With well over 200,000 people dead, nearly half of the entire country’s population displaced, and a humanitarian crisis with no end in sight, the conflict in Syria has had a devastating toll. In Aleppo alone, over 100 different militias have been formed and fought for control. The situation is extremely fluid, leaving businesses and governments seeking to provide critical assistance in a persistent state of flux in an opaque and dynamic environment.
Understanding these dynamics of conflict is a non-trivial challenge for any organization seeking to provide assistance and understand how those dynamics may change over time. For Caerus, a DC-based firm that works with leading humanitarian, development, and defense agencies around the world, monitoring and interpreting drivers of these changes is central to offering advice on when and where to target assistance that keeps people safe and have the greatest possible impact on the situation. Yet traditional methods of research where field teams collect and tabulate data, clean and translate the results, and sent to analysts who produce written reports means that by the time the situation is understood on the ground and passed to decision makers the resulting actions are too little too late. When understanding the dynamics of conflict it is essential to move fast in every aspect one’s work from the way in which data is safely collected all the way through to how insights are conveyed to decision makers, while building institutional learning about those changes over time.
Caerus turned to First Mile Geo to solve this challenge of linking field data collection to analytics and reporting, across a variety of projects nationwide in Syria. In one of those projects, which focused specifically on the city of Aleppo, in situ field data collection teams were used to collect data on four concurrent assessments: bakeries, checkpoints, popular perceptions, and territorial control, covering a range of aspects of the human tragedy unfolding street block by street block. Thousands of geolocated data points were captured with remarkable detail of the conflict, offering those within the international humanitarian community watching the ongoing situation the ability to watch the rise of militias like ISIS neighborhood by neighborhood, and quantify the vulnerability faced by those in need through weighted indices of humanitarian indicators with extraordinary fidelity. Over 120 different organizations around the world tapped into resulting insights through First Mile Geo providing a front row view to the unfolding conditions inside the city. This initial work has gone on to include nationwide work by Caerus with a range of humanitarian and security institutions monitoring the rapidly evolving situation on the ground in Syria.
Using First Mile Geo Caerus was able to:
- Safely capture data in a highly sensitive, dynamic environment by local teams
- Visualize and analyze data in real-time between Aleppo and Washington
- Collect data in Arabic and visualize all results in English
- Collaborate with over 130 different organizations over the data as it came in