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Improving the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Humanitarian Response

From natural disasters to pandemics, crises require quick action—and a longer-term plan. BCG’s humanitarian response consultants collaborate across the private, public, and social sectors to drive new and innovative approaches.

A humanitarian crisis may spark suddenly, but it’s likely to affect lives—and often imperil them—for months or even years. COVID-19 has made that all too clear. Emergency preparedness is crucial; so, too, are smart strategies for immediate response and longer-term recovery. That’s a tall order, especially when resources are limited, logistics are difficult, and the urgency is high.

A humanitarian response should be innovative, agile, and adaptive. Situations evolve—rapidly and unpredictably—and humanitarian operations need to evolve with them, prioritizing actions, testing approaches, and learning and adjusting in real time.

This means applying data analytics and emerging technologies in tackling an emergency, whether it’s a flood, an earthquake, a pandemic, or a refugee crisis. And it means partnering across sectors, often in unique and novel ways. For while a humanitarian crisis may seem all too familiar, the most effective response will likely look all new.

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BCG’s Work on Humanitarian and Resilience Investing

BCG worked with the World Economic Forum to explore how an impact-driven investment model can mitigate crises and strengthen the self-reliance of fragile communities while providing financial returns.


BCG’s Experience in Humanitarian Response

We have responded to many manmade and natural disasters, marshaling a global network of experts and innovative end-to-end approaches. Our work spans the three key phases of humanitarian response:

1. Immediate Response

2. Recovery

3. Emergency Preparedness

Humanitarian response is about deploying resources in the most effective manner. We draw on a unique breadth of expertise, methodologies, and relationships to develop and carry out the optimal assistance strategy.

  • Partnerships. Our experts regularly collaborate with NGOs, UN agencies, governments, and the private sector. We’ve partnered with the WFP—the world’s largest humanitarian organization—on a range of strategic, operational, and organizational issues since 2003. And we’ve worked with Save the Children since 2006, helping the organization provide humanitarian relief in multiple crises, including the 2010 flood in Pakistan and the 2011 earthquake in Japan.
  • Experts. Our global reach and cross-industry experience let us call on experts in an array of topic areas, including data analytics, logistics, supply chain management, evidence-based decision support, coordination, and new ways of working. We deploy the right people for the situation, so we can deliver the right response—fast.
  • Digital, Technology, and Data. We use new tools and technologies to transform humanitarian response. After Japan’s devastating earthquake, we created a platform to support distance learning for children in affected areas. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we employed analytics to design a rebuilding program that helped over 100,000 New Yorkers return to their homes on an accelerated schedule. And during the COVID-19 crisis, BCG GAMMAexperts in epidemiology, artificial intelligence, and advanced analytics—collaborated with the BCG Henderson Institute to create an epidemiological model to forecast how the pandemic would evolve for more than 50 countries.

Examples of Our Humanitarian Response Consulting Work

In our work across industries, we’ve seen the power of innovation in spurring success. Humanitarian response is no different. Here are some of the ways we’re exploring creative—and better—solutions:


Meet Our Humanitarian Response Consultants

BCG’s humanitarian response consultants and industry experts partner with leading social organizations, companies, nonprofits, and philanthropic bodies to arrive at solutions for emergencies. These are some of our experts on this topic.

Learn More About Humanitarian Response

The Private Sector's Role in Humanitarian Crises

David Young clarifies the private sector's role in preparing for humanitarian crises for the good of the business, its employees, and the country in which it operates.

We Need to Turn Our Response to Crisis Inside Out

During the peak of the Ebola crisis, the recovery process in Africa was not going according to plan. Failure after sobering failure forced BCG’s Shalini Unnikrishnan to recognize that they had approached the crisis from the wrong direction.

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