German national research project “INKA” devises ways to manage volunteers in crisis situations
How can more people be encouraged to volunteer for civil protection, and what is the best way to make targeted use of volunteers in critical situations? Fraunhofer IAO and the Institute for Human Factors and Technology Management IAT at the University of Stuttgart are working closely with major German first aid organizations to develop and analyze concepts that address these questions.
Public authorities, fire services and aid organizations in Germany work together to combat floods, widespread power failures and major accidents in a bid to minimize damage and human suffering. In the event of large-scale emergencies, these organizations call on voluntary helpers. We run the risk of compromising disaster prevention and civil protection in future if attempts to recruit more volunteers into response organizations are not successful.
“More and more civilians are prepared to volunteer on behalf of society, but when they do, it is increasingly for a short period of time and outside of established organizations like the fire service and the German Red Cross,” says Tina Weber of the German Red Cross. She manages INKA, the “Professional integration of volunteers in disaster prevention and crisis management” project funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research. INKA brings together representatives from the fields of civil protection, civil society, science and business in order to analyze existing structures of voluntary involvement and to test out groundbreaking new concepts in practice. The University of Stuttgart is focusing in particular on the way aid organizations are structured and the processes they use to recruit, involve and keep volunteers.
Beyond this, the project partners are analyzing the compatibility of voluntary work and the expectations of companies. Volunteers who are actively involved in aid organizations gain considerable expertise and experience – something that can serve them well on their career paths. And vice versa: aid organizations benefit from the knowledge that volunteers have acquired within companies. Fraunhofer IAO chairs a business circle comprising different companies in order to develop solutions that are suited to both employers and employees.
Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding the INKA joint research project over its three-year course as part of the “Research for civil security” program. Led by the German Red Cross, the following German organizations are involved: the National Network for Civil Society (BBE), the IAT at the University of Stuttgart, the Institute for Psychology at the University of Greifswald, the Berlin Fire Department and Fraunhofer IAO. The consortium also collaborates with six major German first response organizations.