Why? There are acute humanitarian problems and areas vulnerable to catastrophe globally. The number of forcibly displaced people is as high as it has ever been. Aid workers who provide relief use old methods, such as antiquated supply chains, and have yet to take full advantage of the innovations available and those yet to come. People in need often have to wait months or even years for essential supplies to be available, when supplies could be made locally cheaply and quickly.
Who? Field Ready is a diverse team of dedicated professionals with a passion to help others. We have deep skills in design, engineering, humanitarian aid, leadership and management.
What? We make useful relief items and supplies such as those used in medicine, water and sanitation, shelter and search/rescue. We train others in how to make useful items. We innovate, and motivate aid agencies to work in more efficient and effective ways, to create a transformation in the way aid is provided worldwide.
Where? Countries and areas experiencing disasters, recovery, situations of protracted human displacement and areas needing disaster risk reduction. Haiti, Myanmar, Nepal, Kenya, Syria and the US are examples of where we work.
When? Right now.
Today’s humanitarian supply chains are cumbersome, expensive and often fail to deliver results. Recent innovations have only provided incremental improvements. Field Ready’s approach is different because it focuses on making supplies where they are needed. In the process, we train local people to solve their own problems and work with groups to ultimately transform the way aid is delivered. We have proven the concept using local manufacturing of supplies in the US, Haiti, Nepal, Kenya, and Syria. We have a wide range of partnerships, and are now extending our work in other humanitarian situations, field testing new manufacturing methods and sharing our designs and learning. Field Ready achieves scalable impact by pioneering new techniques and demonstrating that local production of humanitarian items is possible, and delivers appropriate supplies more quickly and more cheaply than the alternatives. We amplify our work through sharing information online, and driving innovation in large aid agencies and international NGOs, to transform how they deliver aid around the world.
Field Ready meets humanitarian need in some of the most difficult places on earth. Our first objective is to make – fabricate and manufacture – useful items, such as medical and water-related devices, where they are needed. We do this by working with local communities and relief workers to identify real needs on the ground, then solving problems through design and local manufacturing. We create, share and reuse designs for essential humanitarian supplies, which can be made anywhere, often using local or recycled materials, and we actually make things and help others make them, too. We've shown that it's possible to use 3D printers in remote and challenging settings, enabling local people to identify their needs and make the items they require themselves. It's not just digital manufacturing though - we also use low tech ways to make things, with understandable instructions for reliable results.
We train local people and aid workers to design and make their own solutions. Finally, we develop and share these innovations, for anyone to participate. We do this by sharing designs, instructions and training materials online, and connecting people so they can collaborate. All this makes humanitarian aid more efficient and effective, providing supplies to people in the most challenging circumstances, and empowering them with new skills to recover and rebuild.
Field Ready demonstrates that new technologies can work in the most remote and difficult areas; if it possible to use digital manufacturing to make useful items there, it can be done anywhere. But it is far more than just technology – an ecosystem is needed, which respects the complex social, cultural, economic and technical aspects of a humanitarian crisis. This is why we work so much in partnership with others, especially aid agencies and international NGOs who help us work appropriately in these settings.
Results to date
We've developed our process and knowhow by working in different humanitarian settings since our early work 3D printing in Haiti in 2014. We've extended to new manufacturing techniques such as injection molding, and new kinds of relief item, such as search and rescue equipment. We've grown our team and both our in country work and our R&D activities in the last year.
We have made medical supplies (such as umbilical cord clamps designed together with nurses in a Haitian clinic), and replacement parts for equipment, which is important in developing countries where items, such as medical equipment, are often second-hand donations. When they break, it is hard or impossible to get new components, as the equipment is often obsolete. For example, Field Ready made new corners for hospital baby warmers in Nepal, so they can be repaired and put back into use. Our new corner is stronger than the old ones which kept breaking, and is much better than the sharp edges or duct tape repair otherwise used. We have also worked to repair water pipe networks connecting displaced families living in camps in Nepal, and have made and sold 430 robust cookstove control knobs which were needed so that quake-affected areas could get unbroken and safe cooking equipment.
- Demonstrated the Field Ready approach in multiple countries and contexts, with a range of partners
- Made thousands of useful items in the field using a variety of manufacturing techniques
- Trained hundreds of people and helped many more
- Developed many unique designs, often better, faster and cheaper when made locally than the alternatives
Field Ready were recognised as a “top five” innovation at the World Humanitarian Summit 2016, were a Classy Award finalist, were selected to take part in the Singularity University accelerator, and one of our co-founders was honored as a White House “Champion of Change” for her work as a maker.
Working with local partners and communities
Field Ready deploys teams of designers, engineers and humanitarians, along with equipment such as 3D printers, into crisis situations. We partner with local communities and relief organizations to identify pressing problems, and create solutions to these together. We design items, if needed, (or download and reuse existing digital designs), then manufacture necessary items on site and on demand. Because our approach is based on the context in which we work, it is highly adaptable. The key is listening and learning. We employ a range of methods (such as participation and human-centered design) to ensure this happens.
We are passing on skills and knowledge to disaster-affected people and the aid workers who serve them. Training local people and relief workers to use manufacturing is a key part of our process. Importantly, our approach can be effective at enabling local people to solve their own problems through making, with online support and reusable designs. We have devised a set of curricula geared for the contexts in which we work, which we package for open sharing and reuse. When appropriate, we leave the manufacturing equipment and materials in the field for continued use. All this ensures a level of sustainability and is simply the right thing to do.
Local partners and local branches of international aid agencies are essential to enable us to work in a safe, effective and appropriate way in different humanitarian settings. We work with organisations including World Vision, Save The Children, and Oxfam.
Working with specialist partners and global communities
We are also working at a systemic level through our participation in the mechanisms of the humanitarian community. This is vital for our approach to gain widespread adoption. Part of this is ensuring our work is appropriate for different humanitarian needs and follows the way the sector works (for instance, following good coordination and ethical practices). We share our stories with aid agencies and help support and train those who could benefit from local production through humanitarian sector publications and events, to encourage them to adopt our ideas.
We also partner with universities on R&D, and with companies (especially those who produce manufacturing equipment and design sharing tools). We've learned that we cannot solve all the design challenges we encounter in the field ourselves, even with brilliant teams of engineers and designers on the ground. So we have formed a cross-sector community, “Humanitarian Makers,” made up of hundreds of technologists, designers and aid workers, and which is an increasingly useful forum to find solutions, share information, and find volunteers. Humanitarian Makers around the world provide remote design support to field teams who encounter problems they cannot solve quickly enough themselves. Through these connections, we are amplifying and further developing our existing work. For example, we are now field testing our first software app which accurately measures the sizes of pipe required in plumbing, and automatically generates the 3D model of the connector, ready to print, which was created by a university student team for us.
Field Ready innovation is faster
Today's practice: “Wait for items to arrive”. Our innovation is faster. In Nuwakot District Hospital, Nepal, a specialist part for a damaged power distribution panel needed to be replaced to restore power to a ward. It would have taken at least 6 weeks to arrive from Italy. Using computer aided design and plastic 3D printing, Field Ready designed and made a replacement in 7.5 hours – restoring power to the ward and positively impacting the care to its present and future patients. The part was still in use during a follow-up visit two months later. Re-using designs, local manufacturing and employing trained-up local people can reduce wait times further. During a visit to the remote Selang camp in Nepal, a Pinard Horn fetoscope design (developed in an earlier collaboration with Patan Hospital) was re-used and printed by a trained local staff member in 2 hours. Sourcing normally would have taken days. Our evidence demonstrates that, with the human and technological capacity in place, dramatic reductions in wait times can be replicated virtually wherever needs are identified.
Field Ready innovation is cheaper
Today's practice: “Spend a lot of funds”. Our innovation is cheaper. In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, we made prosthetic hands at a fraction of the cost of traditionally-made items. Small disposable umbilical cord clamps, essential to reduce infant infection, if and when they are available on the market, typically cost $1 (about 80% of which is supply chain costs) and as much as $3. Our 3D printed version costs just $0.60 to make (including labour, materials and electricity). We are currently refining hand-powered injection moulding techniques for larger volume local production, helping us to reach economies of scale that make the overall costs relatively inexpensive as well.
Field Ready innovation is better
Today’s practice: “Do without”. Our innovation is better. In Syria, those involved in search and rescue use their hands to remove rubble from bombed housing to reach the people buried underneath. They lack basic rescue equipment. Working from Istanbul, we are designing air bags that can be made locally to lift large pieces of rubble safely. In Kathmandu, at a major private hospital, technicians have struggled to fix donated baby beds because of a lack of spare parts – resulting in unhygienic (even dangerous) solutions using wood and sheet metal. We 3D printed the replacement 16 parts to repair 5 beds, and they can now be used safely once more. A more subtle example is that communications between the valleys in Sindhupalchowk District can be a challenge. The capabilities exist, but are not resilient since ground stations fail. With a view to preparedness for future quakes, we helped make better and more accurate parts for antennas for low-orbit satellite connections; without them, people would again have to do without communications in the next response.
How you can help
We welcome makers, designers, engineers and humanitarians in our Humanitarian Makers community, where there are opportunities to help with rapid response and ongoing design and test challenges. It’s a great way to meet and work with people from all kinds of backgrounds, where ever you are in the world. We’re also always glad to meet potential partners in local areas with humanitarian responses we are assessing for potential projects, as this helps us choose places and ways to respond that most address local needs. Success in the OpenIDEO Bridge Builder challenge would help us make new connections with volunteers and partners, and would also support us in opening conversations with new potential funders, and raising our profile (which helps us recruit partners, and secure resourcing).
How Field Ready is making aid better, faster and cheaper for people everywhere
The potential for scale is built into our approach in part because Field Ready is not focused on a particular technology, product type or geographic location. We are working toward a future where logistical needs are met where need arises; where communities in the most challenging circumstances after disaster, or in camps, can take control of their situation, manufacturing essential life-saving and life-sustaining supplies. Through access to advanced manufacturing equipment, useful information and skills, local people can be empowered to recover and rebuild, and to develop new economic opportunities. Ultimately, our route to scale is transforming aid agency procurement and logistics divisions, which we enable by demonstrating new technologies, and support through capacity building and innovation services, and by continuously demonstrating our credibility and effectiveness through actual on the ground relief work.