Coordination in humanitarian logistics through clusters

Marianne Jahre (Department of Industrial Management and Logistics, Lund University, Lund, Sweden Department of Strategy and Logistics, BI Norwegian School of Management, Oslo, Norway)
Leif‐Magnus Jensen (Department of Strategy and Logistics, BI Norwegian School of Management, Oslo, Norway)

International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management

ISSN: 0960-0035

Publication date: 7 September 2010



In the field of humanitarianism, cluster thinking has been suggested as a solution to the lack of coordinated disaster response. Clusters for diverse functions, including sheltering, logistics and water and sanitation, can be viewed as an effort to achieve functional coordination. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to a greater understanding of the potential of cluster concepts using supply chain coordination and inter‐cluster coordination. The focus is on the conceptual level rather than on specific means of coordination.


The cluster concept in humanitarian relief, along with some key empirical issues, is based on a case study. The concept is then compared to the literature on clusters and coordination in order to develop a theoretical framework with propositions on the tradeoffs between different types of coordination.


The results provide important reflections on one of the major trends in contemporary development of humanitarian logistics. This paper shows that there is a tradeoff between different types of coordination, with horizontal coordination inside cluster drawing attention away from important issues of the supply chain as well as the need to coordinate among the clusters.

Research limitations/implications

There is a need for more in‐depth case studies of experiences with clusters in various operations. Various perspectives should be taken into account, including the field, responding agencies, beneficiaries, donors, military and commercial service providers, both during and between disasters.

Practical implications

The paper presents the tradeoffs between different types of coordination, in which basic aims such as standardisation through functional coordination, must be balanced with cross‐functional and vertical coordination in order to more successfully serve the users' composite needs.


The focus on possible trade‐offs between different types of coordination is an important complement to the literature, which often assumes simultaneous high degrees of horizontal and vertical coordination.



Jahre, M. and Jensen, L. (2010), "Coordination in humanitarian logistics through clusters", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 40 No. 8/9, pp. 657-674.

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