When Good Intentions Go Bad: A Social Construction Approach to Alignment in Disaster Donations

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Mary NELAN, University of North Texas, USA
Tricia WACHTENDORF, University of Delaware, USA
Samantha PENTA, University at Albany, State University of New York, USA
In the aftermath of disasters, materiel convergence (the influx of materiel goods donations) can cause extreme negative impacts; it has been described as a “second disaster”. Non-priority goods and donations that are in excess of the need can impact transportation into the area and create storage concerns both for the distribution centers and for the survivors. This paper features data collected after Hurricane Sandy in 2013 and two tornadoes outside of Oklahoma City in May 2013. Interviews were conducted with individuals involved in the donation supply to understand how they socially construct the need for disaster donations, and how the needs of donors aligned with the needs of survivors. The findings show that individuals involved in the donation supply chain differentially assign value to the donors’ interests and the interests of survivors. Participants understood that the alignment of these interests was important to the successful functioning of the supply chain, however the findings reveal that while survivors’ needs are highlighted as a motivation to donate, the interests of donors were prioritized over the needs of survivors. The preference to meet the needs of donors over the needs of survivors can directly contribute to the excess of donations that enter disaster affected areas.