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Organization and governance in the era of digital humanitarianism
Andrej Verity & Mary Milner


 Going forward: integration and the Digital Humanitarian Network

Logically, individual V&TCs need to consider taking an active stance towards governance and organization models in order to prevent against the negative aspects of informal hierarchy, elitism, and hyper-politicization that occur within naturally evolving networks. This is entirely possible to do while retaining a flat organizational structure and distributed decision making. This effort will go a long way to building the sustainability, legitimacy, and reliability that is required from the formal humanitarian system before V&TCs can become an equally weighted force in disaster response. It has become clear over time that in order for the work of V&TCs to meet its true potential, they will have to meet formal organizations halfway. Likewise, the humanitarian system must take responsibility for ensuring that this work is encouraged, supported and integrated - in order to better meet the needs of affected populations. As such, both sides need to invest in a neutral space for collaboration, discussion, development and problem solving.

If given proper attention from the formal humanitarian system and the V&TCs, the DHNetwork has the potential to become the ‘interface’ which would enable the full integration (not assimilation) of the V&TCs into the humanitarian system. The DHN as a coordination body could:

  • Provide support to its members in terms of organizational development, project management and collaboration arrangements;
  • Facilitate dialogue, collaboration and partnership between groups - operationalize the recommendations set forth by the Guidance for Collaborating with Volunteer & Technical Communities and the Guidance for Collaborating with Formal Humanitarian Organizations;
  • Support the sustainability of its members by leveraging the idea of a participatory aid marketplace or by securing private and public partners to fund the further development of V&TCs and their initiatives;
  • Raise public and institutional awareness about the V&TCs and what they offer;
  • Actively liaise with formal humanitarian organizations to mesh policies, procedures, standards and mechanisms;
  • Create a neutral space for the mediation of disputes between V&TCs themselves and with the larger humanitarian system
  • Continue to act as an activation mechanism for V&TCs by the formal organizations.

A fully formed DHNetwork would relieve pressure on both sides by allowing each to focus on what they do best, while taking on the administrative and integration issues. Further development of the DHNetwork and individual V&TCs will also open up the possibility of sustainable funding that could enable these networks to better manage their volunteers, increase surge capacity, and allow for paid staff to be consistently dedicated to the effort. In order to achieve this goal however, the DHNetwork itself will have to undergo significant organizational development and will require investment from both the V&TCs and from the formal humanitarian system.


Andrej Verity & Mary Milner
Andrej Verity is an information management officer at the United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Mary Eileen Milner is a Master of Global Affairs 2014 candidate at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto, Canada.

Article based on the blog of Andrej Verity: http://blog.veritythink.com/