Humlog Blogs

By Hanken students Claire Dubosc, Karoliina Ahtiainen, Sara Paananen and Juulia Orimus


During our first academic year, we (as Hanken’s Humanitarian Logistics students) had a project course included in our curricula. Our mission was to conduct a project for Finn Church Aid, which is focused on education in emergencies. The aim was to identify bottlenecks from the past to prevent repeating them in the future. We all agreed upon the fact that “the team makes the experience” and were very lucky with the cohesion both between us and with the organization. Within our core team we had trust, motivation and commitment with a bit of humour when it was needed. The project was effortless yet provided valuable insights about humanitarian activities at the field (and yield excellent grades from the course).

With this kind of large project, we felt we were able to learn many different things that influence all aspects of our daily life, such as new findings related to personal competences, team working and so on. Overall, we agree with the team that the most important learnings of the project are the practical things from the humanitarian field, which we had not explored to this extent until we started working with FCA.

Already, during the very first project meeting with our FCA mentor back in January, we received a great deal of new information. New things popped out during each step of our project, as we got new sets of data from FCA until the last weeks of the project. The documents we received were sent in different languages, which enabled everybody to take part into the project and cooperate to get a full understanding of the direction we were taking.

Besides the literature review and data analysis, we conducted three in-depth interviews with organization’s representatives. They were very valuable for our project but also for our personal growth. Listening experiences from the field was inspiring and strengthened our will to work as a roster for some humanitarian aid organization in the future. We are aware that it is difficult to get the first change and experience as a newly graduated in the humanitarian aid industry. Therefore, we see this project and experience even more beneficial for us.

By Prof Joseph Sarkis, PhD, Professor at Foisie School of Business, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA and HUMLOG International Research Fellow at Hanken School of Economics, Finland



Solving problems and innovation requires creativity. Research requires problem solving and innovative ideas; that is, we seek to expand the body of knowledge.


I was watching a documentary called The Creative Brain.  It was produced by neuroscientist David Eagleman. The documentary offered ways for creativity to happen and some of lessons on creativity.  One creativity aspect that resonated is that creativity does not mean developing something out of nothing; that a new idea should never have existed before.


Creativity is using the known in unique ways. To be able to take existing concepts and bring them together through novel linkages.


Many of my studies seek to do this. This creativity element, from my perspective, is about interdisciplinarity. Acquiring concepts and ideas from various fields and areas of thought to advance the body of knowledge through yet unseen combinations is how creativity emerges.


This approach is what we did in our paper titled, “At the Nexus of Blockchain Technology, the Circular Economy, and Product Deletion” that just appeared in the open access journal Applied Sciences. We consider the nexus of Technology (blockchains), Society (a circular economy), and Business (product management).


By David Grant, Professor in Supply Chain Management and Social Responsibility, Hanken; Hlekiwe Kachali, Project Leader and Gyöngyi Kovács, Erkko Professor in Humanitarian Logistics, Hanken


#NotATarget is more than just a hashtag, it is the result of numerous attacks on humanitarians and humanitarian aid deliveries. Looking at the statistics of Aid in Danger illustrates the case: in 2018 alone 155 aid workers were killed, 171 were kidnapped, and 184 were arrested. Most of these incidents happen in conflict zones such as Syria, South Sudan, and Afghanistan.

The European Union H2020-funded iTRACK research project, of which the HUMLOG Institute was a consortium partner, developed technologies to ensure the safety and security of humanitarians and humanitarian aid deliveries in conflict zones. The conditions are dire enough from the conflict affecting people’s lives and livelihoods in these areas; seeing that humanitarian aid gets through to beneficiaries is very important and thus the safety and security of the personnel providing that aid is likewise important.



At the same time, deliveries in conflict zones are organised in a rather complex fashion. A common misunderstanding is that humanitarian organisations deliver everything by themselves all the way to the beneficiaries. They do in a way, but it is much more complex than that. The delivery process includes an array of options from humanitarian convoys with the humanitarian organisations’ own vehicles, to the use of numerous logistics service providers, the addition of even more vehicles at border crossings including loading and reloading, and entire supply chains of humanitarian organisations and their implementing partners on regional, national, and community levels. Understanding these logistical complexities is key to safely securing them.


So how did the HUMLOG Institute contribute to iTRACK? We investigated the users’ requirements for technologies to safely secure humanitarians, the workflows of humanitarian aid deliveries, and the complexities behind it all. Our great consortium partners in the project took on tasks from setting the specs for information flows to the ethics of the technologies, to in fact developing the tech.

By Joseph Sarkis, PhD, Professor at Foisie School of Business, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA and HUMLOG International Research Fellow at Hanken School of Economics, Finland



The advent of organizations managing environmental and social issues has been a concern since the beginning of corporations. Supplying jobs, goods and services to society, while maintaining a profit for their owners, has always been a goal of commercial organizations.

The expansion of this role has only relatively recently been experienced by organizations. Norms have always been shifting, sometimes in a cyclical fashion. But through various pressures, regulations, community norms, customer expectations, and even familial obligations, organizations have garnered greater interest in making sure that they do little environmental and social harm while meeting their economic obligations.

This is the premise that my latest edited book, “Handbook on the Sustainable Supply Chain” by Edward Elgar Publishing, is based.

The complexities of environmental and social sustainability have only increased over the past three decades. No longer can one single organization be considered a culprit in poor social and environmental performance. The organization is part of a larger ecosystem, which includes its partners that help to deliver its products and services.

Typically these partners are in the form of suppliers and customers; industrial and otherwise. Not only is there the complexity of managing the organization, but a number of organizations, and their relationships.  

There are also very many dimensions to consider. The complexities of relationships, the contradictory social contract goals, incomplete information, and dynamic values and norms, all point to supply chain sustainability management as the proverbial ‘wicked problem’.

Addressing such problems requires a holistic approach requiring systemic and cooperative resolution; a transdisciplinary effort. Transdisciplinarity requires government, industry, communities, and markets to work with academics to address these problems.

Although the vast majority of authors in this handbook are from business and engineering disciplines, the spirit of the book is to provide knowledge, fuel for action, to the transdisciplinary community.

Can one book do it all? Not necessarily, but it is an important snapshot as we reach 2020 to address issues of sustainable supply chains.  With 33 chapters we try to cover a large swath of issues.

By Olivia Iannelli, Research Analyst at Trilateral Research Ltd.


itrack1.jpgRecent years have seen an increase in the development and implementation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the humanitarian sphere.  Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international agencies, humanitarian organisations, governments, and private sector actors have in fact begun “designing, adopting, and employing ICTs including smartphone apps, remote sensing platforms such as satellite imagery analysis, surveillance drones and other forms of digital data collection and analytics, as standard components of sectoral and cross-sectoral responses to both the threat and alleged committal of mass atrocities in a variety of operational and geographic contexts.” [1] ICTs, have thus, become common components in the humanitarian sector [2] making up what is coined digital humanitarianism.
Although, they are created and deployed by humanitarian organisations with the best of intentions, these ICTs “are occurring in the absence of agreed normative frameworks and accepted theory to guide their ethical and responsible use.” [3] There have been instances where the presence and use of such, often experimental, ICT tools and technologies, could cause more ‘harm’ than good. [4] For instance, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh fear that "smart cards" with biometric data (fingerprints iris scans) will be shared with their persecutors in Myanmar. [5]
Social and cultural differences are considered as related to the habits, beliefs and traditions which characterise a society. Such necessary considerations include: gender issues, social impact, liability, trust, and religious and cultural issues.


Although, there is a large amounts of literature covering the topic of digital humanitarianism, there is no framework for understanding the nuanced social and cultural differences and according to Kristin Bergtora Sandvik from the University of Oslo and Nathaniel A. Raymond from Harvard there seems to be “a very weak community-wide interest so far in the ethical dimensions of ICT use for mass atrocity-producing contexts.” [6]


Amin Maghsoudi, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Tehran (UT) and HUMLOG fellow


Humanitarian response is currently hampered by a lack of real time, accurate data and information on needs with regards to the number of affected communities, areas prone to disaster, and aid supplies stored at the different points with different agents along the supply chain. This phenomenon is mostly escalated with lack of visibility and accessibility to the required data, information and goods in event of a disaster. According to previous report by Hamideh in ArcticStrartup, about the 30% of aid supplies does not reach to the correct destinations due to corruption and lack of supply chain visibility on data, information and available aid supplies. Therefore, agents operating in the network of humanitarian response lack a complete picture of where the aid supplies are stored, what data are available and how to get the necessary data, who are the players and to whom coordinate with.

Climate change, population growth, urbanization and number of disasters including earthquake, flood, sandstorms, accidents, droughts are occurring with an increasing trend around the world. The most vulnerable ones are developing countries, like Iran and Syria with less improvement on their capacity and learning lessons from the pasts. The obvious examples are the Plasco collapse, Kermanshah earthquake, Sanchi explosion, just happened within a year with a significant number of casualties in the region, while there were chances of providing rapid delivery with less casualties. Number of factors interfere to not have an effective response, while lack of decentralized data management system to be shared among the involved actors can be one factor to impede such efforts.

By Karl-Kristian Stuns, whose Master's thesis was awarded by the HUMLOG board this year.


It all started in April 2016 after my participation in the Logistics Emergency Response Unit (ERU) Foundation training of Finnish Red Cross (FRC). The course is an intensive one-week training program covering many areas of disaster relief logistics. This experience had left me pondering about the effectiveness of the training week. In addition, there is a need for identifying gaps in humanitarian logistics trainings (Bölsche et al., 2013). Furthermore, more research about what people learn from logistics trainings should be conducted (Gralla et al., 2015). The aforementioned led me to conduct this study.

Hence, the aim of my thesis was to evaluate the effectiveness of the Logistics ERU Foundation training of FRC, and the factors that influence its success by using Kirkpatrick’s four-level model for training evaluation. In addition, I wanted to support Finnish Red Cross in improving their logistics training.

I ended up developing two research questions to achieve the aim of my thesis: 1. How do trainees, facilitators and HR personnel perceive the efficacy of the Logistics ERU Foundation training of Finnish Red Cross in Kirkpatrick’s four-levels? 2. Which factors influence training transfer of Logistics ERU Foundation training?

In order to answer these questions, I used the Kirkpatrick’s four-level model for training evaluation as the framework for qualitative investigation of training transfer, from the perspectives of trainees, facilitators and Human Resource (HR) personnel. In total, ten respondents were interviewed.

The Kirkpatrick’s four-levels is a hierarchical evaluation model focusing on training outcomes of reaction, learning, behavior and results. Reaction represents the participants’ emotional (enjoyment and satisfaction) response to the training; learning represents post-training changes in participants’ skills, knowledge and attitudes; behavior, which can also be defined as the “transfer measure”, concerns measuring changes in behavior that take place when participants have returned from the training to the work environment; and results include measuring the impact from changes in learning and behavior on trainees. The Kirkpatrick model was also used as the framework for investigating which factors influence the four levels of reaction, learning, behavior and results.

Key findings of the study:

By the HUMLOG team


In the beginning of February a range of organizations participating in humanitarian relief got together during the 4th annual Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week in Geneva, which boast the headquarters of many UN agencies and international NGOs. This includes large actors such as the UNHCR and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as well as smaller consultancies.

The organizer of the event, whose secretariat is hosted by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also in Geneva, is the Leading Edge Programme. This Programme defines itself as “an informal collaborative platform where humanitarian experts meet to jointly identify and implement sustainable solutions to cross-cutting challenges in humanitarian response”. They have been organizing the Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week since 2015.

HUMLOG represented at the HNPW event alongside Finnish governmental and non-governmental agencies, as well as a few companies. This brought to the same table the range of actors HNPW was hoping to draw together: governmental and non-governmental organizations, researchers and companies.

Many of this year’s HNPW sessions dealt with the central and recurring theme of localization. Localization of assistance has been on the humanitarian agenda particularly after the Grand Bargain (see e.g. IASC) that aimed at changing the ways donors and aid organizations work in order to get more of the money put into the humanitarian system to the ones in need. In the discussions, localization was on the one hand being depicted as desirable, but on the other hand doubts were raised on the local actors’ abilities to respect the different standards and procedures that the humanitarian community has been implementing across the years (Now the Core Humanitarian Standard is linked to Sphere standards). As increased efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarianism was sought from a more standardized and coordinated system collaborating with the private sector, localization received a supporting role in the show. Particularly network organizations were echoing the concerns of national governments in charge of disaster management or the small-scale civil society organizations, reminding that they still are the key actors on the ground.

While we discuss about those central and recurrent issues in Geneva, we can also ponder, how to better get the voices of local organizations and beneficiaries heard at events like these.


By Linda Annala and Minchul Sohn, PhD Students, Hanken


Under the project “UNHCR Supply Chain Certification programme”, HUMLOG Institute aims to co-design and co-develop educational programmes jointly with UNHCR's Global Learning Centre. The need for such a programme has evolved parallel with the development of new organizational career paths at UNHCR. The overall goal is to provide UNHCR staff with an advanced learning programme on Supply Chain Management, focusing on existing challenges in the areas of supply chain strategy and field operations. In addition, the participants will be familiarised with supply chain decision-making tools.

As part of the project, HUMLOG Institute and UNHCR have jointly developed extensive modules suitable for distant e-learning. UNHCR’s staff are often working in challenging conditions, and their learning environments may require lots of flexibility in terms of accessing and working with the learning materials. The first modules are currently being piloted with a batch of 40 enthusiastic learners during a 6-month period ranging from October 2017 to March 2018. The modules include diverse learning materials ranging from quizzes, reading materials, case studies and a final workshop. The themes of the pilot modules are: Procurement, Transportation and Warehouse inventory management. During the piloting of the programme, new modules are already being developed; including topics such as asset management and supply chain design. The evolving modules will be valuable additions to the certification programme starting from March, 2018.

Starting from the end of August 2017, both of us - Linda and Minchul - have been working as e-Tutors in the project. Being part of the project has provided an exciting opportunity to combine our interest towards pedagogy, and simultaneously deepening our understanding on issues related to the varied topics of humanitarian supply chain management. As e-Tutors, we have been reading and commenting on case study assignments submitted by the participants, and interacting with UNHCR professionals working in different parts of the world. While our theoretical knowledge on the matter justifies our position as tutors, it is obvious that we have also learnt a lot from the participants due to their extensive practical knowledge and insights. We believe this is a characteristic of a truly co-developed educational programme. Not only does the co-design and co-development take place in the crafting of the educational materials and case studies, but also at the level of online interaction. We are looking forward to having yet another co-learning experiences in the future within the certification programme!

Linda Annala & Minchul Sohn

By Tunca Tabaklar, PhD. Tunca defended his doctoral thesis in Supply Chain Management and Social Responsibility: Scalability and resilience in humanitarian supply chains on December 16, 2017.


As humanitarian crises increasingly become part of our daily lives, humanitarian logistics and humanitarian supply chain management are becoming more important than they have ever been. As both natural and man-made disasters are increasing, affecting the economy and the lives of more and more people, resilience and scalability has become innovation in humanitarian supply chain management in dealing with demand surges.

The humanitarian sector, and thus humanitarian supply chains, is the key to providing the best possible services to the people affected by humanitarian crises. Humanitarian supply chains are defined by the various challenges in relation to the unpredictability of disasters and the unpredictability of demands. Humanitarian supply chains are growing, as many of the disasters have a global impact rather than a local impact. I would like to focus on why scalability and resilience are important for humanitarian organisations, humanitarian supply chains, and humanitarian networks. Recent humanitarian crises in Syria and Bangladesh and recent disasters, such as the earthquakes in Kashmir and Nepal and Hurricanes Maria and Irma, show the importance of scalability in humanitarian operations.

During my trip to Kenya, I observed that humanitarian organisations are running operations in survival mode as they are dependent on funding from donor organisations. As their programme come to an end, they exit. However, this is not an exit, as we observe in a business setting, as there is a need to provide small-scale aid and basic nutrition services. As we talk about supply chain integration here, future work should take beneficiaries into account; much as commercial supply chains integrate consumers into their chain, humanitarian organisations need to communicate properly to beneficiaries and hear their voices in order to create sustainable communities.

Humanitarian supply chains are scalable, thus they are able to quickly mobilise resources and monitor the communities continuously in order to anticipate what is coming, though this occurs mostly where developmental aid is taking place. Moreover, local actors are important for communicating to the local communities, as they are well aware of the needs of the affected population. The local actors can also enable humanitarian organisations to quickly scale up their capacities while continuing to provide humanitarian services to the beneficiaries. For instance, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been building scalability into their supply chains in order to be more sustainable and to allow them to scale up quickly by cooperating with local bodies.