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SitRep Project Situation Reports and Information Sharing in the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs ( UN OCHA ) Elisa Oreglia | John Ward Master’s Final Project, UC Berkeley School of Information Advisor, Jenna Burrell BACKGROUND

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Presentation Transcript
slide1

SitRep Project

Situation Reports and Information Sharing

in the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA)

Elisa Oreglia | John Ward

Master’s Final Project, UC Berkeley School of Information

Advisor, Jenna Burrell

slide2

BACKGROUND

Origins of our project | What is a Sitrep | What is OCHA

  • Preliminary research among Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) suggested difficulties and inefficiencies in the sitrep process:
    • Lack of standards
    • Little support for information gathering & sharing
    • Unclear picture of emergency response
  • Sitrep exploratory project in Fall 07
slide3

BACKGROUND

Origins of our project | What is a Sitrep | What is OCHA

  • SITuation REPort:
    • Internal or public document used by agencies involved in emergency response
    • About the situation on the ground
    • Response efforts
    • Usually a semi-structured Word document distributed via email
slide4

BACKGROUND

Origins of our project | What is a Sitrep| What is OCHA

slide5

BACKGROUND

Origins of our project | What is a Sitrep| What is OCHA

slide6

BACKGROUND

Origins of our project | What is a Sitrep| What is OCHA

  • United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):
    • “facilitates, mobilizes and coordinates humanitarian assistance delivered by international and national partners to populations and communities in need.”
    • Issues public sitreps about natural and complex emergencies
    • Currently reviewing some of its core information products, in particular sitreps
slide7

OUR RESEARCH

Goals | Methods

  • Understand sitrep process within OCHA
  • Understand the process in the wider context of information sharing in the field
  • Propose tactical and strategic ways to clarify sitrep confusion
slide8

OUR RESEARCH

Goals | Methods

  • Interviews with OCHA and its sitreps’ users:
    • OCHA:
      • 39 interviewees (8 senior managers, 31 operational staff)
      • 2 roundtables (1 Desk Officers, 1 Info Advisory)
    • External users:
      • NGOs, 12 field officers interviewees
      • Donors (governments), 2 phone roundtables
slide9

OUR RESEARCH

Goals | Methods

  • Document Analysis
    • 101 documents – one month of OCHA sitreps
    • 35 sitreps from different countries to get a broad understanding of field practices
    • 26 sitreps to track an entire emergency sitrep cycle (Pakistan cyclone and flooding, Summer 2007)
slide10

FINDINGS

Sitreps are often a source of significant confusion, written without clear guidelines and clear goals for unspecified audiences whose needs are not fully understood.

slide11

FINDINGS

Confusion | Guidelines | Process | Audience

  • Are sitreps for sudden events or for updates on on-going emergencies?
    • “When I think sitrep, I think urgent…”
          • (OCHA)
    • “We saw that there are often multiple products that overlap, with no clarity about what each product offers. Can you clarify what’s a sitrep?” (Donor)
slide12

FINDINGS

Confusion | Guidelines | Process | Audience

slide13

FINDINGS

Confusion | Guidelines | Process | Audience

slide14

FINDINGS

Confusion | Guidelines | Process | Audience

  • No guidelines about appearance
slide15

FINDINGS

Confusion | Guidelines | Process | Audience

  • Unclear goals for writers
  • Unclear purpose for readers
  • “it’s one of the reasons why sitreps are like, ‘F***, I have to do a sitrep!’ Because the amount and the kind of information – it’s like a ravenous beast.” (NGO)
slide16

FINDINGS

Confusion | Guidelines | Process | Audience

  • Everybody agrees that sitreps should haveconsolidated # on Needs–Response-Gap
slide17

FINDINGS

Confusion | Guidelines | Process | Audience

  • Everybody agrees that sitreps should haveconsolidated # on Needs–Response-Gap
slide18

FINDINGS

Confusion | Guidelines | Process | Audience

  • Everybody agrees that sitreps should haveconsolidated # on Needs–Response-Gap
slide19

FINDINGS

Confusion | Guidelines | Process | Audience

- Humanitarian operators- UN agencies- governments- donors (governments and private entities) - the press - internal OCHA audience - the field - headquarters

“For our draft, we have a clear image of what audience we serve, but we never asked them.” (OCHA)

slide20

MOVING FORWARD

Technology | Tactics | Strategy | Limitations

  • Confusion around sitreps is a symptom of a flawed process
  • Technology: from Word docs to database-driven reports?

“A viable system must embrace not just the technological system, but the social system – the people, organizations, and institutions involved.” (The Social Life of Information)

slide21

MOVING FORWARD

Technology | Tactics | Strategy | Limitations

  • Tactical decisions as quick fixes to mitigate the perception of chaos:
    • Document analysis shows similarities in sitrep practices at field level
    • Recognize and codify these shared mental models - audience knows what to expect - burden on field to justify exceptions
slide22

MOVING FORWARD

Technology | Tactics | Strategy | Limitations

slide23

MOVING FORWARD

Technology | Tactics | Strategy | Limitations

slide24

MOVING FORWARD

Technology | Tactics | Strategy | Limitations

  • Style-guide, to give sitreps a clear OCHA brand and to avoid inconsistencies
  • Mailing list

“There’s all kinds of mailing lists on Lotus Notes maintained by a small group of elves…”(OCHA)

slide25

MOVING FORWARD

Technology | Tactics | Strategy | Limitations

  • Strategic decisions that OCHA should take around the sitrep product to clarify its role:
    • Role of politics in sitreps: ‘neutral numbers’ versus ‘humanitarian advocacy’
    • OCHA’s presence in a country depends on its good relations with host governments

‘In some sitreps, you are talking about governments, and they can be very soft on human rights, protection issues... Then we get pushbacks from the NGOs – what’s up with OCHA and human rights?’ (OCHA)

slide26

MOVING FORWARD

Technology | Tactics | Strategy | Limitations

  • Other strategic decisions:
    • Are sitrep operational documents or do they record the situation for external actors?
    • Who is the audience?
    • ‘What’s in it’ for information providers and sitrep authors?
slide27

MOVING FORWARD

Technology | Tactics | Strategy | Limitations

  • Humanitarian sector is changing
  • Our work heavily focused on headquarters
  • Didn’t talk to enough sitrep users
  • Not clear about what happens in the field
slide28

THANK YOU!

Our advisor, Jenna Burrell

Our supporters, moral and financial, Eric Kansa of ISD clinic and Tom Kalill of Big Ideas @ Berkeley

Noise & BSG mailing lists, for contacts and inspiration

Bob Glushko for doc analysis evangelizing

Nancy Van House & Liz Goodman for feedback on proto-sitrep project

Anonymous sitrep coder & stylist