A Reflection on Technology, Collaboration, and Shared Visions for the Future

by Daisy Ashworth | Dec 10, 2018 | Insights and Inspirations, Volunteering Voices

‘The Future is Now’, is the tag line for the International Federation Red Cross, Red Crescent (IFRC) movement when considering the next strategic direction, and thus implementation of the strategic plan for IFRC and national societies for 2030. By reviewing and discovering the use of technology across a number of complimentary themes, the IFRC aims to develop a comprehensive and innovative pathway into the future of the organisation.

By providing a voice to staff, volunteers and societies the vision of the strategy and the organisation is able to have a real time, human focused response to a number of key areas. These key focus areas are:

Future of Volunteering, Bringing the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement into the Future, A  Defining Decade For Climate Action, The Future of Work, Future Of Urban and A brief history of the nature of work.

Through utilising the Future Red Cross Red Crescent website, conversations from National Societies (United Kingdom, Canada, and Switzerland) and feedback from Research groups I will be inferring in my thought piece below, that:

  • The use of technology to improve, streamline and enhance the role of Red Cross (in all its formats) can be hugely positive, as long as the human element of the organisations isn’t lost.
  • The use of technology within each strategy 2030 theme must be looked at in collaboration with each other to ensure a unified approach to work.
  • Strategy 2030, being futuristic in its vision, should be a fluid document and not stagnated in an extensive paper document.

Having listened to conversations sitting within the varying themes for Strategy 2030 it appears to be imperative that we consider the technological impact to the organisation across all these focus areas, rather than in silo.

To ensure the capacity and capability of Red Cross, Red Crescent in the future, we must understand the impacts and changes to the Movement, as they occur across the different themes and within different societies. As an example, we cannot understand, focus or shift the Future Red Cross, Red Crescent, if we don’t also understand the Future of Volunteering or the Future of Work.  This is because the Movement as a collective (and therefore the future of it) is underpinned by these other themes. One of the Fundamental Principles of the organisations is ‘Voluntary Service’ and as such any changes to how this occurs or is incorporated by the Movement will shape the future of the organisation.

Across the conversations a discussion around technology was paramount in how we incorporate change whilst looking to the future. To link back to my first point, this must be done in collaboration, rather than isolation. If we are changing and incorporating technology in the recruitment of staff (for example) we should be looking at how this can also be included to improve and quicken the on boarding process for volunteers too. By working in silo it is likely that multiple systems would be developed, leading to complexity and confusion for staff and the organisation. By definition this would then impact the capacity we have to look at The Future of Work and the desire for change, capability and transparency which was highlighted within the conversations.

By working collectively we can also ensure technology is used to strengthen the organisation rather than diminish it. With ‘The Power of Humanity’ underpinning all the work that we do, it is important that we do not lose the human element, and focus on incorporating technology to strengthen this work in a systematic and functional way. Being a large organisation it can be very easy to silo approaches to quicken the process. This often leads to complication and inflexibility later on, when one approach doesn’t link to another, or where conflicting requirements exist for supporting roles.

As an innovative organisation, it can also become easy to focus on the new, and emerging rather than celebrating the existing. Whilst technology will assist all of us in the future to better support ourselves (Uber allows better transportation, Airtasker allows for better completion of tasks etc.) it also reduced human interaction and impacts community and connection within staff, societies and individuals. In one conversation the discussion included the possibility of  automating a recruitment process. How can we be a human focused organisation which doesn’t include people in its recruitment of staff and volunteers? When the British Red Cross is focusing on ‘The Power of Kindness’ and the impact of loneliness it is imperative we do not become a creator of these issues.

Strategy 2030 is futuristic in its vision, and the process in which it is implemented must be visionary too. By making the document a living, breathing, fluid piece of work, Red Cross, Red crescent can ensure the Movement continues to develop and exist in a new and innovative environment. To quote the International Federation of Red Cross, Red Crescent movement, ‘Our world isn’t linear; the changes aren’t linear – therefore our  solutions can’t be linear’.

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