Reflections on research in humanitarian operations

Zoom Research Seminar / GF Forum

Past event — 29 March 2023

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Professor Luk Van Wassenhove

Emeritus Professor of Technology and Operations Management


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Humanitarian Operations has become a substantial and popular research topic in Operations Research and Operations Management. Our research toolkit indeed appears to be fit for the scarce resource allocation problems in disaster situations. But is it, really? What problems do practitioners struggle with and do they believe we can help them? Is our objective to honestly try to bring support or simply to score another research publication? Some would say the latter is what we do well but the former is not our role as academics. However, if we are convinced we can truly help then how would we set up a system where humanitarian practitioners and researchers can exchange information, coordinate, and perhaps collaborate? How would one select problems to work on, set up common projects to solve them, translate results into actionable recommendations, and test them in practice? Is such close collaboration necessary or even useful?


Professor Van Wassenhove currently focuses on aligning business models and new technologies with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, e.g. closed-loop supply chains, circular economy, and disaster and health logistics. He recently co-edited special issues on humanitarian operations for the Journal of Operations Management, the Production and Operations Management Journal and the European Journal of Operational Research. Professor Van Wassenhove is Fellow of the Production and Operations Management Society (POMS 2005). In 2006, he received EURO’s Gold Medal. He is Distinguished Fellow of the Manufacturing and Services Operations Management Society (MSOM 2009), and Honorary Fellow of the European Operations Management Association (EUROMA 2013). In 2018 he was elected Fellow of INFORMS and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Thessaloniki. At INSEAD Emeritus Professor Van Wassenhove holds the Henry Ford Chair in Manufacturing, as emeritus. He created the INSEAD Social Innovation Center and acted as academic director until 2010. He currently leads INSEAD’s Humanitarian Research Group and its Sustainable Operations Initiative.


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Bärbel Wegener

Assistant to Resident Faculty