Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Taxonomy of Decision Making

Over the weekend I questioned whether the steps being taken to prepare the Gulf Coast were overkill given the forecasted weakening of Tropical Storm Karen. It made me wonder how elected officials and those who fill the role of Emergency Manager work to maintain their position as a trusted voice in their community's without becoming the boy who cried wolf.

While the go/no go decisions are made by one person, the path that leads to the point of issuing a mandatory evacuation, or declaring a state of emergency, is one that needs buy in from stakeholders from various agencies who will play a role turning an order into action. Various municipal agencies need to be on board, the necessary resources available, and there needs to be money to cover immediate costs with reasonable assurances that it will be reimbursed at a later date. While the public only sees the press conference or gets a knock on their door, the steps that led to that point were set in motion long before.

To better understand the inner-workings of the connections that govern humanitarian activities, the Digital Humanitarian Network has created a matrix that illustrates a significant number of the positions involved in what is being dubbed the 'The Decision-makers Taxonomy':

As you can see it covers: Donors, The Private Sector, The Military, Individuals, NGO's, etc...go here for an interactive version this chart and you begin to get a sense of the layers of bureaucracy that exist from HQ to field level. After clicking through it's easier to understand why some things move slowly in the humanitarian world.

I believe this document is valuable not because of its ability to illustrate hierarchies, but because it provides a map. It gives people an understanding of who's out there, and unfortunately it doesn't include US-centric response structures: FEMA, DHS, State Emergency Management Agencies, NVOAD & State VOAD orgs, etc...

One of the biggest challenges in creating community resilience and bringing everyone onto the same page is having resources that illustrate how everything fits together. A matrix of this type begins to provide structure to the messy world of humanitarian response in a way that people can make sense of. A similarly US-focused resource could be used to map out players and help to provide an accurate landscape of the actors and their roles at the various levels in the disaster life cycle.

If any of you have resources, charts, etc... that would help demystify the Federal Family and the layers that exist, please leave a comment below. I think that having a US Response matrix of this nature would be a great tool in helping establish a common understanding of the response landscape, while bolstering resilience at a community level.

For those who want to learn more please go to: http://digitalhumanitarians.com/communities/decision-makers-needs

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