A year ago this month, I was informed I had been put forward to receive an MBE in the 2020 New Year’s Honours list for ‘Services to International Development’, for my work with MapAction. Trying to keep the secret quiet over the Christmas holiday, even under lockdown, was a challenge but the outburst of congratulations over the new year period was incredible and fairly overwhelming. The pandemic has disrupted so many parts of our life and the Honours System has not been immune. The backlog of investitures meant I had to wait over a year before being invited to Windsor Castle to receive my medal.
Social distancing rules have forced the format of the ceremony to be changed but the day turned out to be less formal and more friendly than in previous arrangements; my guest (we’re only one allowed at the moment) was able to stay with me throughout and got a personal view of the ceremony itself very close to the action. As we passed through the state rooms at the castle we were given plenty of time to look at the many famous paintings and ornaments in each room. Once briefed and queued up in medal and alphabetical order, one by one we were presented to Princess Anne for bestowal. For me, this was accompanied by a very knowledgeable chat about how mapping helps disaster management, especially in response. She knows who we are, what we do and the difference we make.
And this is of course is what it is all about. My privilege of having such a special day and being awarded for my contributions is all possible because of the high profile MapAction enjoys across many sectors including, apparently, with the Royal Family. It is a testament not just that such a small organisation can be seen to punch above its weight and maintain its visibility, but that our high profile across multiple sectors (royals included) is built on a substantial reputation to deliver innovative, practical and relevant outputs that really make a difference across the humanitarian world.
As MapAction starts to look forward to its third decade, our technical depth and breadth of skill and experience combined with active and important partnerships around the globe put us in a strong position. Despite the challenges of climate change and increasing pressure on an already stretched humanitarian system, the application of maps, spatial analysis and information management to those challenges is the intelligent way forward to provide cost effective, pertinent knowledge in the hands of those who have to make decisions on where to put aid, support communities to be disaster resilient and ultimately leave no-one behind.
As I finally stepped out of the castle entrance and was allowed to pose for the obligatory photos it was a moment to savour, reflect on all I have been through with so many members of the organisation for so many years and be proud of our joint achievements. I have to admit I had a grin on my face most of that day. But as I drove down the hill away from the castle, I knew that fairly soon I shall have to roll up my sleeves again and apply all that experience to those challenges ahead.
See other articles about Alan’s award: