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How Tech is Shaping Mission Delivery: A Chat with Red Cross Chief Innovation Officer Sajit Joseph

It’s been 140 years since Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross, and the need to alleviate human suffering hasn’t changed. How we meet that need, however, is ever-evolving.

In our latest LinkedIn Live discussion, moderated by Jonathan McNamara, regional communications director for our Virginia Region, we asked Sajit Joseph, chief innovation officer, about innovation at the Red Cross and how technology is helping shape the future of mission delivery.

Tell us about your career path and how you joined the Red Cross?

“I spent my entire career in management and digital consulting. At some point in my career, I came to a crossroads where I realized I was spending too much time traveling. I made a change in my career and I joined the Red Cross. That was nine years ago. Since then, I’ve had a blast! I’ve played multiple roles at the Red Cross. I started off with managing our digital platforms and then moved on to managing technology for our blood services. Now, I’ve been the chief innovation officer for the last three and a half years.”

How did the innovation team come to be?

“When we started off, it was just two of us. After a few experimentations we realized, we are going to focus on building products end to end and once it’s built, we will hand it over to our partners in technology, who can take care of it and support it from an ongoing basis.

We have product managers who focus on just the definition of what should be the problem they’re trying to solve. We also have a bunch of data scientists who are experts in data analysis and figuring out how machine learning could be used to solve some of our toughest problems. We have developer testers, and then we have conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts as well. It’s a mix of eclectic folks, but the best thing about it is – they’re amazing problem solvers.”

How have you seen technology change at the Red Cross?

“I’ve really seen a big shift in how we are using technology across the organization. If you just look at where we are right now, we are in a situation where we have chatbots and voice skills, which are used to interact with our employees and our donors. We have machine learning models, which are used for supply chain optimization in the backend. We are using advanced technology for a lot of our systems. We have tools, like RC View, which is used for situational awareness and decision-making for disasters. I would say that we have come to a point where some of the things we are working on are truly innovative and the first in those spaces globally.”

What is the biggest challenge the Red Cross is facing?

“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we are facing. Because of climate change, we have an increasing amount of disasters which we of course need to respond to. There are a whole lot of cascading effects of climate change occurring and in my opinion, that is probably one of the biggest challenges, which we need to figure out. We are looking at how can we use technology to help with capacity building to be able to respond to those disasters at the same level of efficiency.”

How is technology helping us respond to disasters?

 “We’ve been very focused on how to use technology for responding to disasters and there’s a whole slew of tools which are used. There are automation and data visualization tools. RC View has a huge visualization capability, which truly helps with figuring out what’s happening on the ground. What kind of impact, what kind of resources are we providing? It helps a lot with situational awareness and with quick decision making.”

What do you see for Red Cross in the future?

“I see a great future. We’ve been evolving so quickly and now I would say we are becoming a very tech savvy organization, which is really using technology to change the mission. It’s not about the technology, it’s not about the shiny object, it’s about the mission. And it’s about how do you use technology to make the mission more effective and make it quicker, faster and get more help in the hands of people who need it.”

Watch our full conversation about innovation at the Red Cross on our LinkedIn page.