Complexity Salon on Distributed Disaster Response

Organizations have been dominated by hierarchical control models for thousands of years. In recent years, the power of distributed organizations at performing complex tasks has become increasingly apparent. The strength of centralized decision making systems lies in coordination of large scale efforts with consistency and continuity. However, the structure which inherently leads to these strengths also limits the ability to respond to highly complex information associated with local tasks. These issues arise in the context of disaster response where flexibility to respond to dynamic conditions is essential. At the same time, in disaster response, there remains a need for large-scale coordination of resource distribution.

In this Salon meeting we will explore the success of the Occupy Sandy mutual aid organization as a model for how distributed control systems can be immediately and appropriately responsive in emergency situations. This may allow them to succeed in those complex disaster response tasks where centralized systems generally fail. By combining centralized and networked response, the strengths of each can be utilized for a comprehensive successful response.

Speakers: Sara-Jayne Terp, Thoughtworks, and Martina Comes, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative & University of Agder.

Categories: Disaster Response

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