Knowledge-Based Issues for Aid Agencies in Crisis Scenarios: Evolving from Impediments to Trust

Knowledge-Based Issues for Aid Agencies in Crisis Scenarios: Evolving from Impediments to Trust

Rajeev K. Bali, Russell Mann, Vikram Baskaran, Aapo Immonen, Raouf Naguib, Alan C. Richards, John Puentes, Brian Lehaney, Ian M. Marshall, Nilmini Wickramasinghe
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2788-8.ch010
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As part of its expanding role, particularly as an agent of peace building, the United Nations (UN) actively participates in the implementation of measures to prevent and manage crisis/disaster situations. The purpose of such an approach is to empower the victims, protect the environment, rebuild communities, and create employment. However, real world crisis management situations are complex given the multiple interrelated interests, actors, relations, and objectives. Recent studies in healthcare contexts, which also have dynamic and complex operations, have shown the merit and benefits of employing various tools and techniques from the domain of knowledge management (KM). Hence, this paper investigates three distinct natural crisis situations (the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, the 2004 Boxing Day Asian Tsunami, and the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake) with which the United Nations and international aid agencies have been and are currently involved, to identify recurring issues which continue to provide knowledge-based impediments. Major findings from each case study are analyzed according to the estimated impact of identified impediments. The severity of the enumerated knowledge-based issues is quantified and compared by means of an assigned qualitative to identify the most significant attribute.
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The Cyclical Nature Of Crises

The crisis management cycle is best captured by a schematic which shows the severity of the each incidence against a given timeline, plotting all contributing factors in a pre and post-crisis situation (see Figure 1). The curve also identifies when weak signals are felt and any escalation into early warning signs thereafter; culminating in full-blown crisis which needs management to contain and/or minimize resultant impacts on society. Other work (Jennex & Raman, 2009) has described crises as a series of four phases: situational analysis (SA), initial response (IR), crisis response (ER), and recovery response (RR); and five decision/hand off points: the initiating event (IE), the control event (CE), the restoration event (RE), the normalizing event (NE), and a terminating event (TE).

Figure 1.

Crisis and disaster management curve (adapted from Immonen et al., 2009)



When society discovers a priori signals that can lead to crisis, then the governing authority reacts through preventive diplomacy to return order to the system if the crisis is manmade. If the crisis is natural, then society instigates preventive strategies, i.e., building earthquake proof buildings, tsunami resistant coastlines, etc. These preventive steps may minimize loss of life and damage to property whilst ensuring that day-to-day activities continue as unaffected by change as possible. This ideal situation is seldom achieved; rather than being proactive, society is usually reactive, resulting in ineffective and inefficient responses to crisis situations in most instances. Many major crises have been experienced over time; such major crises attract a multitude of aid agencies hoping to provide assistance and alleviate suffering for those worst affected by such situations. This mass influx of agencies can often add further complexity to an already difficult situation. Lack of ownership, trust, coordination, communication, and knowledge transfer between international aid agencies, International Inter-governmental Organizations (IGOs) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) can often be complicated or nonexistent: as a result the entire mission can be compromised.

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