WisBusiness: Former guv touts technology for humanitarian work

By Brian E. Clark

For WisBusiness.com

MADISON — When Scott McCallum left the governor’s office nearly eight years ago, he had to figure out what to do with the rest of his life.

It took a few years, but he found his calling as head of the Aidmatrix Foundation, an organization that uses technology for humanitarian purposes. In other words, it speeds the process of getting food, goods and services to those in need.

“I knew I wanted to help build something when I left Madison,” said McCallum, a former state senator and lieutenant governor under Tommy Thompson. “I also wanted to use my international economics background and I wanted to help people.”

Since Hurricane Katrina, Aidmatrix has grown to become a major player on the international aid scene and vastly improved the global supply chain for humanitarian relief, he said.

Last year alone, he said, the non-profit Aidmatrix facilitated the delivery of $1.5 billion in aid. The group works on six continents with 35,000 organizations. It has been invovled in Haiti since the earthquake hit last fall.

“In Haiti, there weren’t efficient systems before the earthquake struck,” he said. “Then, as in many cases, there was a secondary disaster when people and things arrive and it all gets more gummed up.”

After three days, he said, the U.S. State Department asked Aidmatrix to set up an information system so that the groups the government had vetted could see what supplies were being offered and arrange to get them to people in need.

Likewise, medical personnel were matched to hospitals and then flown to Haiti from the United States, he said.

Aidmatrix (http://aidmatrix.org) has been called an eBay for the charitable and disaster-relief worlds. It uses the power of the Internet to get the right aid to the right people at the right time — mainly by connecting willing donors with recipients and, sometimes more important, the right transportation channels.

Led by McCallum and managed in part by servers managed by Madison-based Supranet, Aidmatrix works with more than 35,000 partners each year to mobilize $1.5 billion in donations. Its supply-chain management system offers a virtual one-stop shop for donors and end users, whether those groups are involved in disasters such as the Haiti earthquake or the everyday crisis of feeding hungry people through America’s food pantries.

Aidmatrix is the network for virtually handling most donated food in the United States, all without owning a single warehouse or truck. America’s Second Harvest, the United Nations Food Programme, the National Association of Free Clinics and First Book are among major partners. It also works with 46 states and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Administration.

McCallum said his group also runs a system by which U.S. corporations can donate excess supplies to aid groups — both domestic and foreign — instead of sending them to landfills.

“Donations are offered in real time, groups can view and accept and organizations can also post their needs online to receive aid,” he said.

McCallum said the Aidmatrix system also promotes transparency to prevent “premature distribution,” another term for theft.

“We are bringing the efficiencies of the private sector to non-profits, which are mission- rather than profit-driven,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing because I’ve always believed in the market and using metrics to measure productivity.”