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Global Flipchart #19

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September 2020

Make it Real: Lessons from online hurricane disaster preparedness

Pamela Lupton-Bowers

I recently had the privilege of working with the Bahamas Red Cross Society (BRCS) through their National Society Development Delegate, Margareta Ottosson. If you live in that part of the world, you’ll know that June is the start of hurricane season, and a critical component to hurricane response is disaster preparedness planning.

The Bahamas comprises twelve inhabited Family islands and they had hoped to conduct a face to face preparation process. Unfortunately, like everywhere else they were prevented from coming together because of COVID 19.

After attending one of my webinars on improving virtual meetings, Margareta asked if I would help her plan their online meeting.

We ‘met’ early May to discuss objectives and assess what could be accomplished in an online initiative. Some people were new to the Society and so the meeting had to accomplish both learning as well as assessments and facilitated decision making.

 

 

Getting a handle on the expectations and understanding the brief

We spent our first discussion unpacking needs. Our goals were to:

1. Get really focused and to identify expectations of everyone involved from President Terez Curry to all island representatives.

2. Clarify the learning needs of the newer members of the team.

3. Identify minimum inputs required to bring everyone to the same level of knowledge.

4. Identify the type of interventions we wanted participants to experience to feel fully engaged.

 

Deciding the meta questions and model

We agreed that the meeting objectives related to four meta questions:

1. What is Disaster Preparedness and what are the main components of a well-prepared Red Cross/ Red Crescent Society?

2. How do we strengthen volunteer management to optimize volunteer support?

3. How do we engage communities in preparing for and responding to an imminent hurricane?

4. What is our current response capacity, and what are the gaps to be filled and how will we do that?

Margareta and her co-facilitator Amanda Lewis-Adderley from the American Red Cross identified colleagues from the region and from other National Societies as the resource people to provide necessary policy, procedures and experience. We mapped the meeting into 5 modules.

 

Going from big picture to details

We decided on Zoom as the best platform, and a new volunteer manager was ready to provide technical support. We story-boarded the 90-minute sessions on a literal A4 page using post-its for 15-minute segments. I held them up to the camera to discuss. I then mapped a minute by minute agenda that we shared on the screen.

Our Guiding Principles

We agreed a few guiding principles

1. Get people engaged with the platform quickly to help them use the features.

2. Get people talking to one another quickly.

3. Limit the length of time for presentations.

4. Vary the interactive methods – but not too much.

5. Capture lessons learned to improve later sessions.

The take-aways  

Margareta and I debriefed following the final session. The outcome of the meeting was better than they had dared imagine. Everyone was delighted with the level of interaction and participation. They were equally delighted with the results. Everyone left with actions to complete before preparing the National Plan.

o   Never underestimate the value of preparation.

o   90-minute sessions go by quickly with participant interaction.

o   Must have tech support for the meetings

o   Build identity and community to contribute to more effective group decision- making.

o   Use a variety of interconnections, but stick to a few.

o   Work with co-facilitators to alternate checking the chat box and moderating discussions.

o   Limit input from ‘experts’ and encourage them to be as lively and natural as possible.

o   Make it real. Relate learning and decisions to real world events