Exploring the application of blockchain to humanitarian supply chains: insights from Humanitarian Supply Blockchain pilot project

Hossein Baharmand*, Amin Maghsoudi, Giulio Coppi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Some studies and reports have recently suggested using blockchain technology to improve transparency and trust in humanitarian supply chains (HSCs). However, evidence-based studies to display the utility and applicability of blockchains in HSCs are missing in the literature. This paper aims to investigate the key drivers and barriers of blockchain application to HSCs and explore whether evidence could support that the application of blockchain improves transparency and trust in HSCs.

This paper puts forward a two-stage approach to explore the blockchain application in HSCs: an initial exploration of humanitarian practitioners and academicians interested in blockchain through focus group discussions; semi-structured interviews with practitioners involved at the UK Department for International Development's Humanitarian Supply Blockchain pilot project.

First, we found that main drivers include accountability, visibility, traceability, trust, collaboration, time efficiency, reducing administrative work and cross-sector partnership. Main barriers, however, are composed of engagement issues, lack of technical skills and training, lack of resources, privacy concerns, regulatory problems, pilot scalability issues and governance challenges. Second, evidence from our case study revealed the blockchain application could have added value to improve visibility and traceability, thus contributing to improve transparency. Concerning trust, evidence supports that blockchain could enhance both commitment and swift trust in the pilot study.

Practical implications
Our study contributes to a more understanding of added values and challenges of blockchain application to HSCs and creates a perspective for humanitarian decision-makers.

This study provides the first evidence from the actual application of blockchain technology in HSCs. The study discovered that it is still less evident in many humanitarian organizations, including medium- and small-sized nongovernmental organizations, that they engage in a direct deployment of in-house or customized blockchain-based HSC. Instead, these actors are more likely to indirectly use blockchain in HSCs through a private commercial partner.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalInternational Journal of Operations & Production Management
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1522-1543
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 20.07.2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • blockchain technology
  • humanitarian supply chains
  • disaster relief
  • transparency
  • trust
  • case study
  • blockchain

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoHP: Digitisation and sustainability in intellectual property
  • AoHP: Humanitarian and societal logistics


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