Towards More Nuanced Classification of NGOs and Their Services to Improve Integrated Planning Across Disaster Phases

Published in: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Volume 14, Number 11 (November 2017). doi: 10.3390/ijerph14111423

Posted on RAND.org on January 24, 2018

by Vivian L. Towe, Joie D. Acosta, Anita Chandra

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Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are being integrated into U.S. strategies to expand the services that are available during health security threats like disasters. Identifying better ways to classify NGOs and their services could optimize disaster planning. We surveyed NGOs about the types of services they provided during different disaster phases. Survey responses were used to categorize NGO services as core-critical to fulfilling their organizational mission-or adaptive-services implemented during a disaster based on community need. We also classified NGOs as being core or adaptive types of organizations by calculating the percentage of each NGO's services classified as core. Service types classified as core were mainly social services, while adaptive service types were those typically relied upon during disasters (e.g., warehousing, food services, etc.). In total, 120 NGOs were classified as core organizations, meaning they mainly provided the same services across disaster phases, while 100 NGOs were adaptive organizations, meaning their services changed. Adaptive NGOs were eight times more likely to report routinely participating in disaster planning as compared to core NGOs. One reason for this association may be that adaptive NGOs are more aware of the changing needs in their communities across disaster phases because of their involvement in disaster planning.

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