Toward Better Design of Humanitarian ICT: A Social Agency-Centered Framework of Humanitarian Information Needs Based on a Grounded Study of Successful Red
Mays, Robin E.
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Meaningful and relevant design of humanitarian technology must be informed by a deeper understanding of information practices found within successful humanitarian field-work. Existing largely in geographic isolation and through implicit expertise, these practices have yet to be adequately articulated. This research reveals hidden practices of peer-identified, successful International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement (RCRC) practitioners in order to inform more effective design of humanitarian information and communication technology (ICT). The results draw from the qualitative analysis of 116 practitioner interviews and ethnographic observations across six countries and multiple contexts. From their stories of success and failure, I distill a grounded theory of information practices for successful outcomes within humanitarian resilience work. This paper presents a theoretical framework for depicting relevant information needs of field-level practitioners, and how that information is accessed and applied within a “Wheel of Successful Practice.” The outer wheel depicts (1) community trust, (2) community organization, (3) community agency, and (4) long-term impact as four, high-level, information essentials practitioners’ identified they “Must-Have” for success. The inner wheels consist of 11 Success Factors and 30 Information-Driven Behaviors repeated across contexts for achieving those Must-Haves. These results uniquely identify (1) social agency as the place where critical information resides, and (2) community discourse and community-practitioner interactions for how that critical information is revealed. Thus, the Wheel of Successful Practice identifies that information needs reside within social interactions. My findings challenge technology developers and designers—in alignment with emerging trends in human-centered design and engineering—to innovate for greater participatory and sociomaterial methodologies to account for the exigencies of humanitarian values within the design humanitarian ICT.