Academic journal article Defense Horizons

STAR-TIDES and Starfish Networks: Supporting Stressed Populations with Distributed Talent

Academic journal article Defense Horizons

STAR-TIDES and Starfish Networks: Supporting Stressed Populations with Distributed Talent

Article excerpt

Overview

The Department of Defense increasingly is involved in postwar stabilization and reconstruction, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, capacity-building of partner nations at home and abroad, and other such complex operations. To provide sustainable support to stressed populations in these environments, an international, networked, knowledge-sharing research project called Sustainable Technologies, Accelerated Research-Transformative Innovation for Development and Emergency Support (STAR-TIDES) (1) encourages innovative approaches to public-private collaboration, whole-of-government solutions, and transnational engagement. It leverages a distributed network of people and organizations to conduct research, support real world contingencies, and bridge gaps among disparate communities.

The three main goals of STAR-TIDES are to enhance the ability of civilian coalitions (business, government, and civil society) to operate in stressed environments, extend the military's ability to work with civilians in such situations, and economize by identifying cost-effective logistic solutions and rationalizing supply chains.

STAR-TIDES fosters unity of effort among diverse organizations when there is no unity of command. The project is building a repository of information about potential solutions to provide "knowledge on demand" to support decisionmakers and those working in the field, rather than act as an operating agency. Information collected is made available in the public domain via a Web site, (2) and feedback, opinions, and recommendations from users are encouraged.

A Starfish Organization

In The Starfish and the Spider, Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom explore two competing methods of organization. The spider represents a traditional, hierarchical organization with one leader having centralized responsibilities not replicated in the rest of the organization. Destroy the head and the spider dies. A starfish organization is distributed; members' roles and responsibilities (including leadership selection and refinement) can adapt rapidly to changing circumstances. (3)

Sustainable Technologies, Accelerated Research-Transformative Innovation for Development and Emergency Support (STAR-TIDES) is a networked effort that combines centralized and decentralized types of organizations. Its greatest strength is an extended network of interested individuals, businesses, government offices (civil and military), universities, and other entities from Australia to Singapore to northern Europe. (4) Within this extended network, a steering team of 7 to 10 people is being formed to set broad priorities for outreach, research, event coordination, and technology integration. The team is supported by a small core to execute guidance and oversee engagement with particular TIDES projects. Most importantly, the steering and core teams act together as a catalyst to engage the exceptional energies and talents that reside in the extended network. Some people are dedicated fulltime by their organizations to support the project, some are part-time, and most are volunteers.

The broad scope of available expertise has helped STAR-TIDES investigate such diverse areas as stability, security, transition, and reconstruction (SSTR) in Afghanistan, humanitarian assistance/ disaster relief (HADR) in tropical regions, building partner capacity (BPC), and defense support to civil authorities (DSCA) in the United States. The network has supported responses to real world events--including wildfires in southern California, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailer replacement, shelter solutions for the Canadian Arctic, Cyclone Nargis relief in Burma, and election-monitoring in Afghanistan.

While the STAR-TIDES core facilitates interactions among people, processes, organizations, and technology, many of the most valuable ideas have come from the extended network. The Web site, email threads, blogs, Twitter streams, and other for a encourage collaboration among participants. …

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