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Measuring humanitarian supply chain performance in a multi-goal context

Ira Haavisto (Department of Supply Chain Management and Social Responsibility, Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland)
Jarrod Goentzel (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)

Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 2042-6747

Article publication date: 7 December 2015



The purpose of the paper is to deepen the understanding of supply chain performance objectives in the humanitarian context by striving to understand the underlying goals and conceptual variables behind the measurement of performance, such as efficiency.


The research is an in-depth case study with one humanitarian organization. The data are gathered with mixed methods over a two-year period. Interviews were conducted in August 2010 and April 2012, and a survey conducted in October 2012.


Misalignments are detected among different groups in humanitarian operations and between their goals and processes. These misalignments could possibly be corrected through long-term thinking in short-term operations by considering sustainability aspects throughout humanitarian assistance, for example. In addition, efficiency was a commonly identified objective in the case organization, although the definition varied widely and extended beyond the traditional definition of productivity to include planning, accountability and quality.

Practical implications

Better communication and definition of terms is necessary to align goals and the power hierarchy in humanitarian supply chains, where operations seem to be structured more according to donor requirements then beneficiary needs.


This is an in-depth case study, applying goal-setting theory to study supply chain performance. The study further responds to the public “aid efficiency” discussion by striving to recognize how efficiency is understood and how it can be measured in a humanitarian supply chain.



This research would not have possible without the generous support of the Academy of Finland project “Resilience in Disaster Relief and Development Supply Chains.”


Haavisto, I. and Goentzel, J. (2015), "Measuring humanitarian supply chain performance in a multi-goal context", Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 300-324.



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