Strategic Partners and Strange Bedfellows: Relationship Building in the Relief Supply Chain

Strategic Partners and Strange Bedfellows: Relationship Building in the Relief Supply Chain

Paul D. Larson (University of Manitoba, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-824-8.ch001
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Abstract

This chapter is about relationship building in relief supply chains. Its primary purpose is to present and discuss the author’s actor-based typology of humanitarian relationships. The framework includes relationships among NGOs, as well as between NGOs and UN agencies, military units, and business firms. Examples are used to explore unique issues in the various types of relationships. One particular NGO, Airline Ambassadors International, is offered as an example of an NGO that builds relationships with a wide variety of humanitarian actors. The chapter also examines compatibility and complementarity of organizations across the three phases of humanitarian work: preparation, response, and recovery or development. Research opportunities are discussed in the concluding comments.
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Humanitarian Logistics Versus Business Logistics

According to Pettit and Beresford (2005, p. 314), “There are clear parallels between business logistics and relief logistics, but the transfer of knowledge between the two has been limited and the latter remains relatively unsophisticated.”

Kovács and Spens (2007) discuss several important differences between business logistics and humanitarian logistics. While business logisticians work with predetermined actors or partners and predictable demand, humanitarians deal with unknown or changing actors and unpredictable demand. Aid agencies receive many unsolicited and sometimes even unwanted donations, such as: drugs and foods past their expiry dates; laptops needing electricity where infrastructure has been destroyed; and heavy clothing not suitable for tropical regions. Compared to their business counterparts, humanitarian logisticians have greater challenges in collaboration and coordination of effort. Coordination of many different aid agencies, suppliers, and local and regional actors, all with their own ways of operating and own structures can be very challenging. Descriptions of relief operations frequently criticize aid agencies for their lack of collaboration, redundancies, and duplicated efforts and materials.

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