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Corporate conscience

How is your company helping the tsunami relief effort?

Shortly after the scope of the devastation became clear, Information Today, KMWorld's parent company, announced it would offer a 50% match to its employees' relief donations. The initiative was spearheaded by Lauree Padgett, a colleague at Information Today's main office, and immediately embraced by our company's owners. To streamline the process, our donations are earmarked for UNICEF. We're certainly not the only company pitching in, of course, but it's important to acknowledge that the need for assistance will exist for years and years to come.

In many ways, this relief effort—and those of countless other areas of the world—are massive knowledge management projects. At its most elemental level, KM means getting the right information to the right people at the right time, so it really isn't a stretch to view these humanitarian efforts as getting the right aid to the right people at the right time. But before any such project can be implemented, it's critical to have the right information, which by all accounts is in short supply in the tsunami-stricken regions. In fact, according to a report in The Washington Post quoting Ronald Waldman, the World Health Organization's chief consultant in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, "The biggest need we have in the health sector is data."

So, how to get started? One approach to follow is that of Adobe Systems, which has a prominent link on its home page (adobe.com) to USAID, the U.S. government agency responsible for economic and humanitarian assistance around the world. The site for tsunami relief—usaid.gov/locations/asia_near_east/tsunami/ngolist.html—lists some 80 organizations providing assistance to those affected by the earthquake and tsunami. (Because USAID is a government agency, it doesn't accept donations but does work directly with the organizations it lists.) Please review that collection of charities. From what I can tell, it's pretty well vetted, and you'll likely find an outfit to which you'll feel good about donating money and/or services. My hat goes off to Adobe for putting that link on its site—KMWorld did it, too. Your company should do it, as well.

Another recommendation is to contact USAID directly (main number: 202-712-0000; electronic inquiries: usaid.gov/public_inquiries.html; fax: 202-216-3524). You'll be able to discover specific needs that can match your skills, thus helping to fill the information gap. I'm sure you'll discover areas in which your expertise can be shared. KMWorld also plans to occasionally e-mail our subscribers with tsunami-related information and how to help. Your company's mailing lists are valuable assets, and no one could be offended about a legitimate request for humanitarian aid.

It's time for the business sector to again show the quality of its character

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