This blog was written by Andre Heller, Program Director of Signpost. Signpost, is an International Rescue Committee (IRC)-led consortium project that creates digital information hubs to equip and empower clients in times of crisis. 

Andre Heller, Program Director, Signpost
Andre Heller – Program Director, Signpost

This year’s World Humanitarian Day theme is “No Matter What” – a recognition that the humanitarian community strives to reach people in crisis with lifesaving assistance, regardless of the dangers or difficulties in making that happen. That tenacious spirit is both fitting and necessary this year. Since last August, long-standing humanitarian crises in places like Syria and Venezuela have not abated. At the same time, new crises have emerged or conditions have deteriorated to alarming extents in countries as far-flung as Afghanistan, Haiti, Niger and Sudan.

In the face of these mounting challenges, it is understandable to feel despair. But there are reasons to hope. People facing unimaginable difficulty constantly find new ways to persist, recover, and eventually thrive. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) sees their courage and resilience firsthand every day. And the humanitarian community that serves them, in partnership with donors and grassroots communities around the world, are developing new and more powerful ways to move humanity to a better place.

A powerful example of this is Signpost, an IRC-led consortium project that creates digital information hubs to equip and empower clients in times of crisis. Signpost platforms deliver critical information through local teams equipped with cutting-edge digital tools — providing communities with timely and actionable information. That information is vital for people to solve difficult and complex problems and make pivotal decisions on their course of action in times of crisis.

Two women looking at a cell phone
After fleeing violence in Honduras, Maria meets with an IRC staff member who shows her the InfoDigna website, a Signpost initiative that provides reliable information for people transiting through Mexico. Photo Credit: Paul Ratje

The correct information at the right time helps people understand big questions like: is it safe to flee the country? Am I eligible for a food program to support my family? Where can I find employment? Where to find the hospital that can help with a chronic illness? How do I enroll my children in a new school in a new city? Where can my family find shelter in a place that is safe from violence?

Signpost helps people approach these questions with up-to-date, accurate information. It is now active in 22 countries across five continents and plans to expand in the months and years ahead.

From the beginning, partnership has been a key element of Signpost’s power and success. Cisco’s support empowered the Signpost technology team to innovate and remove years of backlog. In just one year Signpost built the following technologies that helped exponentially grow the reach and impact of the program:

Service Map Rebuild

A low-code data management system for Service Mapping Officers across the globe to map service locations so our clients can better access the places they need. This tool can connect to chatbots, geospatial data, and manage real-time incoming information.

Universal Analytics Stack

A central hub where all Signpost data is securely stored to facilitate better targeting of humanitarian information and aid in humanitarian advocacy.

New Front End

A quick-deploy and centrally administered web-application deployed to over 10 countries. This template can function online and offline, and store critical information with a utilitarian approach.

Woman on laptop looking over shoulder at camera
IRC staff look at CuentaNos.org in the office in El Salvador. Cuenta Nos is Signpost in Central America.

In the past year of Cisco’s support, Signpost reached 32 million people, served 5.74 million users, with 131,830 unique two-way communications with clients, nearly doubling our impact numbers from all years (2015-2022) preceding. This support led to a 188% increase in reach, 187% increase in users, and 393% increase in two-way communications over last year’s annual count.

In recognition of Signpost’s success in connecting people in crisis with vital and vetted information, the United Nations recently awarded the project with a prestigious Sustainable Development Goal Action Award. There is no question that bold and innovative partnerships like Signpost have a huge role to play in helping the international community both reach the United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals and in helping the humanitarian community serve its clients more broadly.

To learn more about the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and its partnership with Cisco, as well as how you can support and donate, visit the Cisco Crisis Response page and IRC’s website.


Noel Burke

Communications Manager

Cisco People, Policy & Purpose