Kerala flood relief

To discuss about contributions the local fablabs in the state and global network can do for the rehabilitation process after the devastating floods in the state of kerala, India.

1. Make a quick inventory of the current situation
If you want to organize a quick survey of the current situation, eg in the 22 Kerala Fab Labs and their environment, Google Forms can save you a lot of work.

As a reminder:

  1. Create the survey with Google Forms; include asking for the contact details of the person filling in the form; only disadvantage of Google Forms: it results in a terribly long hyperlink, therefore:
  2. Create a short. more userfriendly link to the survey with; if you have a free account you even can choose your own words after
  3. Distribute your userfriendly link to intended audience, eg the Kerala fab labs;
  4. The labs can fill in the form online. If that is not possible you can collect the info in whatever alternative way and fill their online forms yourself.
  5. Google transfers the responses to your survey automatically to a Google (spread)sheet.
  6. If appropriate, make that spreadsheet online available to your audience (read-only); via a seoparate (userfriendly) link.

2. Log important events and data by time and geo-location

If you want to collect data that is time and location dependent, consider Ushahidi; it has been developed for that purpose.

Ushahidi takes as input life reports from the public, has some filtering and undoubling options and produces an interactive map of the area with the actual data as a web page. Visitors can play it back to see the developments over time.

Ushahidi is open source software from a social enterprise with the same name; they also offer hosting with various plans, starting from free. See:

3. Acquire a quick insight into humanitarian organization practices

Check the 400 pages well structured Sphere handbook for a quick insight into the method of regular emergency assistance in the event of disasters, so that you can respond optimally as a fablab. You can quickly focus on the topics that are most relevant in your situation.

The Sphere handbook deals with humanitarian charter, protection principles, core standards and minimum standards in:

  • Water Supply
  • Sanitation
  • Hygiene Promotion
  • Food Security and Nutrition
  • Shelter
  • Settlement
  • Non-Food Items
  • Health Action

The handbook is available in many languages. Also training packages are available based on the handbook.

You can download “The Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response” from their website.


5. Use local expertise and resources

The India Department of Science and Technology (DST), i.e. its Science for Equity, Empowerment and Development Division (SEED) started the scheme Technological Advancement for Rural Areas (Tara).

“This scheme under SEED programmes is essentially to provide long term core support to Science based Voluntary Organizations/field institutions to promote and nurture them as “S&T Incubators” / “Active Field Laboratories” in rural and other disadvantaged areas to work and provide technological solutions and effective delivery of technologies for livelihood generation & societal benefits.”

The website of the TARA scheme contains the descriptions of many solutions in the fields of:

  • Housing,
  • Machinery and tools,
  • Energy, lighting and fuel,
  • Agriculture and animal husbandry,
  • Food processing,
  • Leather and anmal product,
  • ICT based technologies,
  • Water and sanitation,
  • Health.

Earlier versions of a number of solutions can be found as educational projects on the website “Learning while Doing”, an initiative of Vigyan Ashram (and Fab Lab). Project descriptions are in English or Hindi. Categories used are:

  • Agriculture,
  • Energy,
  • Engineering,
  • Food Processing,
  • Infrastructure Development,
  • Waste Management,
  • Manufacturing Processes.

For the most actual information go to the DSTTARA-website, for partially overlapping topics in the format of educational projects, go to the Learning While Doing website.

For both sites: contact Yogesh Kulkarni

See: and

6. Help make the Field Ready

“(The organization called) Field Ready meets humanitarian and reconstruction aid by transforming logistics through technology, design and engaging people in new ways. We make useful items where they are needed to solve problems locally. We pass on these skills to others through training and capacity-building. We are pioneering innovative approaches to the toughest challenges regardless of the sector. The impact of this is dramatically improved efficiency making aid faster, cheaper and better.”

On its website the organization lists the following capabilities:

  • Making
  • Training
  • WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene)
  • Health
  • Search & Rescue
  • Livelihoods
  • Medical Supplies
  • NFIs (Non Food Items)
  • Telecoms
  • Digital

Field Ready published "Managing Humanitarian Innovation; the cutting edge of aid; Eric James (ed.); 172 p., Kindle edition USD 11.70 (Amazon).

The organization also published a training package: “Shortcutting supply chains for humanitarian relief”; 82 p.; free to download. It has chapters on Problem Identification, Technology and Case Studies. The latter describes four cases: Radio Antenna (Nepal), Kidney Tray (Nepal), Umbilical Clamp (Haiti), Rescue Air Bag (Syria).

The Field Ready training package: “Shortcutting supply chains for humanitarian relief” is free to download from their home page (bottom right).


7. Take part in distributed testing

The Humanitarian Makers describe themselves as: “We are makers – designers, engineers, technicians, logistics experts, supply chain gurus, biomimics, and other professionals from around the world – who desire to create additional social impact with our expertise. We enjoy problem-solving and pushing the frontier on what’s possible. We refuse the status-quo.”

“Humanitarian Makers’ vision is to actively enhance hardware solutions to persistent and pressing human needs. We are exploring doing this through distributed testing.”

On the Humanitarian Makers website you find a spreadsheet of items to be tested in a distributed way plus hyperlinks to underlying documentation.


8. Keep the Global Humanitarian Lab (GHL) in the loop

“GHL is a cross-sector partnership of leading humanitarian organisations working together to tackle common challenges, envisions more efficient, effective and sustainable humanitarian action as a result of forward-thinking, locally-driven, and globally integrated ecosystem in which innovation can flourish.”

The Fab Foundation is one of the partners of the Global Humanitarian Lab.

Contact: David Ott


4. Use existing health instructions and materials

The publications of Hesperian Health Guides excel in their clear language and explanatory images. They give very concrete manuals about eg getting safe drinking water, preventing infections, building a toilet.

Hesperian Health Guides is a non-profit organization which develops and distributes health materials in over 80 languages. It all started in the seventies with their classic “Where there is no docter”, but also includes publications like “A Community Guide to Environmental Health”, Workers’ Guide to Health and Safety".

Most information can be retrieved from the"Health Wiki" on their website. eBooks cost about USD 7.50. Printed books cost more, but may be obtained free of charge when needed.


If you want to know more, it’s also worth checking out

Field Ready is looking at the possibility of a deployment to support the response, which would be built on activating the local FabLab network. We will continue to provide remote support (though I personally have been unable to get Telegram going on my phone, I’m still on WhatsApp! That will change finally today!)

Perhaps also relevant:

The Humanitarian Innovation Guide is a growing online resource to help individuals and organisations define humanitarian problems and successfully develop innovative solutions.