Reducing material convergence in disaster environments: The potential of trusted change agents

José Holguín-Veras, Trilce Encarnación, Luk N. Van Wassenhove, Shaligram Pokharel, Víctor Cantillo, Johanna Amaya, Tricia Wachtendorf, Juanita Rilling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The research in this paper seeks to advance the effective management of one of the most intractable aspects of disaster response phenomena: material convergence—the sudden and mostly uncoordinated arrival of physical donations in the aftermath of large disasters and catastrophic events—referred to by disaster respondents as a “second-tier disaster.” To do so, the paper analyzes the strategic interactions among, and the incentives presented to, the various agents that influence the generation and management of material convergence, establishing that material convergence management is a Collective Action Problem. The paper defines the agents’ roles in material convergence management and assesses the potential of demand management. To achieve the desired switch of donation choice the paper investigates the use of appeals made by trusted change agents, i.e., representatives of the disaster agents considered by survey respondents as the most trustworthy and knowledgeable of the conditions at the disaster area. The research is based on unique data, the first of its kind available to researchers, assembled by a survey of registered donors in a donation campaign after the Tohoku disasters in 2011. As part of the research, the data is used to: gain insight into the factors that influence donors to donate physical goods or cash; identify the agent(s) that ought to lead the demand management effort; quantify the potential impact of appeals from trusted change agents; and identify a preliminary list of the key messages that trusted change agents should employ in their appeals to induce donors to switch donations from physical supplies to cash. The data show that about 21–32% of donors in the sample would very likely switch to cash donations if trusted change agents (TCAs) requested them to do so. Finally, the paper identifies a set of Operations Management actions to complement efforts of donor behavior change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102736
JournalTransportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review
StatePublished - Jun 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Transportation


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