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(Le)agility in humanitarian aid (NGO) supply chains

Kirstin Scholten (Faculty of Business, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland)
Pamela Sharkey Scott (Faculty of Business, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland)
Brian Fynes (Smurfit School of Business, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)

International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management

ISSN: 0960-0035

Article publication date: 7 September 2010




The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of agility in the context of supply chains of humanitarian aid (HA) organizations, particularly non‐government organizations (NGOs). This responds to the increasing pressure on NGOs to use their resources more strategically if they are to gain donor trust and long‐term commitment.


A literature‐based approach that extends the commercial supply chain concept of agility to NGOs is combined with the first exploratory semi‐structured interviews of these concepts with five NGO supply chain directors.


The commercial concept of agility when responding to disaster relief holds strong potential for increasing efficiency and effectiveness, but this application is restrained by the absence of supporting information technology (IT) and the relegation of supply chain management (SCM) to the “back office” by NGOs. This has potential implications for NGOs and other HA agencies.

Research limitations/implications

This paper represents an exploratory study, and an extended pool of interviewees would reinforce the qualitative findings. Planned future research will address this issue.

Practical implications

Practical guidance on how NGOs can proactively manage their organization's ability to respond with agility in a highly pressured environment is provided.


This paper is the first to offer practical guidance to managers of NGOs on strategies available to improve their organization's flexibility and agility, based on theoretical concepts and initial exploratory data. In addition, evidence of how commercial tools apply in a different arena may prompt commercial managers to be more innovative in utilizing and customizing supply chain principles to their particular context of operation.



Scholten, K., Sharkey Scott, P. and Fynes, B. (2010), "(Le)agility in humanitarian aid (NGO) supply chains", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 40 No. 8/9, pp. 623-635.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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