Martin McCann is CEO of international humanitarian disaster relief charity RedR.
From relatively humble beginnings, RedR has evolved into an international organisation with a number of experts on its books. How does it plan to further grow?
Growth? We want to provide our services to more people in more places! We want to change lives whenever we can. We would very much like to expand to some regional centres in disaster prone areas to bring training closer and more immediately available to those actually working on disaster response. We also would like to see RedR membership to be even better recognised as a standard of excellence. These developments will completely depend on resources. There is a great deal we would like to do but being a sophisticated sell, RedR does not have a big profile that brings in funds. This is why the support of the engineering community, which understands the contribution RedR makes, is so important.
Does one project stick out as being exceptionally challenging, personally speaking?
Often the most challenging is the inability to act due to political realities trumping real need. The most recent example would be Myanmar. Within 72 hours of Cyclone Nargis striking we had 180 members ready to go, and within a week 400. I believe only one got in due to the government’s fear of Western agencies.
Are there ever operations where you doubt RedR can accomplish its goals?
Due to the unpredictable nature of where RedR works you can never be certain that you can accomplish your goals but you simply must try. A bit of doubt can be a healthy spur to professionalism.
What is the one vital ingredient needed to succeed in your line of work?
Flexibility. In this line of work priorities can change by the hour. Routes, tools, sites and people in deep need cannot be predicted with certainty, but a professional can roll with the changes.
Why are so many people sceptical about donating to charities? Could some organisations do more to illustrate where the money goes?
People wonder if the money is being wasted. Sometimes it is. I think all charities are struggling to show impact. It is not how many water tanks you provide, it is about the quality of the water a child in a camp consumes. Sometimes the more you spend on impact studies the less work you can do so it is important to strike the right balance.
Some areas of suffering are publicised more than others - which one area of the world do we need educating about most?
Generally, there has been a politicisation of humanitarian budgets and coverage. Present or near-war zones get the most attention and money. There are many forgotten disasters in West Africa .
Impartiality is listed as one of RedR’s core values – have there been times when that has been tested?
I think for individual employees and members, myself included, it can be tested on a regular basis. As part of RedR, however, we realise the importance of those core values and stick by them which allow us to continue to help those in greatest need.
ACE is a patron of RedR – in fact, RedR is the only charity we are officially involved with. What can ACE member firms do to help RedR achieve even more?
Wonderful question! But first let me thank ACE for the tremendous support that they do give RedR. In terms of member firms there are many ways to help RedR. ACE members can give one-off donations or enter into a partnership as a ‘Patron’ of RedR. These firms can also encourage their staff to engage with RedR by introducing Payroll Giving, by promoting RedR’s events and training courses or by incentivising staff to support RedR through pledging to match gifts. Companies can also allow RedR members who work for them to get special leave on short notice to respond to a disaster. Finally, firms can encourage staff to participate in our Technical Support Services which provides free technical advice to charities and communities around the world from the comfort of one’s PC. We work closely with companies to identify the kind of partnership that suits their business needs.