Thirty five pre-selected young professionals found ourselves in Mexico without knowing what was about to happen. And that could be seen during the early hours of Monday morning: nervous gestures, expressions of anxiety, and maybe some signs of fear.
The "Pressure Cooker: Risk Communication Challenge" lasted 24 hours -uninterrupted, not even to sleep- and divided us into five teams according to interdisciplinary criteria. Each team was asked to develop a risk communication solution for a Mexican real disaster situation, to face then a jury conformed by experts and local decision makers.
The task was very well organized by the Water Youth Network team. Initially, local decision makers made presentations to explain the cases, and then each team was given a lot of information about each particular case. Furthermore, a mentor was assigned to help each team workflow.
Our team, which found its name at 04 AM after finishing designing the solution, was Pivotal Solutions. Formed by Supriya Krish (India), Anthony Cario (USA), Katie Smith (UK), Nathaniel Tan (Singapore), Palmira Cuellar (Mexico), Anna Twomlow (UK) and myself (Argentina), Pivotal Solutions had the difficult challenge of creating a risk communication solution for the Iztapalapa local government, who wanted to approach 600 families that needed to be relocated because of the damages to their houses after an earthquake occured on September 2017.
The contribution of the experts was key. Their words were very important in the decisive moments in which the team was developing the solution. Especially Lisa Robinson from the BBC Media Action and Jacqui Cotton from the Environment Agency, thanks to whom we cleared up our main objective (risk inform decision making) and identified our target subgroup (economically inactive women).
The linkage between teams during the hours of the Pressure Cooker was fun, always based on camaraderie. At no time was a negative competitiveness encouraged but the opposite: solidarity emerged little by little, sometimes encouraged by the Water Youth Network team, though.
The connection produced by the language difference was simply unbelievable. While English dominated the day, there was no way that the challenge could be indifferent to Spanish. The constant translation not only produced amusing situations, but brought the group together in a very special way.
Personally, the experience of working under pressure and with little time was very similar to my experiences working during emergencies and disasters in Argentina. Things like making fast decisions, delivering partial results, managing real time, depending on a colleague and adapting to changes, were trials I faced as Information Management coordinator during several disaster situations such as the avalanche in El Rodeo and Siján, Catamarca (January 2014), the flooding of Buenos Aires (August 2015) and wildfires in La Pampa and Buenos Aires (January 2017).
Experiences like this one redefine the ideas of sharing and trusting. From strangers to colleagues to friends in only days, living side by side in the differences... thirty five professionals giving their best. What an amazing experience to live.
Many thanks to:
- the Water Youth Network team, for the incredible work done before the event and their beautiful energy during those days in Mexico city: Lydia Cumiskey, Robert Šakić Trogrlić, Miguel Trejo, Nhilce Esquivel, Gabriela Guimarães Nobre... THANK YOU! - the Understanding Risk Organisation and the GFDRR, for encouraging new spaces and new ideas regarding disaster risk, and believing in each of us.
- FM Global, NERC and NASA for financing our participation.