When the Libya crisis broke on 16 February 2011, Estella Reed, recruitment professional from the United Kingdom, wanted to contribute her time and knowledge to raise awareness of what was going on inside Libya. “I had been following the crisis in Libya and was saddened by the suffering that I had seen,” she said.
As the crisis began to unfold, the humanitarian community faced a critical challenge: the lack of information about events inside the country.
To deal with this, OCHA activated the Standby Task Force, an organized group of more than 150 online volunteers skilled in crisis mapping. The volunteers were scheduled to assist for two weeks in creating the Libya Crisis Map, an online map that showed live information relevant to relief efforts such as health needs, security threats or refugee movements.
As the humanitarian situation deteriorated, OCHA realized that it needed to rotate volunteers to keep the site running. OCHA’s Colombia office was available to coordinate the effort. With the help of the UN Volunteers Online Volunteering service, OCHA mobilized an additional 150 online volunteers in less than 72 hours.
Ms. Reed was one of the first volunteers who signed up to help. She joined the media monitoring team tasked to review traditional and social online media, including blogs, Twitter and Facebook, and to extract, edit and submit information relevant to OCHA’s operations in response to the crisis in Libya.
Fully established work flows, processes, protocols and the modular team structure ensured the highest efficiency of the online collaboration, which was organized via Skype, Google Groups and a volunteer management website.
The site was used by the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Red Cross, USAID and many other organizations to help their planning.
WFP’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, was so excited with the site that she took to Twitter to highlight its importance: “Excellent #Libya “Crisis Map” can help #UN #WFP plan #humanitarian #food, also 4 borders w/#Tunisia #Egypt - http://libyacrisismap.net/main ”.