Adi Walker

PhD

Successful leadership: a study of humanitarian and development organisations in South Asia

Qualifications

Prior to my research degree, I was working for a German international development corporation in Pakistan. I have been working in international humanitarian and development aid for the past 15 years, in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Democratic Republic of Congo, Romania and Haiti.

Supervisor(s)

Dr Nicholas Walliman

Research project

My research will explore the factors for, influences on, and aspects of leadership in international humanitarian and development organisations (IHDOs). The locus of the study will be the South Asian countries of Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. Here numerous reasons such as natural disasters, political machinations and conflict, as well as a limited local capacity to address them, demand the presence of IHDO's. IHDO leaders working in these complex environments face diverse challenges, not least of which is working often within multi-cultural contexts.

However, the success of leadership in IHDO's has been challenged both in practice and in the literature over the past 15 years. Yet many of the leadership theories, developed outside the aid sector, lack relevance. My research aims to develop sector-specific and sector-relevant leadership theory. This includes presenting a set of core competencies required for successful IHDO leadership, and identifying which factors, including professionalism, could be influential.

Research strategies will use mixed methods, based on the researcher pragmatist epistemological perspectives and ontology. The study includes a literature review (online databases and articles, purchased key works, university library, sector and agency documents) with a database established using EndNote. The fieldwork commences with an online quantitative survey (piloted first) of IHDOs operational in Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, as well as IHDO headquarters, using Survey Monkey. The survey will be sent to key representatives of the organisations, including Programme and Country Directors, as well as to donor and host government agents, and placed on online aid sector platforms.

Following analysis of the results using SPSS, key themes will be extrapolated to form the basis of qualitative semi-structured interviews that will be carried out within three case study IHDOs operational in these three countries. They are representative of the spectrum of organisations working along the humanitarian/emergency – development continuum of the aid sector. These interviews will be carried out with leaders and professionals, and focus group discussions with selected programme staff will add another dimension and perspective to the qualitative aspects of the research.

Interviews will also be held with IHDO representatives in their headquarters; with donor representatives, and with host government agents in each country. These discussions will provide more detailed information, triangulating, and either validating or questioning responses from the survey. Results will be analysed using NVIVO, and conclusions drawn to provide recommendations to the participant IHDOs, other stakeholders in the sector, academic institutions etc.

The following research question and sub-questions focus on the research problem:

  • How could leadership be more successful in IHDOs in South Asia?
  • Which characteristics and competences are required for the leadership of IHDOs?
  • What other factors influence IHDO leadership?
  • How could professionalism be applied to result in more successful leadership in IHDOs?

Adi Walker

PhD
Successful leadership: A study of humanitarian and development organisations in South Asia

Supervisor(s)
Dr Nicholas Walliman