Forecasting Disaster, Alleviating Suffering

Posted on Posted in Superforecasting

Imagine humanitarian aid on the ground, ready to go when (or even ready before) it is most needed. When cold, hungry refugees flee their homes in advance of Taliban fighting in Afghanistan… or when increasingly dangerous storms jeopardize food supplies… or when government and rebel forces clash, risking civilian lives.

Anticipatory aid for disasters could greatly alleviate suffering – which is why the START Network recently engaged with Good Judgment Inc to explore how to forecast disaster.

The Start Network is a membership organization of humanitarian agencies with an impressive roster, including Save the Children and MercyCorps. With the aim of uniting humanitarian efforts to maximize impact, forecasting is a natural activity for the Start Network because its constituents seek to expedite disaster responses to the maximum extent possible.

That’s where Good Judgment Inc comes in: we’re helping to introduce state-of-the-art forecasting practices into the Start Network’s decision-making. Our Superforecasters led a training workshop that provides a framework to inform decision making on when to spend money to help local communities before a predicted crisis has hit.

The network’s Start Fund has recently launched an experimental “anticipation window,” backed by European Union funding, to test how this works in practice.

Now, members of the Start Network will be better equipped to use their forecasting training to assess and make rigorous decisions, which will help minimize human suffering.

Luke Caley, Start Network’s crisis anticipation adviser, said:

“Intervening before a crisis saves more lives than waiting until it hits. This anticipation project, combined with developments in crisis forecasting on which Good Judgment Inc is advising us, builds on our ambition to make humanitarian aid more effective. It will be a powerful incentive for aid agencies to take earlier action to spare avoidable suffering, and help our members learn how to build the systems that will enable them to do so.”

For more information, check out this great article in The Guardian: “The ‘supers’ who can predict the future: can we learn to see disaster coming?”  

You can also watch a short Start Network animation, explaining how forecasting is enabling the Start Fund to take this new step forward.



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