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Designs on changing disaster relief



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There is only one way to get better at making things better; and that’s getting better at getting together.


Collaboration. It’s not just ‘a’ way to make sure this world has a future, it’s ‘the only’ way.

This philosophy will come to the fore in two weeks, when the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 discusses the adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, first proposed three years ago at Rio+20.


Naturally, the detail of the 17 goals is intricate, diverse and a little daunting, but luckily, behind them all is one simple, universal and attainable driving force: Global Partnership.


The official UN statement says they will not be able to reach the goals without it, and many agree – including us.


This is why, tomorrow, The Philips Foundation has brought together the best of Philips Design, one of the largest design groups in the world, and the Red Cross, represented by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Netherlands Red Cross, so we can co-create innovations that could enhance healthcare for those in need.


And we’re not just talking physical innovations. Inevitably, those matter, like in the wake of May’s Nepal Earthquake, when Philips and The Philips Foundation immediately contributed cash and medical equipment to those in need.

But supporting disaster relief doesn’t end with material things. To be honest, it’s barely even started.


Because at the crux of effective humanitarian aid – and at the crux of Philips and the Red Cross - is people. People who know, who care, who are experts in their field and who want to use that expertise to create innovations for the thing that matters most: people in need.


What they need is vast and varied: housing, food, water, shelter, safety, medicine, psychological support, emotional support, schooling. Obviously, no one organization can offer the whole spectrum by themselves, which is why you need the collaboration we’re talking about, and why you also need a sense of self-awareness.


By this, we mean the ability to realize what you’re good at, focus on that, then let go of the rest. There’s no point in a company like Philips saying they’ll offer food parcels, that’s not what we know. What we say instead is, ‘we’ll offer the best of our healthcare innovations and our people’. And this week, as we celebrate 90 Years of Philips Design, the Co-create Workshop seemed the perfect time to do just that, bringing our design creativity and thinking to two of the Red Cross’ most important focus areas, Mother and Childcare and Data Management.


Why those two topics? Mother and Childcare is not only a key focus of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, it’s also already at the very heart of what both Philips and Red Cross do every day.


With Data Management, it’s less so. Philips, as a technology company, has been innovating in the area of data management for some time. However the Red Cross, like many humanitarian organizations, has many colleagues still working in the field and in disaster areas and cataloguing by hand, with no automated back-up. Disaster relief is naturally always focused on the immediate task of saving as many lives as possible, and in circumstances where there may be no water, power, food or mobile phone network, gathering data is particularly hard. But of course, if done the right way, this can help saves just as many lives.



What exactly is ‘the right way’ for Red Cross? It might be using data to better identify vulnerable households and measure the impact of interventions; or it might be designing systems enabling quicker and more reliable registration of patients; or it might be advancing tools to better identify, aggregate, and interpret data about a humanitarian disaster from social media.


But whatever ‘it’ is, as with the ‘right’ innovations for Mother and Childcare, we will have found it because we worked together.


In a microcosm of what the UN Sustainable Goals will achieve, Philips and the Red Cross will have brought together a diverse collection of people – all with their own vision, skills and capabilities – and we will have united them in one ambition: to make things better.

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Katy Hartley


Director Philips Foundation

Katy is heading the Philips Foundation, which is a registered charity aimed at bringing innovation to those most in need. She joined Philips in 2007 and was responsible for creating and managing The Philips Center for Health & Well-being. She also started up Philips’ ongoing partnership with the World Economic Forum. Prior to joining Philips, Katy worked at Royal Dutch Telecom (KPN) between 2002-2007, eventually heading the Consumer Division’s communications team for the Dutch-based company.

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Sean Carney


Chief Design Officer

Sean Carney is Chief Design Officer for Philips and Chief Design Officer for Philips Consumer Lifestyle. As the head of the design competence across the company, he is leading global teams delivering insight-driven, meaningful innovation which bring value to people and business.

Follow Sean on: LinkedIn

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Mechthild Romback


Corporate Partnership Manager

Meggi Rombach works as Corporate Partnership Manager at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland. She is responsible for the corporate partnerships including the Philips Foundation, the Swiss Re Foundation, ABB and LafargeHolcim. The vision of the corporate partnership unit is to mobilize the private sector in support of the ICRC’s operational challenges by amongst others sharing knowledge across sectors and joint innovation. Prior to joining the ICRC, Meggi worked in brand management for about a decade; mainly at Procter & Gamble. She holds a MBA in International Organisations Management at the HEC Geneva.


Follow Meggi on: LinkedIn

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