Thinking Small

I work for a civic technology startup in San Francisco, but I’m a small-town native who works daily with small to mid-sized communities. As such, when I read or hear about the latest “answer” to civic problems, created by a team of geniuses and piloted in one of the largest cities in the country, I’m a little wary.

While shining examples of city use of technology like San Francisco and New York City are well worth profiling and learning from, if their solutions don’t fit a town of 9,000 the problem has not yet been truly solved. Small communities need solutions too.

Presenting: Things I have overheard in Big Cities


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What Recovers does, and what it means for you

When recovering from a disaster, it’s crucial to have someone in your court who understands the process — similar to how wedding planners makes weddings go more smoothly, accountants ease the complex process of filing taxes, or real estate agents help make negotiations when buying a house more navigable. Continue reading

Disaster Planning for the Disabled

In your community, are there any plans specific to evacuating disabled individuals?
In New York City, the answer is no.


What’s The Problem?
New Yorkers are in federal court arguing that the city needs disaster evacuation planning specifically for the disabled.  Numerous complaints were received after Hurricane Sandy by disabled residents who were unable to access evacuation vehicles, shelters, or resources. According to the CDC, this is a widespread issue, as about 50 million Americans, or roughly 20% of the population have disabilities or access needs. It is clear that disabled individuals may need special consideration during evacuation and recovery. So why aren’t we building their needs into disaster planning? And what can you be doing as a resident or government official to help?

How Can Recovers Help?

For individual residents, our new preparedness platform (currently called ‘Ready‘) provides disabled individuals with information specific to their situation and location such as: Continue reading

Rise of the Remote Volunteer

People are wonderful.

After a disaster, there is a flood of goodwill that pours into communities to help with the local recovery effort. These volunteers and donors come not only from within the community, but from areas all over the US.


The Problem
Unfortunately, it is hard for someone in California to help someone in New York in a meaningful way — they would have to travel to the devastated community. This is not only costly, but also causes an unnecessary influx of people to an unsafe disaster area.

The Remote Volunteer
We’re helping change this pattern and allow people across the country to volunteer meaningfully without rushing into a disaster zone. Using the platform, a California resident has the ability to help in a New York recovery effort, without ever leaving their home. We’re seeing a new class created – the remote volunteer. Since the software logs all of the needs, donations, and volunteers into online databases, it allows for volunteers outside of the disaster area to remotely view this information from their computer and match people in need of assistance with available local resources. Therefore, the person living in California can directly help those affected by the disaster in New York, without ever leaving their living room.


Utilizing remote volunteers provides multiple benefits to recovering communities by:

  1. Capturing the goodwill of people from around the world and channeling it to help with the local recovery effort.
  2. Reducing the flood of out-of-town volunteers into an affected community, which is unsafe and unnecessarily inundates the local volunteer organizers.
  3. Lessening the burden and responsibilities of local volunteer organizers and lengthening their participation in the recovery effort.
  4. Helping bridge the gap from immediate response (first 7 days) to long-term recovery (2 months +).
  5. Increasing the speed and efficiency of meeting needs within the community.

Our Experience
We’ve seen these remote volunteers in action. After the initial response to Hurricane Sandy, local volunteer organizers began to leave the day-to-day recovery and return to their jobs and families. They were burning out and could not commit as much time to the recovery effort, but affected households were still reporting needs. To solve this problem, we empowered remote volunteers from NPower ( to manage these incoming needs and match them with available resources. The fantastic crew of NPower volunteers, many from locations outside of the Hurricane Sandy disaster area, were able to spend a of couple evening hours contacting those in need of help and connecting them with available volunteers and donors. These remote volunteers helped fill in where the local volunteers had left off and bridge the gap from initial response to long-term recovery.

Again, people are wonderful. In response to a disaster, I have been pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming goodwill of those wanting to help. And it’s clear that the quantity of people is not a problem, but rather capturing and utilizing those people effectively. The right tools, given to the right people, can harness and deploy this goodwill in a recovery effort, and even allow remote volunteers to participate directly. That’s what we’re trying to do here at

Become a remote volunteer! Sign up at this link!

Image Credits:
Family Care designed by Maurizio Fusillo from The Noun Project
Volunteer designed by Dima Yagnyuk from The Noun Project
Worker designed by Bart Laugs from The Noun Project