Humanitarian aid and development sector resilience finding solutions to complex problems

  • Michael Blyth

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The research employs a sequential mixed methods research strategy to explore organizational resilience within the humanitarian aid and development sector. The research builds on existing literature focused on sectoral resilience, while also encompassing out-of-sector literature focused on resilience, business continuity, security risk management, and emergency and crisis management. The research methodology includes three tools of data gathering: 1) an online survey, 2) semi-structured interviews, and 3) a competency framework focus group. The research examines the sector as a multi-billion-dollar enterprise which represents millions of organizations with hundreds of millions of employees and volunteers operating worldwide (Boris, 2013) which is, by its very nature, is drawn towards danger. The research examines the role of the sector within responding to complex global health emergencies, natural disasters and deteriorating security conditions (Dilley et all, 2005), and the imperative for individuals to deploy to—or work in—increasingly fragile and dynamic environments. The research places the competing demands of supporting beneficiaries in high-risk environments with the increasing duty of care expectations from employees, families, donors and governments (Kemp and Merkelbach, 2011), and considers the need for high-reliability organizations (La Porte, 1996) which can work effectively within high-risk conditions. The research explores the requirement for a security culture (Wenger, 2017), the growing need to professionalize security within the sector, the importance of recognized standards, the value of knowledge production (Gibbons et al, 2002), and the role forum groups and associations play in consolidating and articulating best practice. The research highlights the absence of a consistent approach to organizational resilience and offers action-based outcomes in the form of a Hybrid Model of Security and Resilience which addresses four key areas: 1) the hierarchy of security, 2) competency accelerants, 3) professional convergence, and 4) the need to both implement and evidence effective resilience measures.
Date of AwardSept 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorTom Smith (Supervisor) & Risto Henrik Aleksander Talas (Supervisor)

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