Staffers from Oxfam and Save the Children have produced some fantastic blogs, elevating the voices of their own people alongside those from the traditional media. I have also impressed by the efforts of two smaller organisations to harness social media to such direct effect........
Medical assistance organisation Merlin is perhaps not one of the many household names that have had an NGO presence in Port au Prince and beyond over the past few days. However it has certainly harnessed the power of the media to great effect, bringing the story in full Technicolor to readers around the world. Dr Richard Villar is a surgeon working for Merlin in Haiti and has been posting evocative blog posts, carried by the Daily Telegraph. Of course, these have been re-tweeted by Merlin's CEO so that reach just got bigger.
Merlin has also borrowed successful tactics from the battlefield by embracing the embedded journalist. The Evening Standard's Martin Bentham has accompanied a team of British surgeons working for Merlin, helping to save limbs on the quake ravaged island. Add to that a regularly updated Twitter feed linked to a Facebook page with video grabs of staff on the ground and you have a very impressive 360 degree communication operation, raising awareness and hopefully donations. It has harnessed social media in a way that makes people feel personally involved in the efforts. A powerful sensation.
(Select Weds 20th, Part 1, fast forward to 5.26)
Also at the sharp end of the action is NGO MapAction. When disaster strikes, where do you send the relief effort? MapAction harness GPS and GSI systems that help direct search and rescue teams to those in need. From Port au Prince to Leogane and beyond the teams have been mapping the terrain and handing data to other NGOs. MapAction's Chief Executive Nigel Woof summed things up: ‘Within days we expect that dozens - or probably hundreds - of aid organisations will be trying to make sense of the shattered landscape and communities in Haiti'.
On Channel 4 News on Wednesday MapAction's Naomi Morris revealed that MapAction is actually helping locate survivors in the wreckage of buildings thanks to text messages being sent to them, often via relatives in the US. The information is passed to rescue teams and there have been successful rescues. This is communications on the very, often confused, front line and in its purest and most impactful form. Getting messages out to people that matter. The Channel 4 interview shone light on a specialist team who many of us may not have heard of. Hopefully the end result is that for all of us sitting comfortably in our armchairs at home, we are at least aware of the plethora of human stories that litter this most cruel of tragedies and can feel assured that donations will be put to good use.