In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Rice organized an impromptu volunteer response, allowing students to go out into the Houston community and give back while school was cancelled. The volunteer response, termed R-HAT (Rice Harvey Action Team), was formed from varying student leadership organizations (Student Association and Graduate Student Association), as well as official Rice departments (Doerr Leadership Institute, and Center for Civic Leadership), but left out some crucial stakeholders, and was planned and organized spontaneously, with no official guiding processes or plan. Thus, we were tasked with the following problem – how can we improve the volunteer response at Rice, in the event of another disaster or crisis?
Our problem space started very un-scoped. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we had experienced a lot of inefficiencies in the volunteer process. Some of us had volunteered during the hurricane, and some of us hadn’t. We picked 6 broad problem spaces to explore that related to the effective and consistent use of volunteers:
- Volunteer Experience Level
- Transportation & Logistics
- Volunteer Training
- Volunteer Experience
- Volunteer Selection / Recruitment
- Distribution of Information
- Taking advantage of the college system (Presidents, CJs)
We know from our research that there is a large surge of “spontaneous” volunteers after a natural disaster and that organizing these volunteers is logistically difficult. We also learned that inefficient volunteer organization can lead to volunteer disatisfaction that keeps volunteers from volunteering again because they believe that donating their time isn’t helpful. Hopefully, we can use our interviews to narrow our scope and figure out a Rice specific issue to tackle.