2012 Conference on Health and Humanitarian Logistics

Creating Sustainable Supply Systems for Delivering Humanitarian Assistance


Erica Gralla

Human approaches and models for humanitarian response transportation planning

Recent disasters have highlighted the importance of supply chain management in emergency response, and sparked interest in translating insights from commercial logistics models to the humanitarian context. However, human experts may be better suited than models to making decisions in the dynamic, information-poor, multi-objective context of humanitarian response. This research explores the strengths and weaknesses of human decision-making in humanitarian logistics, to identify ways to improve both models and human decision-making. First, I describe an ethnographic study designed to discover how humanitarian experts plan aid deliveries for emergency response. Based on observations of 10 teams of experienced logisticians responding to a simulated emergency, I used grounded theory and visual mapping methods to discover and describe their decision-making processes. Second, I describe a conjoint analysis study designed to understand how experts conceive the goals of humanitarian aid delivery. I used a survey to estimate the utility functions of humanitarian logisticians over five key attributes of aid delivery plans, quantifying the importance of each attribute. Together, these two studies provide the fundamental understanding needed to develop better methods and tools: a deeper understanding of human decision-making in emergency response enables us to leverage the strengths of both people and models to improve humanitarian aid delivery.

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