World-first collaboration inspires smarter disaster response

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A pioneering partnership between World Vision and 3D printing experts is delivering innovative solutions for teams helping Nepal rebuild quake-damaged communities.

 

As you step into World Vision’s Innovation Lab, there are dozens of things that might catch your attention. The buzz of a 3D printer whirring in the corner, a giant blackboard decorated with sketches, or the quiet focus of the teams dotted around the room.

What might not catch your gaze is a seemingly simple, yellow pipe fitting resting on a desk. It looks basic enough; a ring made of hard plastic. But it actually symbolises something much bigger, both for communities affected by the Nepal Earthquake and the future of disaster responses around the globe.

This pipe fitting is a new, tailored solution for earthquake-damaged water systems in Nepal. Its creation has been made possible because of the 3D printing expertise of Field Ready, a start-up aid group.

In the past, a damaged water pipe in Nepal would be repaired by community members using makeshift solutions, such as wrapping a plastic bag over the leak. But today, this new fitting is delivering a much more secure and sanitary solution for leaking pipes.

More importantly, it’s showing what’s possible when local and international innovators and active local communities have the chance to collaborate.

This pipe fitting created with 3D printing technology is being used to repair water supply systems damaged in Nepal's earthquake.

Innovating for smarter disaster response

World Vision’s Innovation Lab was set up specifically to create smarter, more effective ways to respond to the many challenges created by the April 2015 Nepal Earthquake.

“When an emergency strikes, the humanitarian sector is well known for doing what it does best - servicing the basic needs of communities,” says Innovation Lab Manager, David Kaldor.

“However what it doesn’t have an appetite for is trying new things, particularly those that haven’t been tested before, in the way that the private sector does.”

World Vision launched the lab to bridge the innovation gap in disaster response. A world-first initiative, as far as David is aware, to introduce a private-sector mind-set into the midst of an active emergency response.

“The world is changing at a rapid pace. There’s such an amazing set of new technologies emerging and innovative new products,” he says. “However this change does not necessarily benefit the poorest people on the planet, and especially not those who are disaster affected.”

“We need to ask ourselves - how can we reach outside of the humanitarian sector and draw upon the skills and the technologies that are being developed in the private sector, the thinking in the academic sector, and the creativity of communities themselves?”

Manager of World Vision's Innovation Lab, David Kaldor (left) says the lab is bringing the latest thinking about product development from the private sector into the world of disaster response.

Creating solutions today for tomorrow’s disasters

Field Ready, the US-based group behind this innovative water pipe fitting, is also exploring how to design and repair medical equipment for field hospitals and remote hospitals. It is also working with grassroots radio engineering groups on creating new emergency communications systems, and researching how 3D printers can shorten supply chains in the field.

While the Innovation Lab is delivering big benefits to the people of Nepal as they continue to recover, it will also help to improve responses to help survivors of the many earthquakes, typhoons and cyclones still to come.

“If we’re able to set up something like this in the early stages of future disasters and bring together the right people from various sectors from the start, we’ll be able to quickly identify the key challenges and very easily prototype and test a new set of solutions in the field,” David explains

“It’s very early stages at the Innovation Lab, but already we’re seeing some exciting projects and partnerships emerge.”

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