Digital Humanitarians: Drones For Good

Between the events in Baltimore and the earthquake in Nepal, my various digital timelines have reminded me of the struggles people have all over the world. These problems are so much bigger than my own problems. These events make me feel small. 


I read about the tragedy.


I look at how it can inform my life to make me a better global citizen.


I donate money. 


Then another tragedy happens. I remember how big the world is. The cycle begins again. 

I read about the tragedy. 

I look at how it can inform my life to make me a better global citizen. 

I donate money.


Huge, life shattering events are constantly happening. People knocked out of their normal lives struggling to find a way to make sense of their new normal. People around the globe want to help, but there is only so much they can do. I don't have the money to fund, even a modest amount for, disaster repair in every tragedy. I can't dedicate my life to each tragedy. I can only do something small and hope someone feels the impact of my small contribution.  

Enter Patrick Meier. He's created a platform for digital humanitarians to help with disaster relief. 

In 2009, Meier launched the Crisis Mappers Network, a large, active, international community of experts, practitioners, policymakers, technologists, researchers, journalists, scholars, hackers and skilled volunteers who are using technology, crowd-sourcing and crisis mapping to answer our humanitarian needs. They engage 7,500+ volunteer members in 160+ countries. They are affiliated with 3,000+ institutions, universities, agencies, first responders and technology companies. They have community networks globally, nationally and locally and help connect humanitarian, disaster response and recovery organizations with each other.

From their homes around the world, community members review photos and video footage -shot by drones - to identify areas that need help. The community members have varying degrees of technical skills. The only requirement for joining the community is a desire to help. Pretty impressive, huh? National Geographic has a great write up of their current efforts in Nepal. It's worth a read.

I saw Patrick Meier speak at SwitchPoint a couple of weeks ago. A summary of his talk:


Designing for the Fringe

I like CrisisMappers because it is allowing people with technical skills to help a humanitarian effort with their specialized skillset. In 2001 I spent a very brief amount of time volunteering for the Red Cross in NYC after 9/11. I lost interest in the work because it wasn't anything that utilized my skills -- at the time I was working as a web producer at a company that created start-ups. If I had been able to do something that exploited my skills I could have done more for the Red Cross and would have stayed an engaged volunteer for longer.

Kudos to Meier for seeing a need and herding a bunch of technologists so that anyone can help with these humanitarian efforts. 

Wanna help?

  • Read more about CrisisMappers and join their network.
  • Look for a way to help by searching your favorite social media network using #DigitalJedis. And May the 4th be with you. (Sorry, I had to do it.)

Wanna learn more about the origin of Crisis Mappers?

Watch Patrick Meier's TedX talk.