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How social helps disaster stricken communities

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How social helps disaster stricken communities

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Social media is proving increasingly useful during the response to disasters, whether that’s hunting down bombers in Boston or providing means for the homeless to seek shelter after hurricane Sandy in New York.

A new study by the Rockefeller Foundation has looked at the response to Sandy in particular in an attempt to understand how social bonds played a major role in the response to it.

The report focuses on the so called share economy, whereby communities self organise and provide access to power, food, water and shelter on a mutual aid basis that is co-ordinated individual to individual.  Such an economy is typified by airBnB, where asset owners make use of digital platforms to capitalise on their unused capacity, with ‘consumers’ therefore buying from their peers rather than from a company or civic organisation.  Suffice to say, that in times of need, these transactions can be conducted at no cost.

A similar project has launched in San Francisco called BayShare, which aims to promote a sharing economy in the Bay Area to therefore boost resilience in the event of future disasters in the area.

AirBnB and BayShare are just two of many platforms that are emerging in this area.  Fon for instance offer a peer to peer WiFi service whereby you offer a part of your own WiFi connection to others and in return get access to connection of the 8 million or so people in the Fon network.

LiquidSpace are another company who operate in a similar way to AirBnB, but this time for office space.  ShareDesk offer a similar service, with both having obvious advantages for organisations looking for short-term space to co-ordinate disaster responses.

Yerdle are a company allowing users to share their posessions with others.  Another option in this area is of course the evergreen Freecycle network, where users can dispose of things they no longer want for free.

These are just some of the platforms that can benefit communities in the wake of an emergency.  These and many more were featured in an Altimeter report into the collaborative economy.  It’s well worth a read if you are looking for insight into how peer to peer trading can help your own field of work.

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