The IFRC is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150–250 million people each year through 192 member National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives, build community resilience, strengthen localisation, and promote dignity around the world. The mission is to inspire, encourage, facilitate, and promote at all times all forms of humanitarian activities by National Societies. The Fundamental Principles express the values and practices of the IFRC: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality.
The IFRC is guided by diverse global policies:
- Health policies (Health policy; First aid policy; Promoting safe and sustainable national blood systems policy)
- Disaster policies (Disaster risk management policy; Food security and nutrition policy)
- Social policies (Migration policy; Social welfare policy)
- Institutional strength policies (National Society Development (NSD) policy; Fundraising policy; Humanitarian diplomacy policy; Protection of National Societies’ integrity policy; Volunteering policy; Youth policy; Gender and diversity policy; Prevention and response to sexual exploitation and abuse policy; Protection of personal data policy)
- Selected movement policies (Movement policy on addressing mental health and psychosocial needs)
The IFRC as a humanitarian organisation and network uses data and digital tools to increase the speed, scale, relevance, quality, and accountability of its humanitarian services to vulnerable communities in the domains of disasters, climate, and crises; health and care; and National Society development and inclusion, protection, and engagement. The IFRC network has developed a wide range and variety of data and digital solutions to help improve awareness and understanding of the need for humanitarian actions and to support local volunteers and partner organisations to take fast, effective, and inclusive action to reduce vulnerability in their communities. The IFRC cooperates with other humanitarian organisations, development organizations, academia, the private sector, and media on digital policy issues.
Digital policy issues
- The IFRC is a data-driven organisation dedicated to making evidence-based decision-making. The Federation-wide Databank and Reporting System (FDRS) is an IFRC platform dedicated to providing insights into the Red Cross and Red Crescent (RCRC) National Societies. The data is gathered through a yearly data collection from 192 National Societies.
- The self-assessment part of the Organisation Capacity Assessment and Certification (OCAC) process is intended to capture the strengths and weaknesses of National Societies as a whole in relation to a wide range of organisational capacities.
- The Branch Organizational Capacity Assessment (BOCA) process is intended to capture the strengths and weaknesses of National Societies branches as a whole in relation to a wide range of organisational capacities.
The IFRC network supports a diverse range of data and digital tools that facilitate local capacity development.
The Preparedness for Effective Response (PER) approach serves as a foundational platform to guide National Societies in assessing and enhancing their organisational and personnel capacities for humanitarian response. In addition to the main assessment platform, PER tools also link to dedicated eLearning courses on the IFRC Learning Platform and include a databank of lessons from past response operations matched to specific PER criteria.
As part of the IFRC’s Digital Transformation strategy 510 (an initiative of the Netherlands Red Cross), the IFRC has developed a Digital Transformation Assessment to guide National Societies in assessing their digital capabilities in terms of people, processes, and technology. The Assessment also provides directed guidance on the next steps National Societies can take to address capability gaps and advance further in the digital transformation of their humanitarian work.
The IFRC is also well served by the following:
- The Solferino Academy, an innovation ‘do tank’ that promotes learning between National Societies, leadership development, and innovation projects. such as a recent action research project on Collective Intelligence that was conducted in Cameroon and Nepal together with Nesta in the UK.
- A dedicated theme for Digital Transformation and Systems Development under the IFRC Capacity Building Fund (CBF) that supports National Societies to make essential investments in capacity development. Already 17 National Societies have accessed the CBF to support digital transformation initiatives between August 2021 and August 2022, and another 52 National Societies benefited from a special programme under the CBF to ensure that all National Societies have the capability to digitally connect and collaborate virtually.
- Solutions like New Zealand Red Cross’s Knowledge Pacific Programme which includes IT-in-a-Box infrastructure aimed at supporting National Societies with low capacities to establish a dependable, secure, modular IT infrastructure for digital connectivity and services.
In addition, the IFRC network relies on a set of 12 reference centres and other centres of excellence within the RCRC network to help lead in key thematic areas and to encourage and advance peer-to-peer learning within the network. The Global Disaster Preparedness Center (GDPC), hosted by the American RC, and 510, hosted by the Netherlands RC, have prominent programmes to support digital innovation and services within the network. In addition, a range of other National Societies are contributing on specific topics, including the British Red Cross on surge support for information management; the Spanish Red Cross on volunteer data management; the Norwegian Red Cross, the Danish Red Cross, and the Kenyan Red Cross on the use of Digital ID and digital-based inclusive currencies.
In line with its service-oriented, demand-driven approach to building community resilience, the GDPC has develop the Business Preparedness Initiative (BPI) Toolkit to save lives, protect livelihoods, and shorten recovery times following disasters by providing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with adaptable preparedness tools.
Atlas: Ready For Business is a free mobile app currently available in multiple languages (with more to come) on iOS and Android to help organisations build adaptability and to create basic business continuity plans. Workshop In A Box is a downloadable toolkit that provides all of the support information and customisable materials a facilitator needs to promote, organise, and run workshops to help SMEs take basic steps towards being crisis ready and to continue their preparedness journey using Atlas.
The GDPC, Google, and the IFRC have also developed the WhatNow Service, a global platform to assist National Societies and their local partners to localise key messages on how individuals, households, and communities can prepare for, respond to, and recover from hazards. Any media partner can access the messages and broadcast them across their networks, all with the National Society’s name and logo, providing a mechanism to increase the scale in the dissemination of harmonised, trusted, actionable guidance, currently covering 20 hazards in 78 languages. These messages are across six urgency levels and follow a five-step, circular process:
- National Societies adapt key, actionable messaging to their context.
- National Societies engage with media partners for the implementation of the service.
- Media partners access National Societies’ WhatNow messages through an open Application Programming Interface (API) and broadcast across their networks.
- Communities at risk receive WhatNow messages
- National Societies engage with communities for feedback on the process and further adapt accordingly.
Cash assistance has become an increasingly important and default tool for humanitarian assistance in the IFRC network. The Turkish Red Crescent – in collaboration with the Turkish government, the World Food Programme (WFP), the European Commission’s Department for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), and the IFRC in the most recent phase – has developed the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme using the Kizilaykart payment system, which has provided monthly cash assistance to Syrian refugees, reaching in the latest ESSN III phase more 2.3 million individuals (410,000 households). The IFRC has been exploring the use of the Kizilaykart approach and a similar collaboration with RedRose in the Ukraine crisis response, where an innovative mechanism for self-registration has been introduced.
Data and digital tools for Community Engagement and Accountability (CEA) have also become an essential way that the IFRC is extending and deepening engagement with vulnerable communities. A range of tools has been developed for rumour tracking that were used extensively in the COVID-19 response and in the Ukraine crisis response. In addition, 510 (an initiative of the Netherlands Red Cross), in collaboration with the NRC, the private sector company Twilio, and the IFRC, has been leading the development of a Digital Community Engagement hub that will enable National Societies to create cloud messaging services to provide cheap (or even free) interactive messaging via diverse text messaging services including WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber, and SMS. The hub builds on an extensive set of scripting templates developed by the NRC and represents a rare example of creative repurposing of digital tools between humanitarian organisations.
The IFRC also hosts a Mobile Data Collection working group and operates its own KoBo and ODK servers to facilitate access to mobile data collection tools by National Societies and provide additional back services to store and manage data. See the IFRC Kobo Toolbox for more details.
510 (an initiative of the Netherlands Red Cross) has also created an impact-based forecasting (IBF) system and portal to help National Societies establish their own data and analysis platforms to support the development of forecast-based financing (FbF) initiatives that can use crisis forecasts as the basis for automatically triggering funding support and other early action protocols that can enable National Societies and communities to start acting as soon as forecasts are issued instead of having to wait for support until days and weeks after crises events have happened.
Data digital tools are also providing important opportunities to advance traditional humanitarian services. Many National Societies provide ambulance services in their countries and are increasingly using data and digital tools to pre-position ambulances in high-need areas, dispatch at speed, improve routing, and enable enhanced communication and continuity of care with hospitals during transit. The IFRC has conducted a business value case analysis for digitally transforming ambulance services that compares the experience and insights in nine National Societies.
The Universal App Program (UAP) provides cutting-edge mobile app technology free of charge to National Societies to build first aid awareness by offering high-quality apps to the public in their countries. The programme combines two tools – the First Aid app and the Hazard app – that provide efficient and cost-effective access to mobile applications to reach a growing number of people with important life-saving information. The First Aid app contains easy-to-understand information about how to identify and respond to a range of common first aid scenarios – such as bleeding, heart attacks, choking, and burns – and supports localisation in local languages, interactive quizzes, and step-by-step instructions for users to follow in case of an emergency. The Hazards app provides preparedness information for more than 12 types of hazards. National Societies are able to customise the app according to their common hazards in the region and based on their local languages. The app also incorporates emergency alerts from official agencies to notify users of potential threats affecting their location. Additionally, the built-in features of these apps will enable national societies to connect with their public, solicit donations, and foster partnerships to support their own preparedness programmes.
IFRC GO is the IFRC emergency operations platform for capturing, analysing, and sharing real-time data during a crisis. IFRC GO builds up a collective and comprehensive picture of a crisis by connecting data from volunteers and responders in the field who provide information in real time, i.e. data from their humanitarian partners and reference material from across our network. It displays information in a simple and easy-to-understand way. Users can then turn this information into reports, maps, graphs, dashboards, and more. It helps their network better meet the needs of affected communities. The GO platform is also linked to a Surge Information Management Support (SIMS) group that actively links National Societies and IFRC Secretariat staff to pool resources and provide remote support for information management in emergencies.
The V-Community app (available for iOS and Android) is a multilingual and interactive global platform launched in 2022, to function as the primary public space where volunteers and staff of the 192 RCRC National Societies can interact on all matters related to volunteering. It consists of three main resources: a chat forum space, a section for local stories, and a space for exchanging individual and group messages for further sharing and collaboration.
The Road Map to Community Resilience (R2R) is a guide with a new approach and a participatory process developed by the IFRC to enable communities to become more resilient through the assessment and analysis of the risks they face, and the implementation of actions to reduce these risks. The approach also encourages use of the Community Resilience Measurement Dashboard, which provides step-by-step templates for data collection and enables programme managers and community volunteers to share the results of their assessments.
With schools closed around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, kids were at home looking for engaging activities while parents were busy working. They also had questions about the coronavirus and needed to learn how to stay safe during this time. The IFRC introduced a COVID-19 Kids Activity Kit in the form of activity cards with easy step-by-step instructions and child-friendly characters. This format, and its availability in multiple languages, made it easier for National Society communicators, partners, and the general public to use the resources. The IFRC also maintains a digital library and an app with all IFRC publications in English and French.
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