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Agility and resource dependency in ramp-up process of humanitarian organizations

Qing Lu (Department of Logistics Management, Izmir University of Economics, Izmir, Turkey)
Jie Wu (Faculty of Business Administration, University of Macau, Taipa, Macau)
Mark Goh (Business School, The Logistics Institute – Asia Pacific, National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Robert De Souza (The Logistics Institute – Asia Pacific, National University of Singapore, Singapore)

The International Journal of Logistics Management

ISSN: 0957-4093

Article publication date: 15 July 2019

Issue publication date: 10 September 2019




The ramp-up in humanitarian logistics operations is a stage when the demand surges, often at the start of an emergency. In response, agility is a key strategy used by the humanitarian organizations (HOs). However, the HOs are constrained by their existing resources and have to respond in the ramp-up process under their resource dependency. The purpose of this paper is to develop a framework on agility-building strategies used by HOs for the ramp-up.


This study applies both the dynamic capabilities perspective and resource dependence theory to humanitarian relief operations, and develops four testable propositions to explore the agility-building strategies of the HOs for the ramp-up process. A multiple-case study is conducted on six international HOs operating in Indonesia to verify them, in addition to an extensive literature search.


The case study shows that the human resource management, pre-positioning, standardization and supplier management of the HOs are all related to their resources and environment in the ramp-up process. The authors highlight the practical differences between the few super large, resource rich and centralized HOs with the second-tier HOs.

Research limitations/implications

Given the small sample size and single country as the site of study, some findings may not be applicable to the other HOs or in other regions.

Practical implications

The propositions could be applicable to other HOs operating under similar environments, and potentially to the commercial enterprises operating in a highly volatile environment with severe resource scarcity.


This study provides new insights into ramp-up operations and into how HOs build their agility and reduce their resource dependencies. Theoretically, the paper applies two established theories in the strategic management literature to a new field.



The authors express their gratitude and appreciation to all organizations and individuals supporting this study. The early version of this study has been presented on the 22nd International Symposium on Logistics (ISL2017).


Lu, Q., Wu, J., Goh, M. and De Souza, R. (2019), "Agility and resource dependency in ramp-up process of humanitarian organizations", The International Journal of Logistics Management, Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 845-862.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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