Individuals Behind CSR at Cisco: How communications can strengthen the humanitarian response


This weblog is a part of our sequence that focuses on the individuals behind Company Social Accountability (CSR) at Cisco. Every weblog highlights a special Cisco worker whose work makes a optimistic affect on individuals, communities, or the planet.

When a pure catastrophe or humanitarian disaster happens, Cisco Disaster Response (CCR) gives connectivity, a crucial type of help, similar to meals, water, shelter, and medical care. Working with nonprofit businesses, native governments, and communities, the CCR workforce helps them put together for, reply to, and sustainably rebuild from crises. A community of 400-plus skilled Cisco staff has supported the workforce with technical experience, discipline deployments, gear preparation, logistics help, coaching, and outreach.

One of many CCR workforce members is Joe Harrison. Joe all the time needed to be a author and wrote his first e-book in 5th grade, “The Turtle that Misplaced its Shell.” Over time, he realized that what drew him to writing was studying and understanding new issues and speaking data to others. He additionally knew he needed to assist individuals. Together with his function at CCR, he can do each. Be taught extra about his journey working for a humanitarian help group, the affect he’s making on the CCR workforce, and his ardour for a way communications can remodel lives.

How did you first become involved with the Cisco Disaster Response workforce?

Joe: A couple of years in the past, I labored at Direct Reduction, a humanitarian help group with the mission to enhance the well being and lives of individuals affected by poverty or emergency conditions. Whereas at Direct Reduction, I used to be a global program supervisor and incessantly labored within the discipline, responding to dozens of disasters. A pal and longtime Cisco worker contacted me with an thought for serving to Syrian refugees in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The Syrian civil battle was in full swing, and as Direct Reduction’s program supervisor within the Center East, I used to be carefully concerned in numerous help initiatives. This expertise put Cisco’s Company Social Accountability program on my radar. I seemed into it and stumbled throughout an article concerning the Cisco Tactical Operations workforce (one of many teams that merged into Cisco Disaster Response in 2021), and I used to be intrigued. Years later, my future spouse took a job within the San Francisco Bay Space, and Cisco and Tactical Operations rapidly got here to thoughts. Shortly afterward, a place opened on the workforce. Name it serendipity.

Joe Harrison, CCR global partnerships and communications manager
Joe Harrison, world partnerships and communications supervisor, Cisco Disaster Response

What are your present duties as the CCR world partnerships and communications supervisor?

Joe: I do some little bit of every part aside from engineering — I’ve no engineering abilities, however fortunately, we’ve got unbelievable of us on the workforce devoted completely to engineering progressive disaster response applied sciences. One in all my focus areas entails cultivating strategic partnerships with governmental businesses, nonprofits, and non-governmental businesses (NGOs). I attempt to perceive their wants, and match them with sources, share related data, define processes for collaboration, usually construct efficient relationships. Our partnerships are important to finishing up our work.

I’m additionally centered on speaking our work. This entails drafting related weblog posts, circulating state of affairs studies throughout crises, updating our SharePoint web site, constructing our common publication, “The CCR State of affairs,” participating our CCR Neighborhood volunteers, creating informational collateral, and extra. The communication piece is admittedly about advocating for these we serve and highlighting the efforts of these we companion with to assist make it occur.

Are you able to inform me extra concerning the CCR Neighborhood volunteer program?

Joe: The CCR Neighborhood is the inspiration of Cisco Disaster Response.

I’m impressed by individuals who unapologetically and unabashedly do what they love. Seeing individuals pour themselves into their artwork or commerce, no matter it is likely to be, is magic. And that’s actually what the volunteer program is – over 400 Cisco staff who dedicate their time and power to their ardour. Volunteers lend their experience in a variety of other ways. They seek the advice of on progressive tech options, advise on cybersecurity enhancements for NGOs, handle and deploy emergency communications gear, present logistical help throughout crises, join us with native non-profits and assist construct the communications capability of these non-profits, characterize the workforce at occasions, conferences, and coaching workouts.  The chances are countless.

CCR Neighborhood volunteers present a perspective that serves as an simple drive multiplier. CCR in flip gives specialised humanitarian disaster response coaching and distinctive methods to give-back.

I’m actively making an attempt to interact our CCR Neighborhood volunteers by exploring methods to make this system extra fulfilling for the Neighborhood whereas scaling affect globally. I really feel lucky to have the ability to play that function in this system.

Aspect observe: Deploying with the CCR Neighborhood volunteer program permits staff to offer again to the group with out utilizing their paid day off or Time2Give (Cisco’s paid day off for volunteering) hours.

Why is communications expertise so crucial to humanitarian help?

Joe: The whole lot is on-line now: making use of for a job, registering for healthcare, discovering a physician, enrolling in lessons, paying payments, and connecting with family members. Almost every part revolves round and depends on the web. That doesn’t change while you’ve misplaced your house in a wildfire or are pressured to flee to a different nation. Wherever catastrophe strikes, establishing or re-establishing entry to dependable, safe web service is much more important than ever; lives and livelihoods rely upon it.

Given our reliance on the web on a day-to-day foundation, it’s not laborious to think about how important web entry is to people and households for communication and information updates throughout crises. It’s of equal significance to the emergency administration businesses and organizations that present important companies to these immediately affected by pure disasters and civil unrest, reminiscent of meals, shelter, or money. They require safe web connectivity to handle their stock, facilitate money transactions, supply items and companies, handle requests for help, and to conduct analysis for situational consciousness.

Who’re among the companions CCR collaborates with?

Joe: Partnerships are a key a part of our work, and each is exclusive. We work with nonprofit NGOs immediately and with NGO consortiums like NetHope. We collaborate with UN businesses just like the United Nations Excessive Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN World Meals Program’s Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC). We collaborate with FEMA and lots of regional and state-level emergency administration businesses in the USA. We work carefully with multinational associations just like the Caribbean Catastrophe Emergency Administration Company (CDEMA). CCR collaborates with telecommunications corporations, web service suppliers, satellite tv for pc applied sciences and companies corporations. Partnerships are important to this work.

Impactful collaboration begins with efficient communication. What have you ever realized whereas at Cisco?

Joe: Individuals matter. Cisco is aware of this. It’s clear that while you hearken to individuals and put individuals first, everybody wins. In fact, I had reservations about going from a small nonprofit to an enormous company. Nonetheless, I rapidly realized that the corporate is stuffed with distinctive people, and each worker’s voice is related and invaluable. It doesn’t matter the scale of the corporate or the character of the enterprise; respect each particular person, and also you’ll foster a household.

You’ve been doing such a work for practically 15 years. Does something shock you anymore?

Joe: I’m stunned that struggle nonetheless exists. We’ve been actively responding to the struggle in Ukraine, biking 4 groups in Poland, and dealing alongside the UNHCR to attach Blue Dot hubs that present companies to Ukrainian refugees in Poland, Moldova, Hungary, and elsewhere – from psychosocial help to daycare to money. A number of months later, I’m nonetheless stunned that the ruthless, mindless, ignorant, heartbreaking struggle continues. There’s bought to be a greater approach.

What’s one factor you prefer to our readers to remove concerning the energy of communications within the humanitarian discipline?

Joe: What transcends all our work is actively and genuinely listening and taking the time to course of what you heard. Cisco Disaster Response facilitates communications and units up connectivity, enabling individuals to speak with one another. Many organizations and businesses acknowledge that communications and web connectivity are important, however to raised serve individuals, we have to ask, ‘how can we turn out to be higher listeners?’ If we will higher perceive the experiences of individuals going via a disaster, we will work higher collectively and assist strengthen communities.

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