Prof. Dr. Maria Besiou

Professor of Humanitarian Logistics

Dean of Research

Prof. Dr. Maria Besiou

Professor of Humanitarian Logistics

Dean of Research

Maria Besiou is Professor of Humanitarian Logistics at Kühne Logistics University. She received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and Operations Management from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) in Greece. She holds a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from AUTH. Before joining KLU she worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Social Innovation Centre at INSEAD, France.

Besiou’s specialization is on the field of sustainable supply chain management. Her main research interests are in humanitarian logistics, closed-loop supply chains and stakeholder media. She studies dynamic complex systems, characterized by multiple actors and feedbacks, in a strategic level rendering system dynamics methodology an appropriate tool. Her research focuses on the decision-making of commercial companies and humanitarian organizations, while managing their supply chains. It has been motivated by real problems that these supply chains face such as regulations, limitation of resources, stochasticity, decentralization and monitoring by online communities. Hence, the insights that arise from her research can be transferred to policy-makers and decision-makers dealing with supply chain issues.

As a researcher, she is currently involved in the Research Institute on Leadership and Operations in Humanitarian Aid (RILOHA), which seeks to enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian aid via psychological insights, and the INSEAD Social Innovation Centre, which is an inclusive platform for cross-disciplinary research, education, projects and engagement in the area of Business in Society.

Her research appears in several case studies and peer-review international journals like Production and Operations Management (POM), Journal of Business Ethics (JBE), California Management Review (CMR), European Journal of Operational Research (EJOR) and the Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management (JHLSCM). She has also presented her work at major international academic and practitioner conferences and workshops.

Besiou currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management (JHLSCM), as a Senior Editor of the Disaster Management Department (DMD) of Production and Operations Management (POM), and on the editorial review boards of Journal of Operations Management (JOM) and Production and Operations Management (POM).

Selected Publications

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1287/msom.2019.0799 

Abstract: The number of people affected by disasters has increased over the past decades, whereas funding has declined. The need for effective humanitarian aid is, therefore, larger than ever. Humanitarian organizations have recognized the critical role of supply chain management in reaching beneficiaries, and they have introduced commercial routines and best practices. Academics realized that humanitarian operations constitute a fruitful new research area and adapted solution techniques developed for commercial operations to disaster situations with mitigated success. Meanwhile, the problems that humanitarian practitioners face quickly evolve. In this paper, we highlight challenges in matching practitioner needs with academic publications and outline the great opportunities for impactful and relevant research.

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Open reference in new window "Humanitarian Operations: A World of Opportunity for Relevant and Impactful Research"

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/joom.1072 

Abstract: Funding for international humanitarian aid falls far behind demand for disaster response, hampering the operations of international humanitarian organizations (IHOs). One remedy to close this gap is to increase the effectiveness of fundraising activities for IHOs. This remedy means spending as little as possible in fundraising activities but, at the same time, still receiving sufficient donations to implement disaster response programs in response to the needs that arise when disasters occur. We contribute to the literature by theoretically developing and estimating a conceptual framework that links donation behavior to the operations that IHOs aim to pursue; the framework incorporates operational costs communicated in appeals, fundraising efforts, and media attention. We argue that effects are not homogenous across disasters but that IHOs can leverage public attention and disaster and appeal characteristics, such as operational costs, to increase donations. We test the framework on a unique data set for disaster response programs operated by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), covering 174 disasters to which the IFRC responded between 2010 and 2017.

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Open reference in new window "The role of operational expenditures and misalignments in fundraising for international humanitarian aid"

DOI: 10.1111/poms.13073 

Abstract: We study volunteer management at a charity storehouse operated by a large faith‐based organization. The storehouse runs entirely on volunteer efforts. We investigate the role of volunteer experience and storehouse congestion in the preparation of orders using a multi‐method approach. First, we conduct a field study to explore these relationships and collect data at the level of volunteers’ teams. These teams can pair volunteers with either different levels of experience (mixed pairing) or equal levels of experience (no‐mixed pairing). Second, we estimate the effects of volunteer experience and storehouse congestion on the order processing times empirically. Third, we build a simulation model to study how operational decisions—volunteers’ pairing in teams and whether to allow or impede storehouse congestion—affect two performance metrics: on‐time order preparation rate and additional time to prepare the orders, in steady conditions. Then, we simulate disaster conditions at the storehouse, that is, simultaneous surges in supply of volunteers and demand of orders. Contrary to extant literature on team collaboration, we find that no‐mixed pairing outperforms mixed pairing under disaster conditions with storehouse congestion. In fact, no‐mixed pairing improves the on‐time order preparation by 4.32% and the additional time to prepare the orders by 14.42% compared to mixed pairing. Moreover, under disaster conditions, a “controlled congestion” policy at the storehouse delivers the best performance metrics.

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Open reference in new window "Volunteer Management in Charity Storehouses: Experience, Congestion and Operational Performance"

Abstract: International humanitarian organizations (IHOs) always strive to improve their operational performance in the field. While anecdotes from practice suggest that IHO field office leadership plays a crucial role in this regard, these claims have not been deeply substantiated by primary data. In response, we collected survey data from 125 humanitarian workers, concentrated in disaster response and development programs, on the issues of field office leadership and operational performance. Building on the operations management and organizational behavior literature, we find that leaders who adopt an intergroup leadership style can significantly improve operational performance via enhancing cooperation between local and expatriate subgroups inside a field office. Notably, we find that the intergroup leadership style becomes more effective as humanitarian workers become more entrenched within cohesive subgroups. These results should help IHOs to better select and train their field office leaders and achieve higher operational performance.

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Open reference in new window "Intergroup leadership: How leaders can enhance performance of humanitarian operations"

DOI: 10.1111/poms.12215 

Abstract: The work of international humanitarian organizations (IHOs) frequently involves operating in remote locations, decentralized decision-making, and the simultaneous implementation of development and disaster response programs. A large proportion of this work is funded by “earmarked” donations, since donors often exhibit a preference for the programs they are willing to fund. From extensive research involving qualitative descriptions and quantitative data, and applying system dynamics methodology, we model vehicle supply chains (VSCs) in support of humanitarian field operations. Our efforts encompass the often-overlooked decentralized environment by incorporating the three different VSC structures that IHOs operate, as well as examining the entire mix of development and disaster response programs, and the specific (and virtually unexplored) effects of earmarked funding. Our results suggest that earmarked funding causes a real—and negative—operational impact on humanitarian disaster response programs in a decentralized setting.

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Open reference in new window "Vehicle Supply Chains in Humanitarian Operations: Decentralization, Operational Mix, and Earmarked Funding"

Academic Positions

since 2016Professor of Humanitarian Logistics, Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg
Visiting Scholar at INSEAD Social Innovation Centre
2013-2016

Associate Professor of Humanitarian Logistics, Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg
Visiting Scholar at INSEAD Social Innovation Centre

2012 - October 2013

Assistant Professor of Logistics, Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg
Visiting Scholar at INSEAD Social Innovation Centre

2009 - 2011

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Social Innovation Centre at INSEAD, France 

2005 - 2009

Ph.D. Candidate in Operations Management, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), Greece

2004 - 2009

Research and Teaching Assistant, Department of Mechanical Engineering, AUTH, Greece

Education

2009

Ph.D., Operations Management, Department of Mechanical Engineering, AUTH, Greece. 
Specialization: Supply Chain Management. 
Dissertation: The Impact of Environmental and Economical Sustainability on the Operations of Manufacturing Systems using the Methodology Tool of System Dynamics.
Advisors: Patroklos Georgiadis (Chair), George Tagaras, Eleftherios Iakovou

2004

Diploma in Mechanical Engineering (M.Sc. Equivalent), Department of Mechanical Engineering AUTH, Greece

2020 - Best paper award of the POMS 31st Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track

Maria Besiou received the best paper award of the POMS 31st Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track for her article (together with Mojtaba Salem and Niels Van Quaquebeke) "Is authoritarian leadership an effective approach during humanitarian operations?"

2020 - Best paper award of the POMS 31st Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track

Maria Besiou received the runner up for the best paper award of the POMS 31st Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track for her article (together with Lea Rüsch, Murat Tarakci, and Niels Van Quaquebeke) "Collaboration in the field. A behavioural approach".

2019 - Outstanding reviewer award for OR Spectrum

2015 - Best paper award of the POMS 26th Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track

Maria Besiou received the best paper award of the POMS 26th Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track for her article (together with Laura Turrini and Joern Meissner) "Understanding Fundraising in Humanitarian Supply Chains".

2012 - Best paper award of the POMS 23rd Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track

Maria Besiou received the best paper award of the POMS 23rd Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track for her article (together with Afonso Pedraza-Martinez and Luk Van Wassenhove) “Decentralization and Earmarked Funding in Humanitarian Logistics for Relief and Development”.

2012 - Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence

An article by Maria Besiou (with Orla Stapleton and Luk Van Wassenhove) entitled “System dynamics for humanitarian operations” published in the Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management (Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 78-103, 2011) has been chosen as one of that journal’s Highly Commended Award Winners at the Literati Network Awards for Excellence 2012.

2016 - 2017

President of the College of Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management (HOCM) at the Production and Operations Management Society (POMS)

since 2015

Founding Member, Member of the Board and Coordinator of the Association of European Operational Research Societies (EURO) Working Group on Humanitarian Operations (HOpe)

since Sept. 2013

VP of the Hellenic Chapter of System Dynamics Society

2013 - 2015

Vice President of Outreach of the College of Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management (HOCM) at the Production and Operations Management Society (POMS)"

2008 - Aug. 2013

Treasurer of the Hellenic Chapter of System Dynamics Society

 

The humanitarian logistics database has been compiled for the convenience and efficiency of researchers and students in the field of Humanitarian Operations. Papers have been categorised according to methodologies used in research, topic of study (i.e. 'Fleet management' or 'Inventory management') and type of program from the disaster cycle (i.e.'development'). Books and book chapters can be found by searching for the author’s last name. The categories can be found in the links on the side of the page.