The wicked problem of humanitarian logistics and disaster relief aid

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Title The wicked problem of humanitarian logistics and disaster relief aid
Author Tatham, Peter Hugh; Houghton, Luke
Journal Name Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Year Published 2011
Place of publication United Kingdom
Publisher Emerald
Abstract Purpose – Some 40 years ago Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber published a seminal paper in which they discussed the “wicked problems” facing those who sought to develop solutions to urban planning challenges. Their work recognised that many of the decisions faced by modern management are multifaceted, and involve a plethora of stakeholders each with a diverse view of what good might look like. The aim of this paper is to consider how the ensuing rich vein of literature relating to the management of such problems might be applied to the logistic challenges of preparing for and responding to a disaster. Design/methodology/approach – This paper first examines the issues, dilemmas and decisions facing the humanitarian logistician, as a key component of the preparation and response to a disaster, and concludes that they fall firmly into the ambit of a wicked problem. The paper then reviews the literature that proposes methods for management of such problems, and applies it to the humanitarian logistics field. Findings – The paper concludes that further research is needed to understand the ways in which the three primary approaches of employing authoritative, competitive and collaborative strategies might be best evaluated and employed. In doing so, it recognises that it is essential to engage with the broader disaster management and humanitarian logistic communities in order to help operationalise this theoretical approach. Originality/value – While the concept of a wicked problem and the associated broad spectrum of literature has developed over a considerable period of time, this has not previously been applied to the challenge of humanitarian logistics which, it is argued, meets all the criteria to be considered as a truly wicked problem.
Peer Reviewed Yes
Published Yes
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Copyright Statement Copyright 2011 Emerald. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.
Volume 1
Issue Number 1
Page from 15
Page to 31
ISSN 2042-6747
Date Accessioned 2011-06-01
Language en_AU
Research Centre Institute for Integrated and Intelligent Systems; Urban Research Program
Faculty Griffith Business School
Subject Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Publication Type Journal Articles (Refereed Article)
Publication Type Code c1

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