INSPIRED IMPACT is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to social entrepreneurs and leaders of mission-driven organizations who are making an impact in their communities, industries, and around the world.

 



 

Sarah TunebergSarah Tuneberg is the Co-Founder and CEO of Geospiza, Inc. Follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn and learn more at geospiza.us.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?
Geospiza leverages the wide universe of open data to create evidence-based decision support for emergency managers, elected officials, and first responders. Collecting the best and the latest data, applying emergency management best practices and our proprietary social vulnerability modeling enables communities to visualize and positively interrupt what is often seen as an inevitable cycle of destruction and devastation.

 

WHY DO YOU DO IT?
People are dying unnecessarily in disasters. In event after event, we see the most vulnerable people suffering disproportionately severe impacts. We know that using data wisely can save lives.

 

WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
Year to date, we have 21 jurisdictions signed up for our pilot program – this represents 20 million people who can benefit from their emergency professionals having better and more timely data intelligence.

 

WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
I’ve worked as an emergency manager since Katrina, and despite having deep compassion for and dedication to our communities, my colleagues don’t have the tools needed to help people avoid the worst impacts of disaster. We know that disaster affects every system of life – social, emotional, economic, environmental – working to prevent or lessen the trauma from these impacts has important, lasting effects for people and communities. The nursing home residents in Houston/Harvey, in waist deep water, that didn’t have to happen.

 

WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
We aspire to be the ubiquitous tool for community vulnerability understanding and resilience. That looks like: every day, cities and towns and organizations using Geospiza to deeply understand who lives in their community, what are their characteristics that we can leverage or pay attention to to increase resilience, and no more preventable deaths in disaster.

 

WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
Enhanced public/private partnership and enhanced data openness and accessibility. The data we need to drive good decision making exists but is siloed and hard to access. The space could also use more VCs who get excited about the urban/municipal tech space. State and local government IT spend is a $103B annual market that is ripe for disruption.

 

WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
The frequency and intensity of disasters, as well as awareness and coverage in media (including social), is increasing. So there’s a social and political will to do better in the face of climate change. Translating that will into evidence-based action is a bit trickier. Getting people to understand that this work (emergency planning) is done 365 days a year, and to look at and include whole-community vulnerability in their strategic plans – that’s the big, important job for us.

 

WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
When you identify your passion and run with it, supporters will be attracted to that light. Stay true to your roadmap and your vision – you’ll get tons of advice but remember that you are the keeper of the flame. And being driven to make a better world, that’s a gift that stays with you through the hard times.

 

HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
At the individual level, try to support a culture of evidence-informed decision making. Put simply, Why? Why are we doing what we’re doing? Do we have the best data to say we’re confident about Who this decision affects and How and Why it’s the best use of resources and time? Do we have proof that this decision contributes to the overall goals of the organization? Promoting that culture is the key to moving from working only on gut instinct to enhancing that gut and experience with evidence. It just feels good to have a solid, defensible foundation for a decision. Applying that to doing good for others just makes sense.

 


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