Tribes During and After Disasters

Tribes are “a group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader and an idea” [1]. Tribes emerge if there is a shared interest among individuals and a means to connect each other. We often see that tribes emerge during and after the disaster. These tribes are around emergent leaders who take an action immediately to help others. There were at least three types of tribes that emerged disaster recovery efforts in Alabama after the tornados of April, 2011.[2]

  1. Mnemonic tribe: A tribe that preserves community memory of the disaster. The Facebook page “In Memory of 4/27/2011 Tornado Victims” has a collection of more than 200 photographs submitted by those who lost their friends and families by the tornados in Alabama and in other states. The creator of the page, Angela Brown, the founder of the page, developed the page, “… so that people could see the faces and hear stories of those lost and not just see the numbers.”[3]
  2. Information brokering tribe: A tribe that exchanges real-time information about the disaster such as donation, weather updates, supplies, and volunteering opportunities. Right after the disaster, Tonia Davis-Evans created a Facebook page, “Pleasant Grove, Al Tornado Updates,” to reach out people seekin disaster-related information. On the page, some asked the status of the damage in a particular area and got answered. A church posted donation requests and received overwhelming responses. The page very popular, surpassing 2,000 followers within the first day.
  3. Partnering tribe: A tribe that connects and partners with other parties. ABC chief meteorologist James Spann’s twitter account, who had approximately 22,000 followers, became a hub for volunteering opportunities matching. He also successfully communicated the needs of victims by creating Twitter hashtags such as #AlNeeds to spread the needs of victims.

Have you run across other kinds of tribes that emerge during disasters? What makes for successful tribal coordination efforts? Do you have other cases where the prominence of tribes was significant during disaster response and recovery efforts?


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