Open Collective
Open Collective
Winter "Whats Update" For Distribute Aid USA @ Open Collective
Published on December 22, 2022 by Taylor Fairbank

Apologies to the Open Collective team for writing our required Winter update in a hurry.  We've been heads down tackling a surge of winter aid shipments before the holidays and haven't had much time to reflect on 2023 yet.  We'll complete our usual impact analysis and reporting in January.

Readers can learn about the global impact of Distribute Aid USA and its sister organizations in our latest annual impact report, published after our annual meeting in Q3 each year.

What did you accomplish during 2022? How did you use money?
Most of our funding covered contracted staff time directly linked to our various logistics, aid sourcing, and other community supply-chain services.  A small amount of project-specific funding was used to reimburse volunteers for aid purchases or pay vendors for shipping.
  1. Completed our mission at the Fort Pickett Afghan Safehaven.  From November '21 - January '22 we supplied 10,000 guests with 816,000 NFI items, including clothing, hygiene items, educational materials, toys & games, etc.  This aid met 114,000 monthly needs for our Afghan guests, and provided them with $3.3M worth of value.

  2. Demobilized the aid warehouse at Fort Pickett.  We negotiated free trucking from the US military to ensure that every donation would be passed on to community organizations committed to supporting refugees resettled in their neighborhoods.  This allowed us to send 8 full trucks of aid to 7 community / mutual aid organizations in northern Virginia, Omaha NB, and Atlanta GA.  This salvaged aid met 30,000 monthly needs in these organization's communities, and provided $842K worth of value.

  3. Soft-launched our in-kind donors program, and sourced 5 full trucks / containers of water and one full truck worth of furniture from US companies.  The aid was used to support refugees resettled in the USA, in disaster responses, and shipped to Distribute Aid's partners in Europe for use in their response to Russia's war in Ukraine.  The aid we sourced from in-kind donors met 5,700 monthly needs, and is worth $327K at retail prices.

  4. Launched an inter-continental response to Russia's war in Ukraine, in collaboration with our European sister organization and our mutual international partners.  To date, we've sent 12 full shipping containers from Distribute Aid's US partners to support displaced internally and along the border in Poland, Romania, and Moldova.  We also delivered 2 containers worth of medical supplies sent from the US to support Ukrainian hospitals and frontline medics.  Full impact reporting data for this response will be available in January.

  5. Launched international shipping support for US organizations to support our refugee aid partners in Europe, and have sent 2 containers of aid to Northern France and 1 container of aid to Greece.  Full impact reporting data for these shipments will be available in January.

  6. Hosted 41+ events for the open-source community to support our 37 code contributors.

What challenges did you face during 2022? What did your Collective learn? How did you change or grow?
  1. The US is a very expensive country to operate in.  That means our growth will be slower because it'll cost more.

  2. We used this year to validate our European aid sourcing and supply-chain models, and learned that they are definitely applicable in a US context.  There are particular challenges in the US we need to solve first, but once we do then we can apply the same supply-chain strategies to build out a national-scale mutual aid supply-chain in the US.  Estimated 2 year timeline to accomplish.

  3. The US mutual aid scene is very strong, and experienced, but has grown in a way that emphasized local collection & distribution of material items.  Orgs connect regionally and nationally at a social movement level, but do not have the infrastructure or operational experience to support each other at scale.  Getting orgs to invest in warehouses will be an important problem to solve in 2023 so that we can grow our in-kind donors program and begin connecting communities across the US through the national mutual aid supply-chain that we are building.

  4. We trialed working with someone part-time who is a leader in their local scene, and that seems like a great way to grow our US team.  There are a lot of benefits to funding local organizers: they know the local scene, have their community's trust, etc.  And they are very excited to join DA's team part-time to learn how we operate at scale and how to connect their local efforts to our larger supply-chain.   This is different then how our European sister organization is organized, through a more traditional full-time / in-person office setting.
What are your plans for 2023? Anything exciting coming up?

How we learn and make an impact.  Need to scale it proportionately faster than climate change displaces people.
  1. Q1 - Develop partnerships with east coast / gulf-coast / eastern midwest orgs that want to setup warehouses and become a regional hub for our supply-chain.
  2. Q2 - Complete hub implementation plan with each org.
  3. Q3 - Ramp up in-kind donation sourcing, using hubs to store items and distribute over time or stage them for an international response / US natural disaster.
  4. Q4 - Validate our models / progress and prepare for national-level growth in 2024.
Tech: Our long-term scaling strategy & ability to "exit to the community".  We want to go broad and help 1,000s of organizations participate in a mutual aid economy powered by our supply chain, which means providing self-service, training, automation, etc.
  1. Q1 - Document  strategic plan, define 2023 tech programs & roadmap.
  2. Q2 -  Launch dev champions program to provide a structured open-source volunteer experience and celebrate people that make a substantial contribution to our open-source code. Implement supply-chain tech tools 1 at a time, prioritizing the ones we can use immediately to scale up our internal processes.
  3. Q3 & Q4 - Continue implementing modules.  Apply for grants / pro-bono expert support to accelerate our pace.  Begin trialing our tools with our partners and develop a 2024 plan to launch a platform that affords them access.