April 21-22, 2008
Ramada Park Hotel, Geneva, Switzerland

“Think strategically, act tactically

This was the sixth annual Fritz Institute Humanitarian Logistics Conference.  Over the years the output of the meeting has been used to develop programs and initiatives that reflect the priorities of the participants who have gathered at this forum. 

For Fritz Institute, awareness of what is happening in the sector and what is important to the humanitarian logistics community is critical to the success and effectiveness of our programs. 

As is the annual tradition, HLC began with self-introductions by participants, who were asked to share their thoughts on key issues that impact their ability to implement organizational logistics strategies.  Participants’ comments highlighted several common themes:

Change management:  Change management is very difficult to achieve in organizations.  Communication is often poor, though it is critical to effecting change, implementing new logistics strategies, and working effectively.  Some organizations have traditionally focused on a particular aspect of logistics; in this type of environment it is difficult but necessary to change to a more unified vision of supply chain management. 

Coordination:  Coordination, both internally and externally, is challenging but a necessary component of doing logistics more effectively and efficiently. A number of collaboration initiatives exist, though issues around roles, responsibilities, and objectives need to be clearly delineated.

Decentralization:  Decentralization is difficult in terms of getting everyone moving in a cohesive, coherent direction.  Some organizations pushed very hard a few years ago for decentralization, but now they are looking to see what can be centralized again to make logistics more effective.  Communication is very difficult in these decentralized environments. 

Recognition of logistics as a strategic function:  Several organizations still feel that logistics is not considered a strategic function, and as a result, it’s difficult to get support, recognition, and resources from the organization.  Others feel that logistics has made significant progress, though there are still challenges to work through.  As we look back to where we were 6 years ago for the first conference, it is clear that we have come a long way.

Preparedness:  There are more and more disasters happening each year, particularly small to medium disasters.  Organizations need to be more ready to respond quickly and efficiently, and be able to do so without disrupting ongoing programs.  We still need to build capacity while at the same time use available resources better.

Technology:  It’s critical to find the right tools to support logistics and strategy within organizations.  Finding the right technology solution to support both headquarters and field needs is critical, as is effectively managing the actual implementation and execution of these projects.

Moving forward
HLC started in 2003 with just a handful of participants, and has grown into a forum attended by 50 people each year representing more than 30 organizations.  Over the years, we have heard three recurring themes from the group:  there is a need for professionalization in the humanitarian sector; we need to increase the competence of logistics through training; and appropriate use of technology is critical to improving the overall quality of logistics.  From the introductions by participants, it is clear that progress has been made, but that there is more work to be done.

As we move forward to the next step, Fritz Institute will continue to work on initiatives to ensure that logistics is perceived as a critical, strategic function within organizations.  Fritz Institute will focus on organizations, and will provide leadership in bringing about systemic changes.  As a complement to this strategy, the Humanitarian Logistics Association will focus its efforts on individuals to support the professional development of individual logisticians.   

Presentation: Moving Forward   

Fostering Collaboration
Three levels of collaboration are critical to humanitarian logistics:  internal (e.g. with management, programs, and other functions); external collaboration with donors, suppliers, contractors, etc.; and collaborative enterprises/actions (Red Cross movement, NGOs, etc.)  Within the humanitarian sector there are a number of activities/forums for collaboration, including humanitarian reform initiatives, interagency working groups, and collaborative standards.  This year’s HLC focused on collaboration from multiple perspectives:  the Certification Program, the HELIOS Users’ Group, Greening Humanitarian Operations, and donor perspectives on collaborative initiatives. 

Presentation: Fostering Collaboration   

Certification Program
In previous years, the components of the Certification Program have been referred to as �Level 1� and �Level 2�. By now most participants are familiar with the program and know its origins. The overall Certification Program was developed with the aim of professionalizing logistics and impacting capacity at multiple levels of organizations. It was developed specifically for the sector with guidance and collaboration from the sector. The Certification in Humanitarian Logistics (CHL) was developed for logisticians working at an operational level. The new course, the Certification in Humanitarian Supply Chain Management aims at logistics managers and senior logisticians and takes a more holistic and strategic view of supply chain.

At present, more than 300 students are currently enrolled in CHL, and 26 have achieved certification.  Participants represent a wide variety of organizations, including NGOs, UN agencies, Red Cross Movement, and even commercial sector logisticians who are interested in the humanitarian sector.  Local NGOs are not yet well-represented, highlighting a need to broaden the reach of the program. 

As part of the strategy to broaden reach as well as to recognize the achievements of students who have completed the course, Fritz Institute will sponsor the first annual Student of the Year Award.  Finalists were nominated by Logistics Learning Alliance, the learning center for the Certification Program, based on overall quality of work, improvement, and quality work in the midst of difficult circumstances.  In addition, this year Fritz Institute will award ten scholarships to self-funding individuals to create a sense of excitement around the program and to encourage participation.

This year three perspectives on CHL were shared:  a student, an organization, and the learning center that administers the program. 

Tabinda Syed of UNICEF was a pilot student in the Certification Program.  For her first 5 years as a logistician, learning opportunities were rare, and she had to just learn from experience.  She started doing the CHL course just after the Pakistan earthquake hit, and it was the first time she had a structured learning opportunity.  Even with the relief activities, she still found time to complete the assignments and found the course very relevant to the work she was doing.  In the field logistics is still not well recognized or supported, and when working remotely, it can be even more difficult to get answers or help when you need it. 

Martin Dalton of Concern Worldwide discussed how his organization has included CHL in its global training strategy.  Concern identified CHL as an effective training option to complement the organization’s existing training, which is often very process-specific.  In order to fund the training, Concern developed a business plan for student sponsorship and presented this plan to prospective donors.  Ultimately they were able to secure funding for 12 students.  Concern selected local national staff operating below the management level for the program, as local staff capacity building is a primary goal for the organization.  Recognizing the criticality of organizational support for a successful program, Concern put a structure in place to track the progress of students.   

Peter Jones from Logistics Learning Alliance (LLA) provided a coaching perspective of the Certification Program.  LLA is the approved learning center for Certification, based in the UK.  LLA employs a variety of learning coaches from diverse backgrounds, including commercial and military resources, all with supply chain expertise.  Coaching is a critical element to this distance learning program, as they not only assess students’ tasks but also help guide students through the program and seek ways to help them do better.  Coaches are meant to be students’ friends, readily accessible and ready to provide advice or guidance.

Relative to other commercial programs that LLA administers, the dropout rate for CHL is quite small at approximately 10%.  Other distance learning programs typically have attrition rates of up to 45-50%.  CHL was designed to counter high attrition by creating an interactive structure with the coaches.  Students enrolled in CHL demonstrate high motivation to get through the tasks, even though they often work in very difficult circumstances. 

By the end of 2008 the CHL program will be translated from English into French to broaden the reach of the program and meet a specific need in the sector to help build capacity, particularly in local NGOs. 

In May 2008 the second course, the Certification in Humanitarian Supply Chain Management, will be launched.  This new course moves from the operational to the tactical in terms of focus, and helps to make a business case for supply chain within organizations; logisticians will be able to integrate supply chain into organizational planning and articulate the value of supply chain.  The CHSCM case study introduces new elements of programs, such that students must manage multiple supply chain operations and practice evidence based decision making.  The duration for the course is approximately 18 months, given 5 hours per week of study.

Finally, the Certification Advisory Committee is evaluating opportunities to link the overall Certification Program with existing university programs.  Three options exist for connection:  CHL as entry criteria to bachelor’s programs, CHSCM as a entry criteria to master’s programs, or CHSCM as course exemption for Master’s.  This is a long term prospect, as universities tend to be bureaucratic. 

Presentation: Certification Program   

Presentation: Tabinda Syed�s Experience   

Presentation: Concern Worldwide�s Experience   

Presentation: LLA Experience   

Medical Logistics
A steering committee has been formed to develop the curriculum for a training course focused specifically on the particular aspects of medical logistics.  Following a logistics cluster meeting, a small group of practitioners met to put together ideas and agree upon the relevant course components.  The goal is to explore medical logistics, following a similar competence approach to the Certification Program.  At present the team is preparing to issue an RFP for the course development.  Once developed, the course is expected to take students approximately a year to complete. 

HELIOS Users’ Group (HUG)
The HELIOS Users’ Group (HUG), currently comprised of Oxfam GB, World Vision International, and International Medical Corps, presented the activities and objectives of the Users’ Group for the HELIOS software.  Each of the organizations represented by the group are in various stages of piloting HELIOS.  Following these pilots, data will be analyzed and shared with other organizations.  As HELIOS develops, the objective is to build a community of users from different segments of the sector, to gain input into future development, encourage standardization, and develop and improve the overall administrative function of HELIOS.  Key priorities going forward include making HELIOS open source to make sure the investment is protected, and developing the HELIOS Foundation.   

As the organizations complete their pilots, critical lessons learned and future requirements must be captured and shared such that HELIOS development and deployment meets the needs of diverse organizations across the sector.  Recognizing that the software isn’t meant to solve all problems for all organizations, HELIOS is a collaborative effort, and the goal is to find solutions that work for the sector and meet the core supply chain needs.  The flexibility of configuration options within the tool itself helps address the diversity of requirements across organizations; however, collaboration and input from other organizations will be critical to the future development of HELIOS. 

From a donor perspective, HELIOS and the Users’ Group represent a very good opportunity for collaboration and standardization of a solution that would be widely applicable to the sector. 

Presentation: HELIOS Users Group   

Greening Humanitarian Logistics Operations
CARE International, Fleet Forum, and ProAct Network led a discussion on opportunities and imperatives for humanitarian organizations to measure the environmental impact of humanitarian operations and find viable solutions.  At present environmental policies and assessment tools are lacking in the sector.  As an example, waste disposal, a critical element of logistics operations, has significant impact on the environment – packaging materials, expired products, end of life vehicles, etc.  Organizations focus on the impacet of the relief effort itself, not on what is left at the end of operations.  As a starting point, the group suggested doing a study to understand what focus areas make sense, and what steps can be taken now to improve the ‘greenness’ of operations.  Out of this type of study should come methodologies and tools for improvements as well as data about what organizations are currently doing. 

Presentation: Greening Operations   

Donor Perspectives on Collaboration
The importance of collaboration in delivering efficient and effective aid is recognized more and more by the donor community.  ECHO and USAID presented donor perspectives on humanitarian operations and funding priorities moving forward.

As an active donor in the humanitarian community, ECHO provides needs-based grants in accordance with humanitarian principles.  In the past few years, ECHO has focused on thematic funding, in particular capacity building initiatives.  As an example, it has supported IFRC’s development of Regional Logistics Centers and pre-positioning of inventory to ensure timely and effective mobilization of resources.  Another example of this capacity building is WFP’s Humanitarian Response Depots, designed to enable organizations to better respond in emergencies.  These initiatives not only strengthen the larger organizations, but also provide smaller organizations an opportunity to respond even without the significant resources required to build the infrastructure:  ECHO partners have access to these stocks.

In addition, ECHO is committed to evaluating further collaboration opportunities in the sector to strengthen overall effectiveness and to ‘plug’ response gaps.  This effort includes plans to build civil protection capacity, both within the EU and in other regions, such that governments of affected countries do not immediately go to the military for relief support. 

As the number of sudden and slow-onset disasters increases, ECHO recognizes the need for increased preparedness and planning within the humanitarian community.  ECHO will launch a study to determine future funding opportunities and enhance its contribution to the overall humanitarian response and find new ways to increase capacity.  Part of this study will include a mapping project to understand where global stockpiles already exist and for which organizations.

USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) operates on the mandates of saving lives, alleviating suffering, and reducing the economic and social impact of disasters.  Beyond providing funding through NGOs, UN, and other partners, OFDA’s role in response includes identifying needs and priorities for US government assistance, and coordinating disaster assistance.  In 2007 the majority of OFDA assistance was in Africa, particularly in Darfur.  In total nearly 60 countries received OFDA disaster support, serving 94 million beneficiaries.  Approximately 80% of OFDA’s budget is distributed to partners, of which approximately 16% is allocated to logistics and relief supplies. 

USAID strongly supports interagency coordination efforts.  To facilitate this coordination, OFDA’s US and European staff participate in coordination activities, including Good Humanitarian Donorship and OCHA Donor Support Group, among others.

In terms of providing funding to humanitarian organizations, USAID assesses requests based on needs and works closely with regional offices as part of that assessment process.  The organization’s goal is to provide support to its implementing partners to ensure their success. 

Presentation: ECHO   

Presentation: USAID OFDA   

Shifting Paradigm
Over the past 25 years, supply chain management has undergone a transformation in the commercial sector to a strategic function that brings competitive edge to companies.   Organizations not only recognize the value of supply chain for its impact on cost effectiveness, but also see it as a revenue generating engine.  In part, this shift was the result of academic studies conducted to measure the true impact to organizations of effective supply chains.  A key learning from the commercial sector evolution is the importance of communicating the value in language that resonates with company leaders. 

Supply chain in the humanitarian sector is poised to undergo a similar transformation.  To move this transformation forward, it will be critical to leverage private sector experience and apply it in the humanitarian context, i.e. to understand top level perspectives, develop and implement measurements that show the value of supply chain, and design and execute processes linking supply chain to programs. 

Presentation: Shifting Paradigm   

Recognizing Excellence
Over the past several years, much progress has been made in professionalizing humanitarian logistics and gaining recognition within organizations for the value of effective supply chain planning and execution.  To continue this momentum, now is a good time to really measure what has been done and to recognize excellence in logistics.  In establishing the criteria, a possible first step would be to conduct supply chain reviews to understand areas of success, gaps, path forward, and best practices.  Fritz Institute proposed a formal awards program and sought input from participants on criteria, requirements, and process.  To be successful and meaningful, the process needs to be defined by and transparent to humanitarian organizations. 

Participants agreed that defining measurements and standards for the sector, defined by the sector, is an am important first step in gaining wider recognition for logistics excellence.  In evaluating organizations against these measures, it will be important to highlight best practices and areas of excellence, but also things that have gone wrong.  The sector can learn much from this.  

Through breakout sessions participants discussed what should be done to recognize standards of excellence and how measurement of excellence should be approached.  Based on feedback from the discussions, Fritz Institute will form an advisory committee to define appropriate indicators and measures for the sector as a first step toward awarding excellence.  To make this successful, the committee will need to define the scope of measurement – broad enough that an important aspect doesn’t get missed, but not so broad that measurement definition becomes unwieldy or impossible. 

A key output of this process for organizations is to demonstrate competence, i.e. to present logistics as a critical part of the organization that adds value to what the organization is trying to do.  This effort will require good communication. 

Next steps out of this meeting are to create the advisory committee, look at what organizations represented at HLC are already doing to measure, and define the top standards for excellence.  At HLC 2009 these standards and definitions, as well as best practices and lessons learned from the sector, will be shared.

Presentation: Recognition   

For many organizations, implementing appropriate technology to support supply chain processes is a priority area of focus.  Over the past year, significant progress has been made on HELIOS software, developed by Fritz Institute.  The product manager presented updates on HELIOS and future considerations.

HELIOS has two main aims or audiences within organizations:  headquarters for performance measurement; and the field for helping get goods to the right place at the right time while maintaining control over budget.  The system is designed for maximum flexibility to meet diverse needs in the sector – every organization has its own specific requirements and processes.  As a modular system, organizations can select which modules and features are critical to their processes, without needing to implement the entire system.  Although the ASP model is available for organizations wishing to implement, the pilot organizations to date have opted to host it themselves to ensure more control and enable multiple instances.

As described in the HUG session, three organizations are in pilot with HELIOS:  Oxfam GB, World Vision International, and International Medical Corps.  The pilots for these organizations have been very different but equally vital to the development and deployment of the software.  Oxfam has looked at the entire spectrum of its requirements and expects to be ready in August.  World Vision International has piloted HELIOS in two countries:  Somalia (completed) and Zambia (pilot completed, assessment in progress). IMC has faced some challenges, but their participation is vital for keeping the shape of the project and ensuring that HELIOS is applicable to the sector. How the product changes in the future will impact how organizations like IMC implement.  Future functional and technical enhancements will be driven by the pilot, e.g. interfaces with other systems.

As part of this pilot effort, an internal website has been developed for tracking progress, posting documentation, and exchanging materials.  In the future, it is expected that this website will be made available to other organizations who are considering HELIOS implementation.

The roadmap for future development includes improving the user interface, including optimizing it for different roles; building flexibly and dynamic reporting; and developing an asset tracking module.  In addition, on-line and off-line functionality is being reviewed.  To support future development and momentum, an advisory group in Silicon Valley may be formed to help us understand current developments in the commercial software sector.  Finally, the product team will update the requirements survey conducted in 2002.

The key for building HELIOS is to develop a community of users.  Beyond building technology, it is critical to build collaborative tools for the sector. 

Presentation: HELIOS Technology   

Participation in HLC 2008 exceeded our expectations. Fritz Institute wishes to continue working with the sector to understand challenges and aspirations and help turn these into products and projects that will impact the humanitarian sector in a meaningful way.  Since the inception of HLC, tremendous progress has been made.  Beyond driving new projects, HLC brings people from diverse organizations together to exchange ideas and promote collaboration.

Outcome Summary for HLC


Next steps

Recognition and measurements for supply chain

Form an advisory committee, develop preliminary measurements

HELIOS Users’ Group

Complete pilots, analyze results and disseminate feedback; build users’ group community; establish HELIOS Foundation

Medical logistics

Steering Committee to finalize course requirements, select development partner, commence development

Greening Humanitarian Operations

Analyze and share what organizations currently doing to ‘green’ operations; develop methodologies and tools for organizations to use (NOT an FI initiative)

Certification Program

CHL: Student of the Year
          Scholarship Program
CHSCM:  Launch May 1   

More Information
For more information about the Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2008, please email
Jane MacDonald at


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