Sunday, May 18, 2008

Field Trip

:: MMM visits MTI ::

I joined Central Friends on a field trip to Medical Teams International this afternoon after potluck. This headquarters warehouse nestles amidst other light industries, corporate campuses, plus serves as a visitor center for those curious about state of the art relief work.

This is a no-nonsense NGO, self-branding as Christian, committed to low overhead, and high levels of expertise, although it does accept volunteers. The museum looks at both natural and man-made disasters, both overseas and intra-coastal. As its track record lengthens, they'll need to replan the rooms.

Today's more sophisticated relief agencies work very closely with local partners closest to the action. Those on the ground often know best what's really needed. A first step in any disaster is to collect relevant intelligence, not to have some knee-jerk one size fits all response for everything. The museum was very clear on these points.

I appreciated the stark simplicity of the design and imagine NGOs with a different mix of religious and/or secular affiliations could nevertheless benefit from studying this example. I don't know how many universities offer degrees in relief work, but I could see where a Harvard Business School might want to jump on the bandwagon.