Toward a conceptualization of humanitarian service providers

Diego Vega*, Christine Roussat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: Service development and outsourcing are growing trends in humanitarian logistics (HL). Humanitarian organizations (HOs) have developed specialized units to perform logistics activities on behalf of other aid organizations, as a commercial logistics service provider (LSP) would do. The purpose of this paper is to explore the characteristics of HOs acting as LSPs and the differences with their commercial counterparts.
Design/methodology/approach: This research uses a two-level content analysis of 149 annual reports from 50 local and international HOs, performed with the help of qualitative data analysis software. First, a manifest content analysis identified the number of occurrences of logistics-related words and later, a latent content analysis studies the use in context of such words to characterize the nature of HOs as LSPs.
Findings: Evidence shows that some international HOs – in some cases through specialized logistics units – perform the same activities as commercial LSPs, providing similar services. However, due to the characteristics of the humanitarian context, HOs acting as LSPs can offer a wider range of value-added and dedicated services to clients (other HOs) than commercial LSPs. Research limitations/implications: Exploring the activities performed by HOs on behalf of other aid organizations and characterizing them as service providers constitutes a first attempt to grasp the unique features of these particular humanitarian LSPs. The results open the discussion about the services HOs offer, thus contributing to theory development in HL.
Practical implications: The identification of HOs acting as LSPs introduces a new actor to the humanitarian network, which the authors refer to as humanitarian service provider (HSP). This supposes two main managerial implications. First, the results support the idea of seeing servitization as a competitive difference, having a substantial impact on the way HOs build their strategies and achieve competitive advantage. Second, HSPs can push their commercial equivalents to identify new activities or services to offer and maintain their competitive advantage with regard to the newcomers. Originality/value: This paper furthers the discussion on the concept of HSPs and demonstrates its uniqueness, thus contributing to the ever-growing body of knowledge of HL research.

Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalInternational Journal of Logistics Management
Volume30
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)929-957
Number of pages29
ISSN0957-4093
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11.11.2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed

Keywords

  • 512 Business and Management
  • Europe
  • documentary
  • logistics services
  • logistics industry

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

  • AoHP: Humanitarian and societal logistics

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