- Dr. Timothy X. Merritt
Foresight Scenario Testing - Part 1
This is a report that I use to help me imagine the dynamics of the fictionalized organization, the Parousia International Relief Agency (PIRA), that appears in my novel. It analyzes six separate strategies currently pursued by PIRA, a private, non-profit international disaster relief agency dedicated to delivering emergency shelter to nearly inaccessible locations throughout the world. The six strategies will be stress-tested against four plausible alternative futures in a professionally prepared scenario report produced by the Center for the Implementation of Public Policies for Equity and Growth (CIPPEC), a non-profit organization dedicated to anticipating future dilemmas. This scenario report is an excellent backdrop against which to gauge the potential effects of PIRA’s strategic objectives because disasters recognize no artificial boundaries, yet the political structures and climate of the affected nation will directly impact any efforts to provide humanitarian relief. Two of PIRA’s strategies represent their core competencies and position PIRA for success in any alternate future. The second two strategies represent PIRA’s major structural weaknesses and constraints to growth. The last two strategies represent the best path forward to exploit the opportunities available to them and to overcome the constraints inherent in their organizational model.
PIRA Organizational Strategies
Parousia International Relief Agency (PIRA) specializes in providing temporary housing to victims of disaster or conflict worldwide. When life-saving resources are scarce, PIRA's commitment to prioritize families first is a crucial element of their response criteria to enable them to make informed decisions about which communities to help.
The aid PIRA provides comes in a sturdy green plastic box that contains a family-sized tent designed to withstand extremes of heat and cold, sheltering disaster victims from inclement weather with temporary shelter until they can rebuild their homes. In addition to tents, PIRA also provides numerous items necessary for survival, including; kitchen sets, solar lights, mosquito nets, water filters, and blankets. The compact nature of their disaster relief supplies allows PIRA to deliver aid to hard-to-reach places, with teams traveling by boat, helicopter, truck, or walking; whatever it takes.
Each disaster is different, and PIRA works with local communities to ensure the support they provide goes to where it will make the most positive impact. PIRA relies on the strength and commitment of its staff and volunteers known as PIRA Response Teams (RTs) to enable the logistics of transporting disaster relief supplies internationally, overcoming language and cultural barriers and helping families at risk to set up their own life-saving shelter.
PIRA maintains an essential global partnership with an international network of Christian churches composed of over 1.2 million members. A missionary created the idea of PIRA, and the Christian church network remains their most important supporter, currently contributing approximately 42% of PIRA's donations. During disaster or conflict events, Christians from any of the 5,000 churches worldwide will assist PIRA RTs with access to local information, transportation coordination, and logistical support. In addition to the Christian nrtwork, PIRA also collaborates with an extensive global network of affiliates and partners for fundraising activities, raising awareness of critical issues, and as an outreach for new volunteers.
Since their inception, PIRA enjoyed tremendous growth, nearly doubling the size of their staff as well as their sustainable income since 2016. This growth enabled them to respond to 18 different disasters in 17 countries in 2018, provide life-giving shelter to over 210,000 families in need. Now they are focusing and reconsolidating their efforts to reach an even more ambitious goal; to provide shelter to one million people every year by 2025. To achieve this vision, PIRA has developed the following six strategies:
Increase Capacity: Increase the number of new operational staff and response team members, and provide enhanced training opportunities for them. Pre-position aid at strategic locations throughout the world to reduce logistics costs. Improve information management to ensure response reporting is detailed, relevant, and accessible.
Adapt Operations: Each disaster response is unique; The Philippines prefers aid organizations with an in-country office, Kenya has a country-wide ban on single-use plastics, PIRA had to partner with the Indonesian disaster management agency (BNPB) for helicopter support to reach remote areas impacted by earthquakes. These examples highlight the need to adopt an organizational culture that adapts PIRA operations to suit mission global mission requirements.
Sustained Fundraising: Continue to invest in fundraising activities that will support long-term, sustainable growth. PIRA will focus on improving outreach to the donor base, promoting charitable events, and developing new and innovative fundraising ideas such as the “Give a tent for Lent” to engage new audiences in meaningful ways.
Growing Volunteers: Volunteers are a crucial aspect of PIRA operations. In addition to the RTs who enter disaster areas to provide aid, volunteers across the world raise awareness and funds by speaking to tens of thousands of people annually through speaking engagements, festivals, community events and fundraisers. PIRA formed a Volunteer Liaison Group dedicated to overseeing volunteer activity, contributing ideas, and providing feedback regarding the volunteer network.
Media Awareness: Use social media to focus on the digital potential of individual giving campaigns, and create more engaging content for digital channels focusing on compelling stories of families affected by disaster. Photographs, stories, and other persuasive content are also available for use in traditional media venues such as radio and television, as well as art galleries to demonstrate the power people have to endure hardships and rebuild their lives after disaster.
Developing Partnerships: PIRA’s primary strategic partnership is with the Christian Church network. In addition, they participate in a robust international community with affiliates in 17 countries. In 2018, funding from the affiliates accounted for 42% of PIRA's total income. As the scale of operations increases, PIRA will seek to maintain and strengthen its current partnerships, while expanding its affiliate network.