Eric James, PhD

International Development, University of Manchester. Affiliated Expert, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. Co-founder/Exec. Dir. Field Ready.

Category of Humanitarian Benefit: Disaster Relief and Recovery

Short Biography/Background

Eric has been a relief worker and humanitarian since the start of his career in 1995. After working for USAID, he has since worked for a number of NGOs and has consulted for the UN on the frontlines of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. These professional experiences span over twenty countries including Afghanistan, Albania, Burundi, East Timor, Iraq, Liberia, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. From these experiences, Eric developed his passion for helping others in dire circumstances and for developing new solutions to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of assistance delivery.

An Eagle Scout and former US Army paratrooper, Eric holds two patents (for handheld water sterilization devices) and is the author/co-author of three books related to disaster relief. Eric has degrees from the University of Illinois, the London School of Economics, Tuft’s Fletcher School and the University of Manchester where he earned his PhD in International Development. Previously, he has lectured at several universities including the University of Minnesota, where he now co-directs an annual disaster response simulation. He is an Affiliated Expert of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) and was an Advisor/Teaching Fellow at Singularity University and a Board Member of the humanitarian organization, RedR. Currently, he is the Co-Founder/Executive Director of Field Ready.


Author/Research Site: https://www.ericbooks.com/
Humanitarian Simulation: https://globalhealthcenter.umn.edu/HumSim
Field Ready: https://www.fieldready.org/

Project Name and Description

When catastrophe strikes, people don’t have what they need, where and when they need it. As a consequence, people suffer and vulnerability persists. Existing mechanisms for delivery of aid, with a reliance on bulk imports of goods, are often costly and time consuming with 60-80% of aid funding spent on logistics. The result is the aid, which can be slow and expensive, is not always responsive to actual needs, and can harm existing local markets.

Field Ready, a non-profit led by Eric James, is dedicated to addressing this massive challenge. Established in 2013 by Eric and his co-founders, Field Ready is pioneering new approaches to manufacturing aid supplies where they are needed. Bypassing huge parts of the regular supply chain saves time, money and lives. This is done by transforming logistics through technology, innovative design and engaging people in new ways. Aid delivered this way can support families to recover more quickly after crises, help aid workers to be more effective, generate local livelihoods and increase resilience capacities.

Field Ready enables innovation that focuses on local manufacturing using appropriate (locally sustained) and exponential (e.g., 3D printing) technologies across different sectors including health, WASH, nutrition, shelter, energy and economic recovery. In this process, they are committed to humanitarian principles, open source sharing and reducing environmental impact. They have won numerous accolades and have been widely recognized in the media. Field Ready partners with others – such as World Vision, UNICEF, and local businesses and government – to transform the system for delivery of humanitarian aid, allowing relief items to be produced locally which can be faster, better and cheaper than imported equivalents.


Field Ready overview video: https://vimeo.com/247913689
Open source catalog: https://130a1e01-ed5d-f31b-eb3f-e23f77fab438.filesusr.com/ugd/84d105_00ba4dbf0db347eeac4d505616beed53.pdf
Awards: https://www.fieldready.org/blog/tag/Awards
Media: https://www.fieldready.org/in-the-news


Field Ready has created thousands of useful items needed by disaster affected communities and those who help them (e.g., health professionals, water supply engineers and other aid workers). Hundreds of designs are openly shared to help others to do the same. And hundreds of people are trained each year in topics ranging from human centered design to additive manufacturing (3D printing). The impact of this cuts procurement costs as much as 50%, in part by reducing transport to a single trip, and dramatically improving efficiency in aid delivery by meeting needs and building resiliency in ways that are at best only partially fulfilled at present. Specific examples include:

• In Syria, Field Ready manufactured international standard search and rescue equipment and repaired high-value medical equipment, saving over 40 lives and assisting thousands more.

• In Jordan, they worked with local groups to develop a process to turn waste plastics into items needed by refugee communities such as lighting and pest traps. Field Ready also carried out a project where people with disabilities designed and made their own assistive devices.

• In South Sudan, Field Ready demonstrated how well-digging equipment can be locally repaired using additive manufacturing.

• In Nepal, they have incubated three companies that have become the cornerstone of the country’s very new 3D Printing industry. Field Ready have established an industrial association of small suppliers to jointly and cost-effectively deliver essential items in the shelter and health sectors. They also supported a local company to develop an innovative design of cookstove burner; the design exceeded government standards and the company secured a contract to provide 220,000 cookstoves.

• In Bangladesh, they are launching a program to assist Rohingya refugees by locally making relief items and supporting the maker community.    

• In the South Pacific, they are working on numerous initiatives to respond to and reduce the risks of disaster. In Fiji, Field Ready is working with injection molding and roto-molding factories to make large water and sanitation items by loaning the appropriate molds to them. In Vanuatu, they provided relief to volcano evacuees by locally making a range of useful items, from beds and privacy screens to water carrying devices.

• In Iraq, Field Ready is supporting local makerspaces to engage youth to learn new skills and engage in ways that support peace. They supported five entrepreneurs to make a novel design of soap that research has shown has increased the rate of handwashing by children in refugee camps by a factor of four.

• In the Bahamas and the USVI, Field Ready helped communities devastated by the aftermath of Category 5 hurricanes by re-establishing power through rehabilitating broken solar panels which would have been destined for landfills.


Testimonials: https://vimeo.com/251853975

Video from hurricane response: https://vimeo.com/255778948

From Syria: https://spark.adobe.com/page/Ivb8wXmOuz0UJ/

From Iraq: https://www.fieldready.org/blog/tag/Iraq

From Jordan: https://www.fieldready.org/post/2018/12/10/mobility-aid-production-training-in-jordan

From Nepal: https://spark.adobe.com/page/aCCZ1H39b5BjH/

From South Sudan: https://www.fieldready.org/post/2017/05/26/making-a-water-pump-cap-in-south-sudan

Soap production: https://www.fieldready.org/blog/tag/Soap%20Making

From Vanuatu: https://www.fieldready.org/post/2018/09/06/responding-to-volcano-ambae-in-vanuatu

Fast Company article: https://www.fastcompany.com/40482782/post-hurricane-makers-are-designing-diy-solutions-for-disaster-relief?utm_content=buffere25ed&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer