Humlog Blogs

This blog entry is a brief introduction to the city and the fire that spread across its hills and Eija's field research in Chile.

My feet are stuck in two fields of research: that of community resilience and humanitarian logistics and supply chain management (HLSCM). Disaster relief within HLSCM studies how the aid can and should be provided and often the focus on actors external to the affected communities. Meanwhile, community resilience studies how the affected communities prepare for, face and recover from disasters. The year 2015 I spent in Chile studying the reconstruction after the urban-forestal fire that spread across the hills of Valparaíso in April 2014. This blog entry is a brief introduction to the city and the fire that spread across its hills and my field research in Chile.

Valparaíso is a Chilean port city, famous for its three dozen steep hills and colorfully painted houses built into the steep slopes. Its architecture, exquisite graffiti and vibrant atmosphere have earned it a UNESCO status. Valparaíso has a neighborhood spirit lingering over it that the locals say other cities, such as Santiago, have lost. There are only a few bigger supermarkets and people continue to buy their groceries from the corner shops and the market places. One of Pablo Neruda’s houses is in Valparaíso and the city is famous for its cultural scene.



A roof-top view over the Valparaíso and its port, 2015.

In April 2014 a fire spread over the hills of Valparaíso, advancing both in the forest, as well as on the inhabited hills of the city. The fire in Valparaíso could be attributed to both natural and man-made causes: for example, the soil and trees were dry after the summer and trash had been gathering into the ravines between the hills. The official trigger of the fire was pointed at birds that had caught fire while sitting on the electricity lines. While the red glowing inferno of the fire was a haunting sight and phenomenon, the hazard was just the spark that started the disaster for the over 12 000 affected people.

Disaster relief is categorized into different phases that the affected community goes through. The hazard sparks the immediate response in the community, after which recovery and future disaster preparedness follow. These phases are intertwined. For example, the urgent fulfilment of basic needs that characterizes the immediate response overlaps with reconstruction, and future earthquake preparedness is built into the infrastructures during reconstruction from the previous earthquake. The external actors supporting each phase change or shift their focuses, but – at least in theory - the community persists.

How can we help people in escaping from crises and unsecure environments?

How can we help people in escaping from crises and unsecure environments? This is a question we at the HUMLOG Institute have received numerous times over the past six months by individuals, companies and organisations who want to convey their support to those affected by the ongoing refugee crisis in Finland.

The questions have been directed to us at the HUMLOG Institute, because the Institute’s researchers have since 2008 conducted research on humanitarian logistics and supply chain management. Research suggests that humanitarian supply chains are “most agile” as they are quick in responding to often unknown demand. By conducting research on these agile supply chains, contributions can be sought on how to make humanitarian supply chains more effective, and new ways of thinking also conveyed to the private sector.

Research at the HUMLOG Institute has so far largely taken place in an international environment far from the Finnish or even European everyday life. One of the foundations of humanitarian aid is the fact that it will support the ones in need and in environments, in which society cannot guarantee safety and a life in dignity.

The ongoing refugee crisis has however, brought individuals and families fleeing conflict, closer to us. Despite functioning societal structures and existing resources, also the capacity and willingness of EU countries to help displaced people is questioned. The organisations currently providing aid wrestle with growing, and most strikingly, mobile demand. Therefore, aid does not always reach the ones in need.

So what can we as individuals and as representatives of companies, organisations and academic institutions do to help?

First and foremost, we should do our utmost to avoid situations globally that force people to be displaced involuntarily. This we can do through political pressure, by supporting education, and supporting sustainable social and economic development in resource-scarce and fragile communities.

And what can we as company representatives and individuals do in the existing situation?



ruth.jpgThe HUMLOG Institute currently has several visiting researchers, andwe are going to present them all in this blog. The first one in turn is Professor Ruth Banomyong from Thammasat  Business School, Thammasat University in Thailand. Read a bit about Ruth's interests and what he thinks about Hanken and Finland in general!
Q: Why did you come to Hanken?

I came to Hanken to be an opponent for the public defense of a doctorate thesis.

Q: How long will you stay?

Just 10 days.

Q: What is your main research interest?

Logistics Policy Development and performance measurement.

Q: What else do you do than research (jobs, hobbies, …..)?

I like cooking, playing tennis and managing my University rugby team.

Q: What has visiting the HUMLOG Institute and Hanken given you so far?

It is always good to come back and catch up with friends and colleagues.  I like the academic tradition in Hanken as it is very different from my country.

Q: What’s the best thing about Finland?

I believe it is Finnish “dry” white wine & heavy metal karaoke bars.

Q: What’s the strangest thing about Finland?

Still waiting for it…

Q: Why should students and faculty from Hanken visit your home university?

Thailand is a good place to come to study and do research…my biggest selling point would be the weather, especially during the winter…

Thank you Ruth! Readers stay tuned, more interviews will be posted shortly.


During August 2015, The HUMLOG Institute has had the honor of hosting several visiting researchers. They will all be presented in this blog. In the picture below, Hanken's rector Karen Spens and Erkko Professor in Humanitarian Logistics, Gyöngyi Kovács, with our guests David Grant, Ruth Banomyong and Richard Oloruntoba. Follow the blog to get to know our guests!