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January 14, 2010
May Learning Occur in Haiti, Along With Relief

All kinds of organizational relationships, ineffectual ones, are present seemingly in the chaos in Haiti. There's immediate aid to be provided, and relieving the human misery takes priority over everything else. In the process, learning can occur, or at least begin. Platitudes, maybe, in the face of all that needs to be accomplished.

If there was ever a setting for crisis communication and relationships to be experienced firsthand, Haiti is it.

Tracy Kidder provides some of the context today in an op-ed piece The New York Times. His book, "Mountains Beyond Mountains, The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World," set in Haiti, is another place to gather background.

"In the arena of international aid," Kidder writes in his piece, "a great many efforts, past and present, appear to have been doomed from the start. There are the many projects that seem designed to serve not impoverished Haitians but the interests of the people administering the projects. Most important, a lot of organizations seem to be unable -- and some appear to be unwilling -- to create partnerships with each other or, and this is crucial, with the public sector of the society they're supposed to serve.

"The usual excuse, that a government like Haiti's is weak and suffers from corruption, doesn't hold -- [it's] all the more reason, indeed, to work with the government. The ultimate goal of all aid to Haiti ought to be the strengthening of Haitian institutions, infrastructure, and expertise.

"This week, the list of things that Haiti needs, things like jobs and food and reforestation, has suddenly grown a great deal longer."

In Haiti, let the relief and the learning begin with a resolve to be fully and effectively relational to its people and institutions. 


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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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