Responding to Feedback on UN Foundation/Vodafone Report

Update: I’m in conversation with the UN/Vodafone Foundation about adding a paragraph on case selection, a case study on Sahana and correcting the error on UNOSAT.

The UN/Vodafone Foundation recently published a new Report on New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts. This blog post responds to feedback on this report. Please note that I do so as second-author. My respected colleague Diane Coyle is the report’s lead author and editor so she may have other thoughts on the feedback. Naturally, I will only address the feedback that relates to my input.

  • Intended audience: The report was written for a general (non-technical/expert) audience as a way to showcase technology applications in the humanitarian space.
  • Case selection: The case studies were selected in consultation with the UN/Vodafone Foundation throughout the research period. These consultations included the authors of the report (Diane and myself) and three members of the UN/Vodafone Foundation who served as editors. Some of the case studies were requested by the Foundation. For the other case studies, we strove to highlight some of the most recent initiatives in consultation with the UN/Vodafone Foundation. Of the 19 case studies selected, 13 didn’t exist some 2 years ago. The others comprise major global initiatives, fit well together as examples for a general audience, or were requested case studies. Clearly, the limited space did not allow us include everyone’s favorite project.
  • Length of report: We originally had some 80-or-so draft pages between us and had to reduce the content to about 60 pages. This meant having to decide what to keep and what to put aside. Some of the rewrite was also done to make the report less technical and more widely understandable. This helped to save on space.
  • UNOSAT and Sri Lanka: The reference does not intend to endorse or discount the interpretation of the imagery by the international community. The reference is based on in-person consultations with several well-placed experts. That said, I would agree that some rephrasing is in order this paragraph needs to be reworked.

On a personal note, I have found the tone of some criticisms rather disappointing and old school. There are several ways to give feedback: one is constructive, another is destructive. The former provides incentives to improve and continue an open collaborative conversation as a community. The latter defeats the incentive for growth and leads to a more self-centered community.

Some of the criticisms of this report have been destructive. Why is it that some of us can’t get our points across with more composure? Does bitterness make us feel more important? I expected a lot more from some of my (older, wiser) colleagues. But I haven’t always been good on providing constructive feedback either, so thanks to my “new fan club” I’ve got another New Year’s resolution for 2010: I will do my best to give constructive, supportive feedback.

Patrick Philippe Meier

3 responses to “Responding to Feedback on UN Foundation/Vodafone Report

  1. Pingback: A response to a defence of New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts: The Role of Information and Social Networks « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace)

  2. Pingback: A public apology to Patrick Meier « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace)

  3. Patrick and Diane – The recent tragedy in Haiti and the incredible and extremely well coordinated response from a number of groups representing a variety of social networks and humanitarian FOSS projects may well require that you will have to revise your report much faster than expected. While it is not possible to provide an exhaustive list of projects in a focused report, links to sites or wikis that do provide more extensive links as well as a short summary of how the boundaries were drawn to include or to not include projects will be welcome. As Mark has pointed out, the UN/Vodafone sponsorship gives this report greater legitimacy and with that greater responsibilities. Best regards, Louiqa Raschid

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