Improving the collaboration between humanitarian organizations in the field. A behavioral approach

Past event — 22 January 2020

Kühne Logistics University
Grosser Grasbrook 17, 20457 Hamburg, Room EE Lecture 2

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Lea Rüsch, PhD

Assistant Professor of Decision Sciences

IE University

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In a disaster, thousands of humanitarian organizations come together in the field to help beneficiaries but the coordination of their relief efforts is very difficult. To facilitate collaboration in such a chaotic environment, the United Nation has created the cluster mechanism that tries to bring organizations and their representatives together. In alignment with the United Nation’s sustainability goal of enhanced global partnerships, Logistics Cluster meetings seek to facilitate the information and resource exchange between humanitarian actors in the field. Given the cluster’s central role to the disaster response, our study intends to identify the behavioral barriers and facilitators during these meetings. For this purpose, we conducted a case study by interviewing 20 cluster members and analyzing respective meeting minutes. Based on the case, we built an agent-based simulation that tests different conditions and scenarios and their effect on the efficiency and effectiveness of cluster meetings.

Our study elicits, that the collaboration in these meetings is more successful if the cluster lead takes up the role as a neutral facilitator that coordinates meetings without following own interests. Furthermore, with the support of local actors and their valuable knowledge regarding the disaster, cluster meetings seem to reach their optimum. In sum, our findings are aimed to help improve the collaboration in humanitarian aid operations and contribute to sustainable partnerships.


Lea Rüsch is a PhD-Candidate in the field of Organizational Behaviour and Humanitarian Logistics under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Maria Besiou and Prof. Dr. Niels Van Quaquebeke. Her research focuses on the collaboration between humanitarian organisations. Here, she specifically investigates the tension between cooperation and competition as well as the need for power that drive humanitarian actions.
Lea did her Bachelor in Communication Science and Economics at the Johannes Gutenberg University (JGU) in Mainz. During her Master in Organisational and Social Psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), she developed her strong interest in the field of leadership and group dynamics. She earned the Master degree with a distinction. In her Phd-thesis, she takes up a behavioural lens on humanitarian operations and was awarded a scholarship from the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes. In the context of her studies, she worked as a visiting researcher at the Rotterdam School of Management. Furthermore, she is involved in the Research Institute on Leadership and Operations in Humanitarian Aid (RILOHA), which seeks to create exchange and awareness regarding the challenges in humanitarian aid.
To complement her academic education, Lea used to work in the communications and consultancy sector at international companies such as the ZDF, Deutsche Bank London and Kienbaum Singapore. As a job coach, she provided immigrants with German language and application trainings.


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Birgit Kappert

Program Manager