in the hotel atrium where Cyriel Kortleven filled the room with his enthusiasm and gave instructions to the groups before they split into groups for the workshops.
Session One – Disaster Resilience
Session Two – Flipping the Response
• Martijn van Emmerik – TNO
• Frank Geller, Mayor of Bruggen
Session Three – Technology and Design
Session Four – Volunteers
The event marked the end of COBACORE and was a fitting celebration of the achievements of the project, as well as an overview of the contemporary disaster management field.