Defining Moments of 2010: January

Haiti EarthquakePhoto by Shaul Schwarz (Getty) for TIME

The Defining Moments series looks back at the biggest events of 2010 to see what we can learn from them here at P&P, to work better in our calling, in 2011 and beyond.

By DJ Edgerton (@wiltonbound)

Early Tuesday evening, January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the middle of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

The 2010 Haiti earthquake killed as many as a quarter of a million people, destroyed or damaged over 300,000 homes, and devastated the nations infrastructure. Over a year later, the nation is still in chaos, with rubble, disease, political upheaval, poverty, and criminal activity making it a home for nearly ten million people that is frequently a terrifying, terrible home.

Reflecting on this event from the point of view of a healthcare/Pharma industry marketer might at first come off as disrespectful to some. I hope I can assure you that thats not the intent. I want to talk about what we can learn about our own tiny niche of work. It is a tiny facet, but I hope to make it an interesting one.

Here are the lessons I see from the earthquake that can direct our work going forward:

  1. Rapid response has gone mobile. Not in the sense of the mobility of aid teams, but in the sense of disaster-relief funding. We saw a tremendous amount of people donate to the Red Cross simply by texting a shortcode on their mobile phone: it cant get much faster or user-friendly. This is a powerful example of mobile technology not just being used as a marketing gimmick, but creating real change and helping those who need it.
  2. Wikis have found their niche. Global mapping wikis allowed for people to create real-time, on-the-ground-accurate maps, invaluable for finding survivors, navigating rubble and directing aid. Relief workers put their trust in the wisdom of the crowd to get fast, knowledgeable, self-correcting information.
  3. Twitter matters. I cannot make a more solid argument for this often-questioned social media outlet. Its not just for broadcasting the mundanities of life. On the ground, trapped survivors snapped photos of their locations and provided the relief effort with invaluable information in an instant, short, and sharable form. News of the earthquake spread to the public faster than any other media outlet, and acted as a call to action. Citizen journalism took over, and suddenly, the suffering of a country in the Caribbean stricken by natural disaster was right before our very eyes – live, real, and begging for our compassion and our help.

Here’s what I’m trying to drive home: social media saves lives. What we do, everyday, can save lives – not just one life, but many. Secure Nation blogger and naval officer Chris Slagh says “Social media may have changed disaster relief forever.

So to kick off 2011, lets keep that in mind: We can do work that matters. As a matter of fact, my company Zemoga submitted a whole host of great ideas to PSFK’s Future of Health report for UNICEF, one of which was our “Teach Shirts” (check out slide 144 of the presentation. Some of you may remember me showing them off at a cocktail reception following one of the conferences this past fall. The idea is that screen-printed t-shirts would virally spread important information, such as rescue maneuvers and survival tactics, when distributed to a local community. This would better prepare them for an impending crisis as they wait for aid.

Over the years, I’ve spoken with a lot of you, and I’ve heard a lot of you speak. And I’ve found that we have a lot in common. We’re smart, actionable, and hungry to do something that makes a difference. Let this year be the year that you make that difference. How can you apply your talents and skills to serving your fellow man?

Keep coming back – weve got a lot more Defining Moments to talk about.

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