Raphael initially worked as a plane mechanic. Throughout his evenings he would help homeless people as a volunteer. He worked for the next 15 years responding to natural disasters and population movements. During an emergency response operation in the Philippines (Hurricane Haiyan), Raphael and and his friend, Arturo, met and started discussing how technology would help them in their missions. Passionate about innovation and committed to help people in need, they created Relief Applications on their way back to Europe. His days as a plane mechanic were behind him!
What does Raphael do
Relief Applications is a small team of 20 people. Raphael and the team try to be the missing link between technology and humanitarian and development organizations. He worked in the field of natural disasters for over 15 years and realized there is a big gap between the technology and the actual work. He believed that with the right technology, we can increase impact, and ultimately save lives. Six years ago, he launched an organization that works mainly with the United Nations, the Red Cross and NGOs to try to see where he can increase the impact and the efficiency of humanitarian work with technology.
In the end, technology is an enabler and facilitator, you don’t innovate for the sake of innovating, it needs to be helping your work
A few years back, his team was deployed in Cameroon. There was religious tensions from neighbouring countries, and thousands of refugees were crossing their border. The situation was bad because many of them walked for weeks, and many of the children were severely malnourished. Because the life expectancy of these kids was so short they had to act fast. So, in this particular mission, they were very swift in opening refugee camps with medical and therapeutic feeding centres. It was a mission that really made a difference to Raphael because the medical treatment was visibly improving the children’s health and saving their lives within just a few weeks. Often Raphael works at advising governments and UN agencies, so seeing the impact of his work up close was really a defining moment in his career.
As a humanitarian worker you want to be on the frontline, but when higher managerial positions are reached, you are removed from direct contact with the beneficiaries, even if the impact is greater.
Raphael at the Hub
About his brief few months at the Hub, Raphael says, “so far, so good!”. While he’s only been in the building four times because of COVID, he’s getting more involved, especially since his wife is part of The Humanity Hub as well with her own organisation!
Raphael was a part of our ImpactFest workshop, and he managed to do a roundtable about technology and innovation through which he provided team training. A lot of them called back and stayed in his network, and he says this was thanks to his involvement at The Humanity Hub!
Raphael is doing another initiative, where he provides free innovation advice, as well as on the organisational structure and quick-tip coaching on how technology could help increase the impact of some new projects. “It’s totally free, so worst-case scenario, isn’t that useful for you!” he says, reassuringly. His tech initiative is there for anybody that needs it, so he openly invites everyone to get in touch.
Innovation is all about new ideas, so I’m always happy to know what other people are doing to get inspired. Its about how you generate ideas and how you make connections. So, I’m kind of here to listen.
Raphael thinks that the current situation is extremely difficult for many people suffering from an acute crisis. The silver lining, however, is that it pushed organisations to move faster to embrace a digital transformation. In the long term, it will help us to redefine the way we work and maybe realize we can travel a lot less. This could even have a positive impact on the environment. It is an opportunity for us to reflect on our old ways of being and working and see what must be changed!