A focus of this year’s Global Disaster Relief Summit (AIDF) is emergency procurement strategies. As a startup whose mission is to create a global, transparent marketplace for purchasing aid supplies, we will attend with open ears.
Throughout my career, I noticed the proliferation of innovations directed towards victims of natural and manmade crises and those that live in poverty that make up the majority of the world’s population. While applauding the myriad of inventions coming out of humanitarian engineering departments, social enterprises and crowdfunding sites, I was still having trouble finding those products when I needed them in my work in conflict zones and for development programs. I knew emerging products like cook stoves and solar lights often have higher efficiencies and lower price points and would be valuable additions to our work.
When I attended conferences, I heard the same complaints over and over again about locating, sourcing, and purchasing aid supplies: We can’t find what we want, when we want it and the price we can afford. Good quality products are hard to find or distinguish from the rest. We can’t easily purchase supplies, especially the ground-breaking ones. It takes too long to go through competitive bidding processes and there are many compliance factors.
I’m not surprised that ‘emergency procurement strategies’ is on the agenda again, but I am happy to report that there is progress on several fronts, and just as new technologies were applied 10 years ago to humanitarian innovations, today’s tech can streamline emergency procurement and provide aid more efficiently to those that need it most. I founded The Level Market (TLM) in 2015 after observing the effects that Amazon, Alibaba and eBay had on both consumer and B2B purchasing. I never saw an industry more ripe for a customized, open e-commerce platform than the aid world. TLM is just that. An online destination that not only has your in-demand goods such as blankets, tarps, and tents; it has innovations including solar chargers, water filters, and birthing kits. Buyers can conduct side-by-side comparisons on specs and certifications, save items for HQ or field staff to review, get competitive quotes with one click, purchase products and manage payments and records on the site.
While I started building the site with aid buyers in mind, it has also become apparent that aid suppliers and inventors were hungry for an aggregated platform on which to list their products. Individual websites, catalogs and conference attendance, while valuable, are a cumbersome method to find and be found. Our aim is to become the Amazon for Aid – where buying water filters for refugees is as easy as buying books. AIDF’s Summit will give us an opportunity to make the human connections outside of the platform. We’ll be fed important updates and timely information on efforts to deploy the right products to hot spots around the globe. We’ll be listening and incorporating valuable learnings into our platform so that hard-working aid buyers and suppliers can serve those in need effectively.