Eager minds come together to find new solutions to global challenges

Diplomatie & internationale Akteure

foraus and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recently joined forces to co-organise the first international “Open Situation Room” in Geneva, as part of The Humanitarian Diplomacy Lab, a global series of workshops.

The Geneva leg of “Open Situation Rooms” took place on 21 March at the ICRC headquarters in Geneva. The particular format “Open Situation Room” is a reinterpretation of the situation rooms developed by John F. Kennedy in 1962. It aims to be an innovative ideation process with the goal to find solutions in a state of emergency and crisis by bringing together experts and practitioners from various backgrounds.

The project mirrors the visions of both foraus global and the Global Diplomacy Lab, that is, to encourage smart minds around the world to develop their potential, and bring forth original pathways and new solutions to global (diplomacy) challenges. The event not only took place in Geneva, but also in Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America. Each focused on different topics and challenges.

Geneva explored the drivers of trust in a digital environment and how new digital tools and connectivity can help humanitarian organisations gain access to people and communities in need, that are otherwise out of reach. More precisely, the challenge addressed was: how to create digital trust and engagement in remotely controlled/insecure environments?

Florian Egli, board member of foraus offered the opening remarks during which he gave more information about the “Open Situation Room” format and invited everyone to present themselves by stating why they were here and what they expected to learn from the experience. Most of the participants, as expected, came from very different backgrounds, ranging from academic institutions, to international and non-governmental organisations and from the digital and product design world. After this, Philippe Stoll, Deputy head of Public Communication at the ICRC, commented on the challenge of trust and engagement and explained how the event would unfold. Each group, composed of four to five persons, were tasked with defining specific questions while bearing in mind the main challenge. Questions developed included “how to generate trust through local actors of influence; how to connect people that are virtually excluded; and what makes people trust in general.”

After an intense reflection, using an iterative, collaborative and fast-paced methodology, every group presented their project. Three main ideas emerged. Firstly, regarding the question “what makes people trust”, the team prototyped a crowd sourced platform, allowing the crowd to verify information through visual products, such as pictures and videos and thus, enabling local influencers and humanitarian organisations to connect and dialogue. Secondly, the team focusing on bridging the digital divide developed the idea of creating a video communication system allowing the virtually excluded to communicate and exchange. Lastly, a group proposed the implementation of a blockchain technology and virtual currencies in donation process, in order to generate trust and thus, increase the willingness of the public to donate and engage.

Overall, the Geneva leg of the Humanitarian Diplomacy Lab was very successful. Pro-active, inspired and motivated participants from various backgrounds discussed innovative and interesting ideas around an important and pressing issue. The ideas have been pitched to a high level audience during the Global Pitch Night that took place the day after in San Francisco. We look forward to seeing how those ideas will make their way to the field of operations.

Picture taken by Jérôme Favre, „Open Situation Room: Geneva in Action“