December 28, 2020

14th Annual STAR-TIDES Capabilities Demonstration Focused on Converging Approaches to Sustainable Resilience

As noted in a posted entitled "Cheap and Effective Solutions for Humanitarian Emergencies," I had the opportunity to attend the second annual STAR-TIDES demonstration in 2008 at the Pentagon just outside of Washington DC. In outlining the program's background, the STAR-TIDES website says it "is a global knowledge-sharing network that focuses on building sustainable resilience, promoting human security (freedom from want and freedom from fear), and creating life-changing social and economic activities. These roles have evolved from original support by the U.S. Defense Department's TIDES (Transformative Innovation for Development and Emergency Support) program to four defense-related mission areas: (A) Building Partner Capacity, (B) Humanitarian Assistance and Foreign Disaster Relief, (C) Defense Support of Civil Authorities, and (D) Stability and Peace Keeping Operations."

In 2019 George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. established the Center for Resilient and Sustainable Communities (C-RASC), a transdisciplinary research center that addresses critical real-world problems through integrated approaches that build resilience. The C-RASC, which is led by Dr. Kathy Laskey, now oversees the global STAR-TIDES knowledge-sharing network. Dr. Linton Wells II, who founded the TIDES program, remains involved with STAR-TIDES as the C-RASC's Executive Advisor.

The knowledge in the STAR-TIDES network is organized into six platforms (technology areas): (1) Energy, Energy Storage; (2) Shelter, Heating/Cooling and Lighting; (3) Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH); (4) Agriculture and Food Security; (5) Information and Communications Technology (ICT); and (6) Health, Nutrition and Integrated Cooking.


The six platforms are supported by the “keys to success” shown below:
  • Narrative (and Story Telling) are essential parts of the "Listening" and "Learning" phases of a project, both to understand community needs in their cultural context and to translate technical analyses into terms that support their engagement. Systems Thinking is needed to link the various platforms together in ways that support the community's needs, and then narrative comes back into play to convey the technical analysis back to the community in ways that are consistent with their needs, cultures, and resources.
  • Global Knowledge Sharing is facilitated by the STAR-TIDES network.
  • All projects need Resource-Raising Strategies.
  • Finance, Transport, and Logistics provide the glue to stand-up and execute real world efforts, and is a core part of "Lasting."
  • Education also is a key part of bi-directional learning, and developing modes that can be extended to other circumstances
  • Digital Enabling Technologies include geospatial information systems (GIS), identity management, distributed ledger technology (like blockchain) for accountability and transparency, climate science, big data analytics, etc.

I have enjoyed watching the STAR-TIDES program develop over the past several years and seeing its positive impact on distressed communities worldwide. As an e-newsletter produced by Dr. Wells dated Sept. 3rd, 2020 explains:
Over the years STAR-TIDES has made good use of focused teams on several occasions. For example, in late 2012/early 2013 team members helped a medical clinic that had been damaged by fire in Old Fangak, South Sudan. In 2015 nearly 80 members responded to a request to support refugee and IDP (internally displaced persons) camps in Iraq. In 2018 others supported George Mason graduate students in analyzing alternative shelters for use in Appalachia. Currently we have nearly 30 members who have signed up to support various aspects of rural broadband activities, from Native American communities, to dispersed towns in New England, to helping students return to classes in North Carolina. Going forward, I expect there will be many more opportunities, from geographic areas such as Puerto Rico, to STAR-TIDES core technology areas, to projects such as precision agriculture. As always, the teams will support those already working on the ground through our basic premise of Listening (to what they're trying to tell us), Learning (in both directions), and Lasting (to build local capacity).

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the 14th annual STAR-TIDES capabilities demonstration was held virtually from Oct. 20-22, 2020 under the title of "Converging Approaches to Sustainable Resilience." The STAR-TIDES e-newsletter dated Dec. 3rd, 2020 provided the following summary of the event:
22 separate events and 10 parallel breakout tracks focused on diverse areas including technology platforms (energy, shelter, water, etc.) plus key enablers such as narrative & storytelling, systems thinking, ethics, and Defense logistics. There were two sessions on "Puerto Rico Way Ahead." A career track offered students chances to interact with professionals for job search advice, as well as practitioners from areas such as geospatial information, emergency management, global health, development, and sustainable resilience. The conference featured 25 speakers and approximately 70 panelists, including several national and international figures. During his keynote address, Thomas L. Friedman, the distinguished author and New York Times Pulitzer-prize-winning columnist, discussed the fast, fused, deep, and open forces that increasingly affect our lives. Lt. Gen Michael Plehn, USAF, Military Deputy Commander of the U.S. Southern Command, and Claire Melamed, PhD, CEO of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, presented keynotes on October 21st.

Several participants showed how they applied their capabilities in real-world situations. These included perspectives on Navy operational energy, low-cost shelters, power grid cost reduction, and supply chain risk management for open source software, as well as a compelling example of how STAR-TIDES network members helped rebuild a medical clinic in South Sudan.

The sessions generated over 26 hours of content with more than 55 videos that may be viewed via the STAR-TIDES' YouTube page. Moderated by Dr. Wells, Mr. Friedman provided his insights on a variety of topics including U.S.-China relations, the emergence of black/green governments as the left/right binary approach of politics wane, education provided by the private sector including a company's role as an innovator and educator, and scaling community-based approaches.

Dave Warner, a medical neuroscientist with a MD/PhD researching new methods of physiologically based human-computer interaction to identify methods and techniques that optimize information flow between humans and computers, provided great remarks about information and communications technologies (ICTs).

And during the "Sustaining Cross-Cutting Solutions Across Silos" session, Bob Gourley, co-founder and chief technology officer of OODA LLC, moderated a discussion on sustainable resilience featuring the following panelists: Declan Kirrane, founder and managing director of ISC, Clare Lockhart, Director of the Institute for State Effectiveness, and Mike Tanji, Global Marketing Officer and Chief of Staff at the Global Cyber Alliance. For the purposes of this session, Mr. Gourley said resilience is defined "as an entity's capacity to prepare for disruptions, to recover from shocks and stresses, and to adapt and grow from a disruptive experience."

The STAR-TIDES team announced that the next demonstration is tentatively planned as a mixed physical and virtual event on Oct. 19th and 20th, 2021. The Pentagon Center Court event will immediately follow on Oct. 21st and 22nd.

The Dec. 3rd newsletter further notes: "A new initiative for 2021 will be a series of interactive online events throughout the year. For example, a session might be woven around a case study. STAR-TIDES always has been a community of doers, so this would give people with real-world expertise a chance to talk about what they'd have done differently, or how they might approach such a situation in the future with current or emerging capabilities, plus what persistent capacity gaps and blocks remain to be resolved, and why. We'll provide more info as the schedule solidifies and welcome your suggestions and inputs."

The newsletter concludes by saying "STAR-TIDES has always been about our world-wide network partners and the contributions they are making to uplift individuals and societies, not only to provide basic amenities but also to increase standards of living and build sustainable resilience. If you have anything you think might be of interest or use to the network, please share it via email"

The following words from my 2008 post remain relevant 12 years later: "For any sustainable social and economic development strategy to have a chance of succeeding, it must have the collaboration of the private sector, civil society, and government stakeholders. With adequate financial and logistical support, STAR-TIDES could make a difference to people worldwide facing the challenges of surviving a one-time natural disaster or the daily constraints of poverty." Impressively, the STAR-TIDES network has proven its success in making a positive impact on the lives of millions, if not billions, of people worldwide.

What effective solutions do you propose for addressing humanitarian emergencies or post-war reconstruction?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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