Coopetition in temporary contexts: examining swift trust and swift distrust in humanitarian operations

Sarah Schiffling, Claire Hannibal, Yiyi Fan, Matthew Tickle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: By drawing on commitment-trust theory, we examine the role of swift trust and distrust in supporting coopetition under conditions of uncertainty and interdependence in the setting of humanitarian disaster relief organisations. Design/methodology/approach: This paper presents findings from case studies of 18 international humanitarian relief organisations based on 48 interviews and the analysis of publicly available documents. Findings: We find that both swift trust and swift distrust support coopetition. As coopetition is simultaneous cooperation and competition, in this study we show how swift trust and swift distrust also occur simultaneously in coopetitive contexts. Research limitations/implications: Coopetition as a strategic choice is well-researched in the private sector, yet has received less attention in the nonprofit sector, particularly in contexts that are shaped by interdependence and uncertainty. We show the importance of swift trust and swift distrust in coopetitive relationships by drawing on commitment-trust theory. Practical implications: In focusing on a competitive environment in which cooperation is essential, we find limited choice of coopetitive partners. Humanitarian relief organisations must often simply work with whichever other organisations are available. We highlight how trust and distrust are not opposite ends of a spectrum and detail how both contribute to coopetitive relationships. Originality/value: Our findings contribute to commitment-trust theory by explaining the important role of distrust in forging coopetitive relationships. Furthermore, we contribute to prior work on coopetition by focusing on an uncertain and interdependent nonprofit environment.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalInternational Journal of Operations & Production Management
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1449-1473
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 19.06.2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Coopetition
  • International relief
  • Nonprofit sector
  • Suspicion
  • Trust
  • Humanitarian logistics
  • Swift distrust
  • Swift trust
  • Temporary operations


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