Boot Camp with the Field Innovation Team

RallyEngine’s Marketing Director Steve Hardy just returned from a long weekend in the gorgeous Wasatch Mountains an hour or so east of Salt Lake City in Utah where he had the pleasure to partake in FIT Boot Camp 3.0.

It was here that a group of around 30 eclectic people gathered to discuss disaster innovation. (Yes, this is a real thing.)

The participants represented a beautiful range of disciplines, experiences, geographies, and talents; from performers with Clowns Without Borders (for humanitarian crises involving kids) to ex-DIA (the US Defence Department’s intelligence agency). There were also design thinking consultants, filmmakers, VOST social media managers, ex-FEMA personnel,crowdfunders, professors/teachers, Emergency Management directors for municipalities, and a few other tech entrepreneurs like us.

[Aside: These mixed events tend to be the best ones, as the the conversations are always interesting and filled with the aha’s that accompany the cross-pollination of ideas and perspectives.]

The organizers, the Field Innovation Team (F.I.T. – more on them in a moment), kept the group busy for three action-packed days. The main exercise was an ongoing simulation of a hurricane striking Miami, and our table-teams’ best attempts to quickly and nimbly assess that developing situation and then rapidly prototype potentially helpful solutions – both low-tech and high-tech.

Besides that, we were engaged with variety of improv games, a primer on Spontaneous Village (by Heroic Improv’s Mary Tyszkiewicz), workshops on disaster-related design thinking (bySpring Studio’s Mary Wharmby) and crisis communications (by The World Bank’s Hillary Eason), a “creative bender” featuring SLC graffiti artist Basha, an overview of groundbreaking industrial Google Glass applications by VisualSpection, and a session buffet served up by others with new ideas to share.

For fun, we tubed, hiked, dined, flew drones, and swam in the deep warm waters of the Homestead Crater.

So obviously this boot camp was inspiring, insightful, and good times. But who’s behind it and why does it exist? Well, it turns out that that story is every bit as inspiring and interesting too.

FIT is a US-based nonprofit founded in 2010, headed by its Chief Wrangler Desiree Matel-Anderson (the former Chief Innovation Advisor at FEMA) and championed by her sidekicks Tamara Palmer (Communications) and Rebeka Ryvola (Creative), among others. FIT exists, as Matel-Anderson puts it, to deploy to disaster situations (often for about two weeks) and quickly discover the white space between the nuances of the situation and the organizations already in place. It aims to contribute helpful ad hoc solutions.

Their surge roster includes volunteers – technologists, roboticists, emergency managers, artists, and more – from across the US and Canada. Once rallied, the team basically brings improv principles to the scene. This has included introducing spray mesh networks to regain basic communications, UAV-generated topographical maps to improve situational awareness, and donation tracking dashboards – in events like Superstorm Sandy, the Oso mudslides, and the migrant minors crisis around Texas.

It’s an amazing organization; one that’s shooting for the moon. It was a real privilege for RallyEngine to be invited and to be a participant in such a worthwhile venture.

(Photo: Fyrechief)

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