Floodaid – rapid response in a digital age
Nicholas Colloff Director of Innovation
14th Nov 2011
When floods hit Queensland, Australia, in 2010 and 2011, the digital community responded with a unique approach to disaster relief.
Imagine you have lost everything, except what you could carry, as floods engulfed your home. In the short term how do you survive and in the long term how are you going to rebuild your life? Floodaid was a spontaneous social networking website created amid this scenario.
Floodaid was conceived in just 12 hours in response to widespread flooding in Queensland this year. According to the Floodaid website, the aim was to create "a social resource that connects people in need with people that can help."
Flood victims can post their needs online, with requests ranging from medical advice to appeals for furniture. Members of the wider world can then respond. Medical advice can be dispensed online or old cots donated to help rebuild a child's bedroom.
Directly 'asking those with the problem' and facilitating 'peer-to-peer' aid are but two of the many innovative elements to this new format. Floodaid uses the power of social networking advances to allow spontaneous, direct and targeted aid to reach those who have the means to ask for it.
Obviously Floodaid relies on people having access to the internet but, in the age of smart phones and dongles, the internet is becoming ever more portable. Consequently, Floodaid is at the cutting edge of relief work. It is widely accessible, low cost and rapid to set up.
The lesson of Floodaid for Oxfam is that social media can be about more than just advertising, campaigning and fundraising - it can directly facilitate humanitarian efforts. With an increasingly active online community, resources are available: they just need to be channeled in the right direction.
The spontaneous rise of Floodaid should not be seen as a threat to charities and NGOs, a way of cutting out the humanitarian middle men. Instead Floodaid (and any other similar enterprises that follow) should be seen as partners whose innovations contribute to rapid disaster relief responses.
In the case of Floodaid, using social media in a different way has changed lives.