From "People of Action" towards "Organisation of Action"

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Although Rotary Clubs in Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg have for decades been providing financial and material support following catastrophes (tsunami, floods, droughts, fires, earthquakes, etc.) to sister Clubs in other parts of the world or to relief organisations on the ground, the experience of the BeLux Clubs was mainly limited to just this:

     indirectly supporting the relief effort through Clubs and organisations on the ground.

This time the epicentre of the catastrophe was Belgium and there was a direct 'responsibility'.

An unprecedented situation ...


As mentioned in the previous contribution(s) on the DRCM theme, from "day 1" - 15 or 16 July - Rotarians were on the ground
to make their time, skills, knowledge and network available, both in their own streets and to the wider community.

Mopping up, clearing debris, welcoming people, collecting goods, raising funds ... having meals prepared through the Social Restaurants we support, delivering food and hygiene products ... and so on.

Everything is possible, everything is allowed ...

In this initial phase, the needs were so great and so acute that every form of aid, however disorganised, contributed to alleviating the suffering of the victims
Dozens of spontaneous groups of volunteers created a constant supply of relief goods and manpower on the spot.
Rotary was one of them.

Disaster Relief

Disaster Relief


"the process of responding to a catastrophic situation, providing humanitarian aid to persons and communities who have suffered from some form of disaster.
It involves dealing with and avoiding risks and preparing, supporting, and rebuilding society when natural or human-made disasters occur. "

In other words, Disaster Relief is an umbrella term for (all) actions aimed at supporting victims and society after a disaster, in order to limit the consequences and to reconstruct.

Diversity in stages

Different target groups have different needs in the successive stages of recovery from a disaster.
Broadly speaking, Disaster Relief is situated on a timeline between the immediate Emergency Response on the left and a return to normal life on the right.

The figure above shows the successive stages of Disaster Relief, 1, 2A, 2B and 3.
These differ in part depending on the type of emergency and will be longer or shorter depending on the location of the disaster;
but in general, Disaster Relief starts with food aid, evacuation and emergency sheltering, and safeguarding the infrastructure (salvage).
This is the phase where massive and not very structured aid can still lead to a real result.

As one moves into subsequent stages, there is a greater need for process-oriented assistance, large scale, more complex coordination.

For Rotary, it was precisely this first transition that was the point of reflection where it was determined that better, structured and integrated processes were needed for Rotary's efforts to be efficient and effective.

Even in the initial phase, attempts were made to offer proactive assistance on a structural basis

A Structure as the Starting Point

Rotary BeLux is made up of hundreds of Clubs spread across the territory of Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
Clubs together form Zones and Zones form the four Districts that fall within the geographical contours of BeLux.

A flat organisation

The Districts and Zones have little operational significance.
They take care of internal and external communication, member management, Grants and so on, but are not the structures responsible for Rotary's 'operational' activities.
These are the Clubs, which are all equal and can work together spontaneously, but without any hierarchy or defined rules for cooperation between them.


In building DRCM - Disaster Relief & Crisis Management - the intention was to support the existing operation and organisational principles and propose a flexible high-performance structure based precisely on the added value of the 'absence' of a layered hierarchy within Rotary.

At the tactical level, OSOCCs were formed based on known and defined 'committees'.

On a strategic level, a net-centric organisation was chosen:

  1. - geographical or functional clusters were defined which act as autonomous (expertise) cells within the whole of Rotary BeLux; e.g.: logistics, general assistance, conservation techniques, psychological assistance, Clubs in D-2160, ...

  2. - These cells are not based on one universal command structure, but both the composition and the place of command are different and adapted to the available capability within Rotary; e.g. the conservation techniques cluster may consist of 8 members from different Clubs led by a Club in D-2150; whereas the contracts cluster may consist of 6 members from completely different Clubs and led by a member from a Club in D-2130.

  3. - DRCM combines and coordinates all these 'competence centres' with only the specification of their mission as a form of steering;

  4. - the humanitarian ICT platform EDEN was rolled out to provide unified and standardised tools and information to all Rotary entities, regardless of their size, involvement or expertise.

The net-centric organisation goes with the flow and is dynamically adapted, expanded or downsized according to concrete DR needs.


The existence of a worldwide, completely similar organisation of all Clubs - so that everyone knows how each Club functions - combined with the universal principle that we are not constrained by administrative or language borders offers enormous advantages that neither ad hoc organisations (volunteers) nor governments can have.

Humanitarian & military inspiration


The OSOCC concept of UN OCHA / INSARAG was adopted for the Rotary clubs that have the geographical leadership of the relief efforts in certain affected areas.
We have replaced "Centre" (the last C) by Cell because we are a lot smaller in scale, but the objectives and operating principles are similar to our humanitarian big brothers.


Each OSOCC has a primary and backup 'liaison officer' (L/O) who maintains almost daily contact with the affected citizens, local authorities and other organisations on site.

One (basic) structure for all

Clubs that do not have a lead on a particular affected area (Operations Area) but still provide assistance are Support Clubs and they form a link with the other structures through at least an SPOC or ideally their own DRCM committee if the size of their deployment warrants it.


In the next contribution, we will discuss the structuring of information and the EDEN system.