Areas of coordination barriers between commercial agencies and humanitarian organizations

Get Complete Project Material File(s) Now! »


This chapter addresses the research approach, methods, and strategy applied with the justifications of their choice. Starting with a brief introduction about the research approach and then explaining why specific and certain styles of research methodology have been favored and used. Also, the concepts of validity and reliability will be discussed as well.

Theoretical Approach: Inductive versus Deductive

Walliman (2011) explains that research is about finding information that hasn’t been established before thus advancing the boundary of knowledge in the research’s specific field. In general terms research is carried out so as to investigate and come up with new interesting facts. After using the correct methodology, the researcher shall add validity to the conclusion indicating that the knowledge created after conducting the research is based on reason and thorough analysis (Walliman, 2011).
There are two kinds of research approaches: inductive and deductive. The inductive approach is the oldest and most commonly used approach by researches (Walliman, 2011). It is when research is structured and approached from a detailed case thus moving to collecting and accumulating facts, hence proceeding to theory (Kovács & Spens, 2005). Where inductive theories remain very close to empirical data and follow their lead (Graziano & Raulin, 2004).
Deductive approach is when the researchers start with a general statement, that are broken down to smaller arguments, thus arriving to detailed conclusions (Walliman 2011). To give a simpler explanation of this approach (Kovács & Spens, 2005) clarify that “deductive research follows a conscious direction from general law to a specific case.” Where this approach does not create a new discipline or science, but tests the already existing one (Kovács & Spens, 2005). The concept of deduction theory highlights the process of deduction from constructs in the form of hypothesis, thus the data attained is tested empirically by means of research (Graziano & Raulin, 2004).
The current research study is based on deductive approach since it is more appropriate and fitting in the context of humanitarian and commercial logistics. The research question drawn was examined from previous literature, and most of the theories discussed were already existing ones and were used in various humanitarian logistics research papers, articles and journals.

Research Method: Quantitative versus Qualitative

To give a brief explanation about Quantitative and Qualitative data, Walliman (2011), explains that Quantitative analysis deals with numbers and mathematical processes such as statistics where data can take the form of nominal, ordinal, interval or ratio measurement procedures. The main purpose of quantitative data is to: measure, make comparisons, examine relationships, make forecast, test hypotheses, construct concepts and theories, explore, control and explain (Walliman, 2011).
Qualitative research emphasizes on the validity of meaning of the structure and the holistic analysis of the research. Qualitative research is not about finding the objective truth, but rather the truth through the lens of the researcher. Qualitative research does not use the concept of probability sampling, rather qualitative research methods is used to develop theories from data collected and accumulated during the research (Burns, 2000).
However, one of the major setbacks and limitations of qualitative research is the time factor that is involved in collecting, analyzing and interpreting the data. Also, another setback that the author mentions is that when conducting qualitative research the interviewers gestures would affect the respondents reaction to the answers causing the data collected during the interview process to be prone to bias analysis (Burns, 2000).
Qualitative data requires substantial amounts of time due to interviews, since it is not always easy to schedule timely interviews and frequently the interviewee might not always be helpful in answering questions or responding to e-mails if the interview is conducted through the cyber world. Therefore, it was decided for this particular research on coordination between humanitarian organizations and commercial agencies to conduct a qualitative research approach as this was more suitable for the purpose of this study and would generate answers based on the theoretical framework of this research as the thesis resumes.

Interview Guide: structured, semi-structured and unstructured

Interviews are essential as they are basic methods associated with qualitative research. There are four types of interviews, the structured interview, the semi-structured interview, the unstructured interview, and the group interviews Grix (2004).
Structured interviews contain predetermined questions to the respondent and the answers generated are written down or typed on the computer by the interviewer. The same procedure is followed by other interviewees, thus eventually results of the questions answered can be compared to each other, analyzed and examined and put in order statistically. Structured interviews can also take the form of e-mails or the phone Grix (2004). The Semi-structured style introduces interview guides that can be structured by setting up an interview schedule (Shaw, 1999). As for the Unstructured interview, the interviewer asks more detailed questions, however the questions would not follow a specific order. The advantage of this type of interview is that the interviewer has a better understanding of the answers and in a position to discover and unlock unexpected answers Grix (2004). Moreover, unstructured interviews focus on a specific topic (Shaw, 1999).
Citing Holstein and Gubrium. 1995:56, (Shaw, 1999) states that, the active interview has two main objectives, first is to accumulate information in regards to what is the conducted research about, and second to explain how information and facts related to that specific topic is constructed.
However, one of the disadvantages of an interview is that it is time consuming and that it is not proper to interview more than one person at a time due to the fact that the given answers by the respondents might not be independent and will contain bias answers, and in some situations individuals instead of having their own opinion would follow the opinion of the majority of the group (Mitchell & Jolley, 2007). Also, there is this concept of interview bias, where the interviewer would affect the answers of the respondent through non-verbal gestures or even verbal communication. Another bias is that the participant will be trying to leave an impression on the interviewer, thus give socially acceptable answers that would result in making the interviewer think highly of them (Mitchell & Jolley, 2007).
For the purpose of this research study the structured and semi-structured types of interviews will be conducted with the humanitarian organizations and commercial agencies. Interviews via e-mail have been carried out with DHL and WFP.

Data Acquisition: Primary Data and Secondary Data

There are two kinds of data, primary data and secondary data. Primary data is when the researcher collects data through observation, experiments and etc (Sharp, Peters, Howard, 2002), where the data demonstrates the truth of the study (Walliman, 2001). Secondary data is when data has previously been collected by others (Sharp et al., 2002). Data can be collected from books, newspapers reports articles, etc (Walliman, 2001).
In this research study, primary data has been collected through semi-structured and structured interviews with humanitarian organizations and commercial agencies as this serves the purpose of this study. Secondary data has been collected through the internet, libraries and websites of the organization and agencies interviewed.

Research Approach and study design

Multiple case study approach

This study is based on exploratory case study approach. Exploratory research asks questions concerned with “what?” and “why?” Hence, after asking those questions, a variety of methods are put into practice in order to check if the matter under investigation is true or not (Wisker, 2001). Case study is defined as a research strategy that seeks to understand the dynamics present within a single setting. A typical case study approach consists of data collection methods, interviews, questionnaires and observations (Eisenhardt, 1989).
This research study is based on a multiple case study approach since the research under investigation proposes the question of “what” are the barriers of vertical coordination between humanitarian organizations and commercial agencies during the preparation and immediate response phases in times of disaster when delivering aid. Hence, the purpose of this study is to acquire in depth understanding of barriers that occur between humanitarian organizations and commercial agencies since there are ample amounts coordination barriers during those phases. Multiple cases from different humanitarian organizations and commercial agencies will be interviewed and analyzed to test the theory presented earlier in this study. As (Benbasat, Goldstein & Mead, 1987) explain, multiple- case study is used when the intention of the research is to describe, build or test theory, where multi-case designs permit the cross- case analysis of the theory presented in the study, thus generating generalized research results and outcomes (Benbasat, Goldstein & Mead, 1987).
The choice of the methodology used serves the purpose of the thesis and investigates the research questions brought forward. Moreover it provides the ability to comprehend and understand the relationships between the barriers of coordination between both entities (humanitarian and commercial). An exploratory approach is adopted since little is known in literature about barriers of vertical coordination between humanitarian organizations and commercial agencies.


Case selection and data collection

The UN bodies or agencies have been collaborating with the private sector for many years (Tesner, 2000). Partnerships, according to the definition of the World Bank, is defined as “An agreement to work together, for common goals, with all parties committing resources (financial, technical, or personnel) to agreed activities, with a clear division for responsibilities and distinct accountabilities for achieving these goals.” However, this terminology stated by the World Bank also means partnerships with governments and the civil society. For partnerships to succeed they have to be based on transparency and loyalty (Tesner, 2000).
For this research study, humanitarian organizations that fall under the UN umbrella such as (OCHA, WFP and UNICEF) have been selected to be interviewed and from the commercial agencies (DHL and TNT). OCHA, WFP and UNICEF, have been decided to be contacted since these humanitarian organizations are major actors in the humanitarian field when it comes to delivering aid and responding to the people who have been victims of disasters. DHL and TNT have had long partnerships with the humanitarian organizations.

Selection of Humanitarian organizations

The selection of humanitarian organizations in this research study such as OCHA, WFP, and UNICEF-Supply Division, are initially based on my interest in regards to how humanitarian organizations are currently involved in relief emergency situations, particularly after the many natural and man-made disasters that have occurred recently, and also since these humanitarian agencies have been major players during catastrophes when delivering aid and assistance to areas struck by disaster. When a humanitarian emergency situation takes place WFP, OCHA and UNICEF are the first humanitarian organizations to act and delve into aiding those in need.
However, it is noteworthy to mention that it was extremely difficult to attain interviews from the humanitarian organizations since for the majority of the time it was more challenging to make them answer the interview questions and address the specific “barriers” of coordination that occur with commercial agencies. Also, it was extremely challenging to schedule interviews with humanitarian organizations due to the fact that they have hectic and busy schedules.
In December 1991, resolutions were adopted in regards to what humanitarian aid organizations should be based on when providing assistance on the bases of neutrality, humanity and impartiality as the sovereignty of the state needing aid is taken into consideration, since aid should be given by humanitarian agencies only after the consent and compliance of the country calling for aid (Weiss & Daws, 2007). Most of times the organizations mentioned previously fulfill this criteria, hence the selection criteria of these organizations is based in light of this argument, especially since OCHA, WFP and UNICEF are the first humanitarian organizations to be on the field providing relief aid in times of emergency.

Selection of Commercial agencies

Tesner (2000) states UN agencies can select commercial partners that share common values and goals. The critical issue for UN organizations for their selection criteria stems from and revolves around the issue of value. Commercial agencies cooperating with UN agencies should comply with the main UN charter. UNDP and UNICEF are one of the agencies that would not cooperate with companies who are involved or engaged in any form of manufacturing, selling or distributing tobacco, weapons, or alcohol, or any commercial organizations that have indirect or direct connection to gambling, illegal involvement of financial practices, drug trafficking or any activities that have to do with child labor or discrimination be it sexual, racial or ethnic (Tesner, 2000).
Moreover, some UN agencies prior to cooperating with commercial agencies have a checklist for potential commercial partners which would be approved only after a thorough ethical background check, where they have to pass it so as to be selected for partnerships, these selections are based on ethical behaviors of corporate social responsibility demonstrating a deep level of mission commitment (Tesner, 2000). Based on this TNT and DHL pass this criteria and have been selected to coordinate with humanitarian organizations.
The selection of DHL and TNT has been based on the fact that both commercial agencies are major partners of OCHA and WFP, and that they have long term partnerships with the humanitarian agencies mentioned. Moreover, these commercial agencies are experienced and have thorough logistical backgrounds. When viewing secondary data, it was obvious that these commercial organizations have been aware about corporate social responsibility. However, it was extremely difficult to contact other commercial agencies and conduct interviews with them since the process is time consuming and the majority of the contacted people were unwilling to answer the interview questions.

Research Validity and Reliability

It has been suggested by (Yin, 2003) that there has been four ways of tests that act as foundation for the empirical research. These fours tests are: construct validity, internal validity, external validity and reliability. Constructing validity emphasizes on the point of using the accurate method or process for the study being conducted (Yin, 2003). In this study, relevant documents and websites have been examined, consulted, and looked at, also interviews have been conducted with the parties that have been crucial for humanitarian organizations and commercial agencies, thus creating triangulation. However, it is noteworthy to emphasize that gathering secondary data, has been extremely helpful in strengthening and reinforcing the data gathered about the humanitarian organizations and commercial agencies. Before the final report has been issued, the respondents received a draft of the report where they have added their feedback and gave helpful comments that has contributed to the finishing of this study. Internal validity is not relevant in this study since this study is exploratory in nature, and internal validity is applicable for explanatory studies. And most of the times qualitative research does not deal with relationships of cause and effect nature (Johnson, 1997). External validity is relevant in this study since the concept deals with findings that can be generalized in a case study (Yin, 2003). External validity in this study is strengthened through the created interview guide that has been read by the supervisor and some colleagues who have provided feedback in regards to the formulation of the interview questions. Reliability implies that this research case study if conducted again, then the same conclusions should be arrived at (Yin, 2003). To insure the reliability of this study the answers to the interview questions have been looked at by the respondents after the questions have been recorded in the empirical part. Also all the answers to the questions and the documents used to arrive to the research answers are saved and kept. Moreover, one of the main features of reliability is to minimize the number of errors and biases that was presented in the study (Yin, 2003).

Table of Contents
1 Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Problem Statement
1.3 Purpose
1.4 Scope and Limitations of the Research Study
1.6 Disposition
2. Frame of Reference 
2.1 Definitions
2.2 General Overview of Coordination
2.3 Coordination in commercial agencies
2.4 Coordination in Humanitarian Organizations
2.5 Areas of coordination barriers between commercial agencies and humanitarian organizations
2.6 Commercial supply chain versus Humanitarian supply chain
2.7 Discussion of the theoretical framework
3 Methodology 
3.1 Theoretical Approach: Inductive versus Deductive
3.2 Research Method: Quantitative versus Qualitative
3.4 Interview Guide: structured, semi-structured and unstructured
3.5 Data Acquisition: Primary Data and Secondary Data
3.6 Research Approach and study design
3.7 Case selection and data collection
3.8 Research Validity and Reliability
4. Presentation of Empirical Findings
4.1 Commercial Agencies
4.2 Humanitarian Organizations
5. Analysis and Discussion 
5.1 Analysis framework
5.2 Coordination barriers
5.3 Suggested solutions from commercial agencies and humanitarian organizations to overcome barriers of coordination
6. Conclusions 
6.1 Summary of findings
7. Discussion and future Research 
8. References .
Coordination Barriers between Humanitarian Organizations and Commercial Agencies in times of Disaster

Related Posts