Welcome to the third in a series of profiles of NetHope members and partners entitled ‘I am NetHope.’ These individuals represent a broad spectrum of our member organizations, tech partners, and funders. They demonstrate the collaborative spirit that was the founding principal of NetHope 18 years ago, and continues today. They reinforce the concept that we are better together and that when it comes to NetHope you get what you give.
Mark Hawkins has been an incredibly busy man of late, not only performing his duties as the Global Humanitarian Technology Manager for Save the Children (STC), but also as a mentor/trainer for NetHope’s Disaster Response Training (DRT).
“The NetHope Disaster Response Training is delivering a community of skilled people who can be called upon to deploy to the next disaster,” says Hawkins who performed similar duties for the first training held in Panama in July 2018 and the latest version in the Philippines this last April. The training was launched with several elements in mind, including a broader pool of talent around the world to respond faster to disasters and having a wider network of professionals who may better represent the regions they will be helping.
Hawkins has been involved as a NetHope member through STC since 2015 when he engaged during Emergency Telecoms Cluster meetings.
“Shortly after the 2015 (NetHope Global) Summit in Copenhagen, I was invited to become the co-chair of (NetHope’s) Connectivity & Infrastructure (C&I) group alongside Duncan Drury (who was working for Christian Aid at the time). C&I is really the grass roots of IT where we bend our minds around connectivity and infrastructure – the engine that makes things happen in IT.” Hawkins emphasizes that “Within the IT industry, the C&I group is a great platform. NetHope members have been able to meet with senior decision makers from our commercial IT partners whom we have been able to influence.”
In the five years that Hawkins has been involved with NetHope, Hawkins says that he has witnessed many examples of the collaborative benefits afforded by membership in the organization. “From the work NetHope does in countless disasters through funding disaster response communications to the connectivity demand aggregation projects in Africa, members are getting great services and good prices.” Currently, he points to the programs connecting migrants in Colombia and other countries in the Latin America region as examples of what can be achieved when NetHope staff, members, and tech partners (Cisco, Ericsson Response, and others) collaborate.
From a professional standpoint, Hawkins says he’s extremely happy with the many benefits available through membership with NetHope. As an individual, he has access to a wide network of peers in other member organizations where they share information via the Working Groups ecosystem. For member organizations at a senior level, CIOs are able to network with each other to share successes and challenges. “The CIO (position) can be quite a lonely one in the NGO sector,” Hawkins maintains, “so to be able to use other CIOs as a sounding board is great.” Hawkins stresses that under NetHope’s membership model, NGOs can do more things collaboratively using technology, having a more positive and larger impact on the communities they serve, and deliver services more professionally and with combined buying power, potentially saving costs.
It is the Disaster Response Training that may be closest to Hawkins’ heart, as he has been intimately involved from its genesis in developing the training protocols. “The new DRT course is great. I feel it’s better that an organization like NetHope should become the overarching organization to govern training standards across our 50+ members and beyond.” The way Hawkins sees it, people trained to a standard developed for all NGOs saves individual NGOs from developing duplicative efforts and expending valuable resources, both financial and human. “What I would like to see in the future is firstly an expansion in the training offer to cover many more topics in addition to disaster response.” He adds that he would like to see the program evolve to a position where some NGOs could run their own NetHope-accredited courses internally.
Hawkins urges organizations considering applying to NetHope “to get on with it and sign up!” Once a member, each organization brings a lot to the table. He encourages member CIOs to push the benefits of membership to all IT staff members including service delivery teams and get staff to sign up to the various webinars and working groups available through NetHope. For staff in the Global South, there are now very active Chapters for regional staff to share local ideas, each with a real voice to helping guide NetHope in developing its programs, including its DRT training and its new approach to renewable energy.
Perhaps most importantly, Hawkins appreciates the attention that NetHope members receive from NetHope staff. “I was attracted not only to the way it supports its members but also its support of the beneficiary communities its members work with through how it targets its programs and emergency response activities. As a small team, NetHope is agile and able to act quickly and decisively when needed.”