November 10, 2016

New Humanitarian Aid Apps Provide Real-Time Access & Information

Relief Web, a humanitarian information source on global crises and disasters, and a digital service of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), recently released four mobile apps that aim to serve different members of the humanitarian aid community.

Each of these app aims to solve a problem or address a challenge that will meet specific needs of humanitarians.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the apps:

ReliefWeb Crises App

– Information gathering and making sense of a fast-paced humanitarian crisis can be challenging. This app provides key figures, access to latest reports and maps, real time financial status, as well as a comprehensive overview for each crisis. All of this is kept updated in real time.

– The app allows you to quickly compare different crises and gather the history of each event, so you can follow the evolution of a situation. Some recent examples: Haiti’s Hurricane Matthew and the crisis in Syria.


Headlines App

-Humanitarian situations evolve rapidly. Headlines App provides a general overview of the latest humanitarian developments globally.

– It is a tool that allows you to follow a person or location, i.e., “Ki-moon”, “Aleppo”,
“Gender”, “Refugees”,etc., and see what has been published on ReliefWeb that matches your search.

Videos App

– Videos allow you to get a much better sense of how things look in the field better than most reports usually can. It is a resource for complex , quickly changing situations, such as the ones in Syria and South Sudan, as well as for sudden onset disasters.

– Video is becoming a preferred reporting format for humanitarians, but prior to this launch there has been a gap in specialized video platforms that can gather these videos quickly and make them easy to access. ReliefWeb editors select relevant videos from more than 300 humanitarian sources, organize them, and make them available.

Jobs App

– Job finding can be challenging in the humanitarian system due to short-term appointments, short application deadlines, and fast paced recruitment. However, finding the right people quickly is key to the success of any humanitarian operation. The Jobs App provides access to most available jobs in the humanitarian sector.

– You can create a job search that matches your interests and skills and see when there are new jobs matching your search, i.e. communications officer, jobs in Sudan,
internship, etc.

All the apps allow you to bookmark reports to read later, and importantly, to share their content via social media.

Mobile visitors to ReliefWeb have increased significantly in the last few years, according to Adrian Ciancio, product manager at the digital humanitarian information service. “In 2015, mobile visitors to our site increased by an overwhelming 71%, of which over 90% were new visitors. Although we have a mobile version of the website, we believe that the apps allow us to package, curate, and organize content in ways that better serve the needs of our audience,” Ciancio said.

The team will also be conducting an impact evaluation on all the apps and plans on gathering user feedback in the upcoming months to improve and expand on the apps.

You can download the apps here:

This piece was originally published on The Huffington Post

April 21, 2015

5 Communications Lessons Learned Working at an Anti-Poverty Nonprofit


This post was originally published in the Huffington Post. Photo courtesy of Trickle Up.

By: Caroline Avakian

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the world’s targets for addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions. The MDGs target date expires this year, and as we collaboratively build out new goals for the next 15 years, it will be critical that nonprofit communicators in the global development sector build on what we’ve learned as well. So it got me thinking about what some of my lessons learned were after almost five years working at Trickle Up — an international organization that empowers people living on less than $1.25 a day to take the first steps out of poverty, providing them with resources to build sustainable livelihoods for a better quality of life.  Continue reading

January 23, 2012

A day of social media at the United Nations

Target audience: NGOs, nonprofits, foundations, social enterprises, cause and advocacy organizations, educators, general public.

JD LasicaWe’re still winding down after a whirlwind day Friday at the United Nations. At the invitation of Amine Lamrabat, Socialbrite sent Shonali Burke and myself to give a presentation on how NGOs (international nonprofits, chiefly) working with the UN can use social media to create impact and advance their causes.

Our presentation to United Nations NGOs.

This was one of the most rewarding and invigorating gatherings I’ve attended in quite some time, for both the knowledgeable give and take as well as the astonishing scope of the social good being done by the people in the room. Among those attending were representatives of Mercy International Association, Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict, the Norway Mission to the UN, the American Cancer Society, representations from throughout the UN and many others.

Here’s a Flickr set of 32 photos I snapped. Some of the topics that came up during our talk included:

How do we scale a campaign to 1 million signatures? Our answer: Set realistic goals. Approach the campaign in phases. Build up a community of support and deputize supporters to participate on your behalf. Learn from past mistakes. Depending on your budget, consider using a large advocacy platform like Care2.

How should we deal with an autocratic regime? From China to Myanmar to Iran, we’ve seen examples of governments that won’t hesitate to crack down on pro-democracy dissidents. Advocacy groups like Witness have learned a great deal about protecting the identity of pro-democracy activists, so absorb their learnings. (See a Witness official’s guest post on Socialbrite on What are our ethical responsibilities when recording video of people under oppression?) Follow Rebecca MacKinnon on Twitter discussing China and cyber-activism. See the latest Netizen Report on Global Voices Advocacy. And also see the brilliant work-around Tunisian human rights activists undertook by geotagging stories of human rights abuses around the presidential palace using Google Earth, Google Maps and YouTube. Continue reading

January 20, 2012

How NGOs can use social media to combat poverty

Socialbrite presents at the United Nations today

JD LasicaToday my Socialbrite partner Shonali Burke and I are giving a presentation to NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) at the United Nations.

Back in November, an invitation flew into our laps from Amine Lamrabat of the Civil Society and Outreach Unit (CSOU), Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD), Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). By gosh, when it comes to acronyms, nobody beats the UN!

The department is focusing in the new year on marshalling resources to combat poverty — quite a challenge, considering up to 80 percent of the world’s 7 billion people live in poverty or near-poverty conditions. (See stats from the World Bank.) So we tailored our presentation to highlight the work of some international nonprofits that are making an impact, especially in the developing world (or Global South, as some call it), including:

Send a Cow, a UK-based nonprofit that is helping African farmers create a sustainable ecosystem and a process of paying it forward. Farmers who are helped, with training on how to grow crops in harsh climates, agree to pass that knowledge on to other farmers — along with a first-born calf. Send a Cow helps African farmers grow enough food to feed their families, sell their produce, start small businesses and rise out of poverty. They do a nice job with their website, produce high-quality videos and are growing a fan base on Twitter and Facebook, though we couldn’t spot any online fundraising or mobile efforts.

USA for UNHCR’s Blue Key campaign, which Shonali is overseeing, has built a nice community over the past year, with occasional tweet-a-thons to raise funds, $5 per key, and awareness about the plight of refugees.

• In my view, charity: water has made the most astonishing use of social media and new media, with breathtakingly good videos, multimedia, photography and smart ways to mobilize social networks. Check out the story of charity: water video they did for their 5-year anniversary as well as the new WaterForward campaign. Also, see the video How charity: water changes lives through multimedia and find your charity: water project on a map — I’ve been using on that in my presentations for years. Continue reading

June 13, 2011

Last week! Get your Blue Key to help refugees

Angelina Jolie at a refugee camp in Tunisia along the Libya border.

And take part in the first ever #BlueKey Tweetathon today!

JD LasicaAt Socialbrite, a lot of people approach us about cause campaigns. But one in particular is especially worth spotlighting this week: the Blue Key campaign, which ends with World Refugee Day next Monday.

Blue Key was brought to our attention by Socialbrite’s own Shonali Burke, who is helping to show USA for UNHCR — the US-based nonprofit that supports the UN Refugee Agency — how social media can help make a real, on-the-ground difference in the lives of people displaced by war, threats of war, ethnic division and other causes.

How you can help

Blue keys

Before we delve too deeply into the refugee crisis, let’s list two simple things you can do to help out.

(1) The first and most important is to order your Blue Key for a mere $5. A blue key will show the 6,000+ staff members of the UN Refugee Agency around the world that we appreciate their work. The key pin or pendant symbolizes our power to help refugees open the door to a new home and a new future.

Get a Key!

(2) The second thing you can do is to spread the word about Blue Key, on Facebook or Twitter. Here are a few ready-made tweets!

  • Did you know that there are more than 43 million refugees worldwide? Your $5 #bluekey could open a new door for them.
  • “Kite Runner” author Khaled Hosseini says anyone can be a refugee. Last week to get your $5 #bluekey! (pls RT!)

If you really want to go the extra mile, you can change your Twitter avatar or Facebook logo to support Blue Key, like Socialbrite has done.

Special events in next week

Displaced Darfuris Receive Efficient "Hippo Rollers" for Carrying Water

Residents of a camp in north Darfur use water rollers earlier this year. Photo by United Nations

Tweetathon today
Today, from 9 am to 9 pm ET, several several of the Blue Key Champions (I’m one) will be taking part in a Tweetathon. We’ll be tweeting about the campaign, why we’re supporting it and urging people to get a key (remember, they’re just $5 each!). Just like in a good old-fashioned telethon, we’re going to talk #bluekey throughout the day. Just follow the #bluekey hashtag.

Also today, from 1 to 2 pm ET (10 to 11 am PT), Roya Hosseini, wife of Khaled Hosseini — the best-selling author of “The Kite Runner” and a Blue Key campaign supporter — will be joining the conversation on Twitter. Roya manages the operations of and tweets for the Khaled Hosseini Foundation and will be sharing insights into the refugee crisis and why the Blue Key campaign is so important. Follow @UNRefugeeAgency and @tkhf (the Khaled Hosseini Foundation). Continue reading