Disasters can happen anywhere, at any moment -- and responding to disasters takes preparation and experience. During natural disasters, volunteers arrive to help. However, without processes to train and place these volunteers, local agencies can waste valuable time in mobilizing and utilizing this additional help. Team Rubicon UK is no exception and must use technology efficiently and effectively to provide help in these unexpected moments of need. In times of international crisis, Team Rubicon UK needs their systems up to date to recruit and coordinate volunteers, quickly get them to the disaster location, and pinpoint where each team is located at any moment. As the organization grew from two remote employees to a centralized team of nine, they needed a way to organize and quickly update their tools and data. At the same time, they needed tools to help reach new donors and volunteers, and to visualize the work they do in crises around the world.
When Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in October 2016, Team Rubicon UK had support on the ground within 24 hours. Through Gmail they were able to reach out to their database of over a thousand volunteers and began building interest to travel to Haiti to support in the disaster. The email contained a Google Form which allowed volunteers to express interest in helping out. Team Rubicon knew specific skills, like chain saw operators and trainers, were needed in Haiti immediately to clear large areas quickly. With over 100 responses from potential volunteers, responses automatically populate into a Google Sheet for easily filtering by specific skill-sets to create a potential volunteer group. Once they knew who was eligible to help on the ground, they sent a pre-deployment Google Form to gather essential details like passport information, medical conditions, and emergency contacts. Once their group of 12 volunteers was on the ground, various Team Rubicon teams could access the information they need to update the volunteers’ families, track flight info, and other essential details. Since Google Sheets can be edited by multiple people at the same time, Team Rubicon’s logistic teams in different locations were able to update volunteer information while in flight from England to Haiti. Google Earth and Fusion Tables are essential to Team Rubicon’s work both in areas of disaster and back at home. These tools help represent and visualize where their volunteers live, letting them know which volunteers to mobilize when a disaster occurs. Google Earth allows them to create a live feed of their data so those on the ground can collaborate with each other and the home office. They also started exploring YouTube to scale their training efforts. They send professional photographers to capture the experience of current volunteers, which helps prospective volunteers to visualize their potential impact. This helps encourage donations, as well as recruit volunteers to support their mission.
"It doesn’t matter how efficient you are if you don’t have the right collaboration tools. We’ve got a great team, they’re very efficient - they couldn’t do it at that speed if they were doing manual processes. Just Google Forms and Google Sheets alone allow us to respond quickly."
Chris Lyon, Tech & Innovation Manager, Team Rubicon UK
Team Rubicon relies on the ability to be prepared for and quickly respond to crises around the world. By creating maps to show exactly where teams are at any given time, they ensure that each location is effectively supported (without duplicating work) in any crisis. Live data feeds let them collaborate with their home base to efficiently support teams on the ground. Google Forms and Sheets are essential to their operations, allowing for efficient workflows when disaster strikes. With the support of Google’s tools, Team Rubicon could go from 1,000 potential volunteers to a group of 12 skilled volunteers on the ground supporting a crisis within 24 hours. The process improvements they’ve made by incorporating Google Forms and Sheets in their work has expanded and scaled into efforts with local, UK disaster relief. With local crisis, like flooding in Southwest England, comes an influx of citizens and volunteers who want to help where they can. Previously, local agencies had no process to train these “spontaneous volunteers” and place them where they could help causing disorganization. Each volunteer had to carry a sheet of paper throughout their process, leading to confusion about which steps were completed and where they could support. By scaling the Team Rubicon process, each volunteer is registered in a Google Sheet, which provides disaster relief teams information on whether they are trained and their specific skills. Through this process, local disasters can be better supported by spontaneous volunteers who are trained and helping in just 90 minutes. As Team Rubicon expanded and scaled their efforts, they were challenged to keep up their training resources. Team Rubicon started using YouTube to visualize the work they do around the world and tell the stories of the people are impacting. Moving forward, they look to use YouTube to scale their operations and reach volunteers in greater numbers. Google Ad Grants has helped them improve their online presence, creating a campaign focused on volunteers, but simultaneously running time-sensitive campaigns to raise funds when a disaster occurs. Their Ad Grant has helped increase volunteers by 47% annually. As an organization whose work relies so much on time sensitive data and coordination, Google’s tools let them bring the attention back to the veterans who volunteer, the people in need, and the impact they can have during times of crisis around the world.
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