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Meet one of Ericsson Response’s newest volunteers

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Earlier this month, I had the privilege of travelling to Linköping (Sweden) to take part in the weeklong training program to become an Ericsson Response volunteer. Ericsson Response is a global initiative in which Ericsson works in partnership with UN agencies such as the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Food Programme (WFP), and UNICEF, and NGOs such as the Red Cross and Save the Children, to provide telecommunications and internet support in disaster situations.

Supporting disaster relief with ICT

Ericsson Response has been supporting disaster relief efforts since 2000, with projects in more than 30 countries to date, most recently in the Philippines (typhoon in 2013), Sierra Leone and Guinea (Ebola outbreak 2015), Nepal (earthquake in 2015) and Haiti (earthquake in 2010 and hurricane in 2016). The primary role of Ericsson Response volunteers is to set up mobile networks for voice and data communication that enable aid agencies to work more efficiently at disaster sites. The goal is to have an emergency telecom network up and running for the first responders (typically the WFP, the Red Cross and Save the Children) within 48 hours.

The program is staffed by employee volunteers with diverse technical skills and backgrounds, all driven by a desire to make a difference. There are currently more than 140 Ericsson Response volunteers working at Ericsson locations around the world who are trained to take immediate action in reaction to a disaster – both out in the field and in back-office support roles. The training program I attended was made up of 30 new volunteers from 14 different countries, with a nearly 50-50 split between male and female participants.

Discovering Ericsson Response

I first became aware of Ericsson Response shortly after the company I worked for in the US was acquired by Ericsson back in 2008. I thought it sounded like a really worthwhile effort, but I didn’t know very much about it at that time. It was when I moved to Stockholm to take on a new role within the company and got to know fellow American Elaine Weidman Grunewald (Head of Group Function Sustainability & Public Affairs) that I realized what a major role Ericsson CSR programs were playing in crisis situations around the world. I became very interested in Ericsson’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs generally and was thrilled to have the opportunity to go to Africa as part of a Connect to Learn (CTL) project. I also had the chance to work with Refugees United, and I began to integrate the CSR and sustainability perspective into the communications work I was doing at that time.

Getting involved

Since 2012 I’ve been back in the US working with marketing & communications in Silicon Valley. I love the work, but at the same time I’ve been thinking more and more about how I can contribute in a bigger way. Last year I had the chance to participate in Global Perspectives, an Ericsson program that helps employees plan for the next steps in their professional and personal development. It was held in Tanzania, and being in Africa reminded me of my CTL experience. Part of the Global Perspectives program is that each participant must set commitments for him or herself before leaving, and I decided that one of mine would be that I was going to apply to join Ericsson Response.

The weeklong training course was excellent – a great combination of theoretical and practical components, real-world storytelling and roleplaying that has prepared me and my fellow volunteers well if and when the time should come that we are called upon to help.

It goes without saying that we all dread the thought of another earthquake, flood, hurricane or other natural or manmade disaster. All 30 of us who participated in the training program hope that our new skills will never be needed. But we also know that both natural and manmade disasters are part of life on this planet. Whenever the next one happens, we want to do whatever we can to support Ericsson Response and its partners in reacting as quickly and effectively as possible.

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