WHY HELIX IS NOT A SUCCESS (YET)
The name HELiX was a year in the making. And the event itself had a much longer history. Gaynor Tanyang, the DELSA Programme Coordinator, is here to share the story.
HELiX, or the Humanitarian and Emergency Logistics Innovation Expo, is a component of the Disaster Emergency Logistics System of ASEAN (DELSA) project, which is one of the AHA Centre’s oldest-running projects. In 2018, DELSA Phase II was approved, which has three components: the establishment of DELSA satellite warehouses in the Philippines and Thailand; capacity building; and innovation.
Planning for HELiX started in 2019 with three cogs: problem identification; sharing and recognising innovative approaches; and the development of concrete action plans from National Disaster Management Organisations (NDMOs).
In March 2020, my colleague Ms. Caroline Widagdo and myself met with our country host, Viet Nam, travelling to Hanoi on an almost empty plane, face masks on. We excitedly planned for a big physical event in conjunction with the commemoration of Viet Nam’s National Day of Disaster Prevention and Control in May 2020. HELiX was also going to be one of the flagship events of Viet Nam’s ASEAN chairmanship. As the cases of COVID-19 grew in number globally and in the region, the co-organisers agreed to push back the staging of HELiX to 2021, with a prayerful optimism that the event could be held physically onsite.
Meanwhile, the DELSA team got busy digging for examples of logistics innovations that could be applied in the humanitarian context and found a myriad of them. We had insightful discussions with partners, old friends and industry experts to understand how they defined “innovation”. We sought their views about the trends and challenges in the supply chain and what ASEAN could do to improve humanitarian logistics. In a parallel process, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supported research on logistics-capacity needs assessment in ASEAN. Meanwhile, Ms. Agustina (Rina) Tnunay, our internal authority on logistics was busy asking the NDMOs in ASEAN what the future of DELSA should look like.
All of these initiatives became part of the “problem definition” that influenced the design of HELiX. Thinking time was on our hands, the DELSA team was emboldened to take on a complex conference design that had simultaneous sessions, a hackathon, a pitching competition and an exhibition. We wanted the conference experience itself to look, hear and feel innovative. But 2020 drew to a close with all of us still working from home. The situation still felt very volatile and uncertain.
The decision to go ahead with HELiX in a fully online mode was agreed in mid-February. We set-up the virtual conference infrastructure with the support of Mr. Risdianto Irawan, our internal tech buff. We introduced the idea of HELiX to everyone we could reach by email.
We had HELiX meetings back-to-back – with partners and their partners – and we were invigorated that they, too, were excited about the idea. And the event itself had a very fruitful outcome – both in numbers and in substance. We even met our target with regard to our competition prizes threefold! Winners got a chance to visit Singapore, receive mentoring from financial investment experts and cash prizes! And many will agree, they saw, they heard and they felt innovative at some point being part of the HELiX experience.
SO WHY DO I SAY THAT HELIX IS NOT A SUCCESS (YET)?
Problem identification? Check. Sharing and recognising innovative solutions? Check. Developing a concrete action plan by ASEAN Member States? In progress.
When I was leading the visioning and planning of HELiX, I had in mind that the outcomes of HELiX would feed into the new phase of the ASEAN Humanitarian Logistics Roadmap. This would seal the trifecta of HELiX success.
And while planning HELiX, I could hear Co-Chair of the Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Working Group (PRRWG) Mr. Abdul Razak’s voice in my head saying, “HELiX should address the challenges of ASEAN Member States in humanitarian logistics.”
So, here is where we are. We celebrate the bonds and networks that flourished during HELiX. We cheer the indomitable spirit of the AHA Centre staff who provided an unforgettable virtual experience in a time of COVID-19.
But we have only begun our baby steps. The real seal of success for HELiX is to see, hear and feel the visible and tangible innovative solutions at work in the 10 ASEAN Member States. Who knows? Our Donation Matching App by Padayon, could be ASEAN’s platform for humanitarian giving.
And then, there’s still AHACKATHON.
Written by : Gaynor Tanyang