Of hierarchy and hoarding: How “inefficiencies” actually make disaster relief “work”
Over a period of three years we interviewed over 150 relief workers and team leaders who had been “in the field”, as well as their managers at various levels. As predicted by the literature, the gap between administrative and deployment images of disaster relief work can be large—what Simon called “the insulation of higher levels of the administrative hierarchy from the world of fact” (1998; p. 320). What has not been highlighted before, however, is how this gap allows for “inefficiencies” (particularly in resource and logistics management) that actually help relief work function. Particularly tactical, local resource hoarding by team leaders, designed to reduce coupling and manage their own reputation and “prestige” proves possible only through the existence of gap. Thus, what makes disaster relief inefficient, is also what makes it “work” in terms of getting appropriate relief to local settings.
The Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies