Interactive Tools to Communicate Complex Issues

As interconnected as our world is today, it is still difficult to understand the impact of a natural disaster or serious issue from afar. To help bridge this divide, organizations are creating interactive online tools to better connect individuals to global issues, making them more relevant than ever before. Two disaster-related examples caught our eye this week: – a visualization tool that allows users to overlay the map of an area affected by disaster (the BP oil spill or Pakistan flood) atop a map of their own communities. For example, we can compare the devastated area in Pakistan to our office location in Boston, which shows the flood area would extend along the entire east coast. Suddenly, we realize the true extent of this disaster in proportions we can understand. Once users are attuned to the scope of the disaster, the site offers some further information and opportunities to donate.

The Haiti Aid Map – a collaboration of InterAction, BCLC and FedEx – details NGO efforts in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. The map pinpoints 486 efforts underway by 77 different organizations, allowing visitors to search by topic, community or organization and learn more about what efforts and progress are happening within each. As the challenges in Haiti persist a year after the earthquake, donors may be questioning whether their dollars are being used effectively. Ideally, this site will bring a heightened level of transparency and coordination to the many efforts on the ground and ensure the continued flow of support.   

Interactive “on-the-ground” tools like these are a trend to watch in 2011 as the demand for transparency and accountability in the cause space grows. But they should not be restricted to disaster response. It’s a technique that other large national or global causes should also adopt, as it invites consumer engagement and promotes organizational transparency and accountability – both things sometimes in short supply.


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