Cash and Voucher Assistance in Humanitarian Contexts: Supply Chain Determinants for Feasibility and Operability
Over the past two decades, the humanitarian sector has witnessed a significant expansion in the use of cash and voucher assistance to persons affected by disasters. Cash and voucher assistance offers flexibility and dignity of choice for recipients, but depends on functioning supply chains to support the market interventions. In humanitarian crises, supply chains are vulnerable to disruptions, impacting the feasibility and operability of cash and voucher assistance. While extant research has demonstrated that cash and vouchers can be efficient and effective response options when feasible, it has not addressed the antecedents and underlying supply chain structures that enable cash programming. This thesis explores how humanitarian supply networks and relief chains enable cash and voucher assistance to be efficient and effective as a response modality across different contexts. In this thesis, three studies were conducted from a systems perspective to provide a holistic perspective of the humanitarian aid system. Each study included specific research objectives to generate findings directed to the overall aim of the thesis. The first study is a systematic literature review investigating the theoretical relationships between supply chains and cash and voucher assistance in humanitarian contexts, exploring context-specific factors that influence which modes of aid are viable, feasible, and efficient. The second study builds upon the findings of the first article and investigates how humanitarian organizations adapt their delivery strategy to cope with environmental factors and contextual uncertainties through a case study using system dynamics. Following this, the third study uses a case study to explore how humanitarian organizations can increase their response flexibility for cash and voucher assistance programmes by investing in preparedness measures. This thesis puts forth contributions to theory and practice related to the management of humanitarian supply chains and cash and voucher assistance operations. For humanitarian organizations, this thesis offers insights into how cash and voucher assistance is impacted by underlying supply chain structures and systems, which themselves are impacted by actors and the external environment. These factors affect the initial feasibility of cash and voucher assistance as well as how it is operated and managed throughout the operations cycle, identifying ex-ante and ex-post determinants. Theoretically, the work contributes to an understanding of cash and voucher assistance as a part of the humanitarian aid system as well as the effects of organizational capabilities and capacities on humanitarian supply networks. It builds upon previous research to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how supply chains enable the use of cash and voucher assistance by addressing the interrelationships between system entities, how they influence processes, and ultimately how they create different combinational outputs.