Humlog Blogs

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.

By Marie-Lou Manca, Project Assistant, HUMLOG Institute and Sanchi Maheshwari, PRME Coordinator, Hanken School of Economics


Last year marked the beginning of operational and formalised cooperation between the three research institutes at Hanken, CCR, GODESS and HUMLOG. The institutes decided to put into practice an idea, which is often preached in academia but not implemented as often: collaboration.


This collaboration was possible because the three research institutes share most of their fundamental values (not to forget multiple meetings throughout the year):

  • First, they all value cross-disciplinary research. “Interdisciplinary research moves beyond simple collaboration and teaming to integrate data, methodologies, perspectives, and concepts from multiple disciplines in order to advance fundamental understanding or to solve real world problems.” Trewhella (2009)
  • Second, they share similar purposes. The vision of the institutes is to try to make the world a better and sustainable place, by working towards providing aid to persons requiring humanitarian assistance (HUMLOG), by enhancing the understanding of the interactions between business, politics, and society – particularly in relation to the societal impacts and responsibilities of business (CCR), and through increasing the awareness on gender, diversity, equality, and social sustainability (GODESS).
  • Finally, they all want to engage with societal issues through multi-stakeholder dialogue involving government, businesses, civil society organisations, students, and society more broadly speaking. As research institutes, they share the goal of real social impact which reaches beyond the realm of academia.

This collaboration was formalised via mainly two events:

  • The Responsible Organising conference, which took place on November 13 at Hanken.

By Nathan Kunz, Luk N. Van Wassenhove, Maria Besiou, Christophe Hambye, Gyöngyi Kovacs


This paper is based on a panel discussion at the 2015 conference of the European Operations Management Association (EurOMA). The panel brought together three academics and one practitioner to discuss how humanitarian logistics research can become more relevant for practice. Logistics is a central function in every humanitarian operation. It aims to deliver the supplies needed to support the victims of a disaster as fast as possible. This important activity is commonly referred to as humanitarian logistics.

Because of its importance and potential to create positive impact on humanitarian operations, the field of humanitarian logistics has become very popular in academic circles in recent years. A specialized journal has been launched, and multiple journals have published dedicated special issues on humanitarian logistics. As of November 2015, a total of 788 papers, conference proceedings, or book chapters have been written on this topic. However, despite the high volume of publications, humanitarian logistics research did not generate as much impact on practice as it could have. This lack of impact can be explained by the fact that humanitarian logistics research has not always been relevant for practice.

During the panel discussion, we identified a number of barriers that limit the relevance of humanitarian logistics research. We found that research problems were often defined based on the researchers’ interest rather than through a discussion with humanitarian organizations. Also, researchers have sometimes failed to take the specific context of humanitarian operations into account. Humanitarian logistics is very specific and differs from commercial logistics in several ways, such as the impossibility to predict future needs, or the scarcity of resources. Access to data is another challenge in humanitarian logistics research. Ready available data does not exist, and it is extremely difficult to collect it, due to safety concerns and the urgency under which most of the disaster response operations unfold. A lack of validation of results with practice is another barrier to relevant research in humanitarian logistics. It is not uncommon that researchers collect data in an organization, write a paper but then fail to discuss the results with the organization. This leads to studies that make wrong assumptions, or even find incorrect results.

By Claire Jackson, Senior Publisher: Operations, Logistics and Quality, Emerald Publishing


Launched in 2011, JHLSCM remains the only dedicated outlet for academic and practitioner research on humanitarian logistics and supply chain management. Under the Editorship of Nezih Altay and Ira Haavisto the journal is going from strength to strength. A full list of papers from the 2017 volume can be found at and we really welcome your feedback.

The journal’s editorial team very much values the support of its academic community and we welcome submissions and proposals for special issues (either based around a theme or a conference/workshop). For more information please see the journal homepage at or contact the Publisher, Claire Jackson at

Why publish with JHLSCM?

  • JHLSCM has recently moved to article level publishing, so all accepted papers will be made available online within 32 working days of acceptance. This is crucial in getting the journal’s valuable research to the people who will benefit from it as quickly as possible, and mean papers can be read and cited within weeks of acceptance.
  • We have submitted an application to be included in the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) and look forward to a decision next year. Although the journal is already including in the Emerging Sources Citation index, inclusion in the SSCI would give the journal an Impact factor, which we know is an important factor for many authors in choosing where to publish.

2017 developments:

  • We are delighted to welcome Maria Besiou and Rameshwar Dubey as Associate Editors to the journal.

  • An advisory board meeting, held at the POMS conference in Seattle, generated some great feedback and useful suggestions on ways of raising the profile of the journal.

By David B. Grant, Professor of Supply Chain Management & Social Responsibility


The World Meteorological Organization’s October 2017 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin (see reports there has been a 40% increase in total radiative forcing since 1990 – the warming effect on our climate – citing figures from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Long-lived greenhouse gases cause this forcing, including carbon dioxide (CO2) with average global concentrations increasing from 400.0 parts per million (ppm) in 2015 to 403.3 in 2016.

At the same time, organizations are trying to ensure optimum fuel management of their transport fleets due increasing fuel and other transport costs. Fuel accounts for 30% of operating costs in most transport companies; an average heavy goods vehicle (HGV) in the UK travels 80,000 miles per year and uses £64,000 of diesel and best practice fuel management might provide a saving of 5% per year or around £3,200.

However, while effective fuel management helps organisations save money they can also achieve environmental benefits through a lower CO2 footprint from reduced emissions. There are many ways that organisations can achieve these benefits to reverse CO2 increases. Following are a few examples:

1. Cutting the number of road miles

Understanding how to map expedient routes can help organisations increase deck or floor utilisation and make the most of the miles vehicles travel. Organisations can also decrease empty running by working together to find backhauling opportunities, which will reduce the total number of journeys. However, this is sometimes difficult as some goods have specific transport characteristics relative to other goods, e.g. pharmaceuticals and livestock. Imbalances in schedules may also cause underutilisation. Finally, delivery patterns usually vary and there is less demand for freight transport over a weekend.

2. Driving vehicles optimally

Recruitment of the right people and training in correct practices are also key. A person drives a vehicle, at least until autonomous vehicles come into force, and therefore has the most impact on its fuel management. The introduction in the UK of the driver’s certificate of professional competence (CPC) in 2009 resulted in an approximately a £10.5 million saving in fuel costs over one year by over 6,350 drivers achieving the CPC.

3. Using in-cab telematics