Toward a Descriptive Model of Humanitarian Assistance Coordination

  • Max StephensonJr.Email author

This paper argues that the operating environment of humanitarian assistance is best conceived as an interorganizational social network or regime and that the problem of power and authority in such situations must be re-founded or reconceived accordingly. This contention is developed to contribute to an important ongoing dialogue among analysts concerning how humanitarian aid may most effectively be delivered in the context of a realistic appraisal of the structural and operating conditions in which it is offered. The paper first outlines the primary elements of the organizational environment in which humanitarian efforts must proceed, next suggests a way of thinking about how one might conceive of those conditions that builds on recent work, and then sketches the elements of a strategic contingency approach to the humanitarian assistance coordination dilemma. This analytical frame leads one to rethink assumptions concerning how best to conceptualize both the environment and the behavior of humanitarian organizations engaged in providing assistance in emergency situations and to suggest that theory building for this domain of study should now turn to a network-based and strategically contingent perspective for its foundation.


humanitarian assistance coordination social networks strategic contingency framework stakeholder learning 



The author acknowledges with gratitude the assistance and support of Nicole Kehler, Marcy Schnitzer, and Kate Lanham in the research and development of this paper.


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Copyright information

© International Society for Third-Sector Research and The Johns Hopkins University 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Governance and AccountabilitiesSchool of Public and International AffairsBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Governance and AccountabilitiesSchool of Public and International AffairsBlacksburgUSA

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