Growth, Collaboration, and Technology Lead to Award

Julie H. Case

For the Greyshirts and the leadership team alike, it came as a surprise. In May, the leading association for organizations working in disaster relief, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), bestowed upon nine-year-old Team Rubicon an unexpected honor, naming it the NVOAD Member of the Year.

NVOAD in part recognized Team Rubicon’s explosive growth: In 2012, there were 8,000 Greyshirts and volunteers; in 2016, that number had grown to nearly 27,000. Today, it stands at more than 100,000—especially impressive for an organization not faith-based.

“For a secular, veteran organization to be recognized as Member of the Year is really significant for us,” says Greg Forrester, President and CEO of NVOAD. “Where the largest members had always been faith-based, we now have Team Rubicon, which is approaching the size and stature as some of our faith-based organizations.”

Team Rubicon was recognized not only for its increase in volunteer numbers but also for its expansion in types of missions. The organization has moved beyond disaster response and into long-term recovery and even has begun providing some mitigation services. But it may have been the organization’s penchant for partnerships that truly made it stand out.

“The fact that they’re collaborating across secular and faith-based networks in an effective manner is just spectacular,” says Forrester. Those alliances included partnering with St. Vincent de Paul in Puerto Rico to put roofs on 5,000 houses, and collaborating with the St. Bernard Project to rebuild homes in Houston. The partnerships also benefited Team Rubicon, allowing it to learn from the methodologies and best-practices of disaster relief organizations with decades of experience.

“We’re just as grateful for those other organizations that have really allowed us to improve very quickly,” says Dennis Clancey, Team Rubicon’s Deputy Director of Field Operations.

Forrester also recognized the impact Team Rubicon is having by making its technology, including disaster mapping, available to all of NVOAD’s member organizations. Not only does Team Rubicon to track disasters as they are happening, but they also share that intel with other organizations and the public, including via social media. TR also produces vulnerability indexes and maps that show vulnerable populations alongside disaster detailing. A flood map overlay, for example, might show not only where a flood is likely headed, but also any at-risk populations in its path. The software even allows TR to map out, and share, post-disaster housing assessments.

“They’re really adept at garnering information and putting it into a usable format so that we can actually respond in an effective way,” says Forrester. Making a technology that improves situational awareness in disaster-affected areas available to all of NVOAD organizations also furthers the advancement of collaboration—one of NVOAD’s abiding principles.

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