November 11-12, 2005
Quail Hill Vineyard – Sebastopol, California

The Crossroads conference was developed to promote understanding and partnerships to address the complex challenges of delivering humanitarian aid worldwide. Crossroads provides an intimate roundtable setting for discussions among leaders of corporations and global humanitarian organizations, as well as representatives of academia, who are experts in supply chain management and technology. This year Fritz Institute also launched the Corporations for Humanity Supply Chain and Technology Councils which were established to create continuous collaboration between private and humanitarian organizations.

The objectives of Crossroads 2005 were twofold: to educate the corporate representatives about the complexity of humanitarian assistance and to provide focus and solutions to specific supply chain problems in humanitarian operations.

On the first day, participants discussed the ongoing challenges faced by logisticians when providing humanitarian assistance and the role that corporations and academics could play in finding solutions to those issues. There was an open and candid discussion highlighting the obstacles faced in making public/private partnerships work effectively between humanitarian organizations and the private sector.

The second day provided humanitarian organizations with the opportunity to present three specific supply chain issues to the representatives from the business and academic community. The focus of the three conference work groups was to identify approaches and solutions that combine private sector, academic and humanitarian expertise that could be applied across the humanitarian sector.

Corporations for Humanity
As part of its global Corporations for Humanity initiative, Fritz Institute launched the Humanitarian Technology Council (HTC) and the Humanitarian Supply Chain Council (SCC). The intent of each Council is for humanitarian organizations and corporations to collaborate on the development of technology and supply chain solutions that can measurably improve the delivery of international aid. The Councils will bring together IT and supply chain senior executives from leading global corporations to provide broad strategic advice and consultation to their counterparts in the humanitarian sector on an ongoing basis. The Councils have been formed with the belief that commercial best practices in technology and supply chain management- adapted to the unique context of humanitarian assistance - have the potential to stretch relief dollars, increase operational efficiencies, and improve aid delivery.

Successful Public/Private Partnerships
Private sector and humanitarian organizations can find many opportunities for partnering. It was evident, however, that in order to create successful partnerships and to create long-term benefits and understanding, there must be well-defined rules of engagement for all parties.  Humanitarian organizations stated clearly that public/private partnerships could be most effective for their back- room operations, and not on the frontlines of aid delivery. In order to build these successful partnerships there must be a process of outreach and relationship building that occurs before a disaster strikes.

Action Items:
As a first step in building partnership among organizations, there were five specific projects that were identified:

1. Review best practices from the private sector in vendor management, including framework agreements

  • One of the areas to explore is how companies' purchasing power can help humanitarian organizations, especially during emergencies

2. Investigate ways to create internships for logistics professionals from the humanitarian organizations within corporations and for logisticians from the private sector to interact with humanitarian organizations

3. Conduct a survey of corporations that participated in recent relief efforts to understand their experience and expectations

4. Create an academic council to prioritize and coordinate research

5. Utilize corporations' offices worldwide to help build local capacity

Working Group Topics
Supply Chain Metrics
The need to create metrics was addressed in the working groups. The private sector has substantial expertise in developing and implementing metrics to ensure continuous improvements in their operations. The working group was asked to help humanitarian organizations define a few key performance indicators (KPIs) that would be most relevant for them to benchmark their humanitarian operations.  The working group was also tasked to create standard metrics that could be applied throughout the sector.

 Action Items:
1. Create a steering committee with representatives from the private sector, academia and humanitarian organizations

    * Work with a few interested humanitarian organizations to help develop specific metrics by using successfully implemented samples from the private sector

    * Share data and results with other humanitarian organizations at Fritz Institute's Humanitarian Logistics Conference (HLC) in April 2006 

    * Conduct a survey of humanitarian organizations to get baseline operational data to determine the biggest challenges in logistics

2. Partner with the academic and private sectors to develop a project that uses HLS data in the creation of relevant KPIs

Health Commodity Distribution Strategy
The Ministry of Health of an African country has requested help to redesign their healthcare system supply process. The project has three phases including: assessment, redesign and implementation. The assessment phase has been completed and the working group focused on the redesign and implementation stage of the health commodity distribution strategy.

After reviewing the distribution strategy assessment it was clear that the private sector could help by sharing their expertise in supply chain management process and design, training on project management methodology, implementation of IT solutions, vetting specific issues in the redesign process, and making contacts with local companies to help with implementation. The academic sector can help by developing or analyzing proposals of different system redesigns.

Action Item:
1. The sponsoring humanitarian organization will provide specific data as soon as the scope of the project is defined.  A sub group of the Supply Chain Council can be formed to address the issues.

There is a great need for the use of integrated information technology within humanitarian organizations where manual processes are still dominant.  Humanitarian organizations have a need for flexible and accessible technology solutions. By utilizing information technology effectively, humanitarian organizations can improve responsiveness and operations by having better visibility to the pipeline. The working group discussed challenges and strategies to increase adoption of integrated technology solutions.

To ensure the success of HELIOS, Fritz Institute's new software, two specific areas were identified for engaging the private sector: 1) implementation support, and 2) hardware and software donations. It was also felt that the humanitarian sector should be kept abreast of advances in technology and look for ways to test them in the field.

Action Items:
1.  Create an advisory council to provide consultation on the launch of HELIOS

    * Engage the academic sector to help the humanitarian organizations to create business cases for implementing technology within their organizations

This year's Crossroads marked the official launch of Fritz Institute's Corporations for Humanity councils. We appreciate the enthusiasm shown by all and recognize that this is an exciting beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between the humanitarian organizations and representatives from the private sector. The open conversations led to a mutual understanding of challenges and concrete and actionable next steps were defined.

If you simply give money, it is one thing to one organization. If you give services or create technology, this can be replicated by every other humanitarian aid organization. This means you get leverage and the result factor is bigger - Lynn Fritz

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