Understanding the Role of Adaptation and Improvisation in Humanitarian NGO Responses to COVID-19

Seana Epley, Fordham University


In my thesis I reviewed the existing scholarship to isolate the predominant frameworks regarding what processes humanitarian organizations undertake to make changes in response to environmental upheavals and then applied them to three case studies in the humanitarian disaster response field that operated during the COVID-19 pandemic between March 2020 and April 2021. The selected cases are humanitarian NGOs based in the United States that primarily rely on a volunteer workforce: the American Red Cross, Team Rubicon, and All Hands and Hearts. I then distilled the literature down to three recurring key concepts and their relationships with each other, these are improvisation, adaptation, and resilience. I established three hypotheses to observe and measure these relationships with the expectation to find evidence of converse relationships between each. Once established, I conducted testing of these hypotheses in a qualitative manner via structured interviews with key leaders, organizational documentation review, and personal experience narratives.

Subject Area

Organizational behavior|Social research|Public health

Recommended Citation

Epley, Seana, "Understanding the Role of Adaptation and Improvisation in Humanitarian NGO Responses to COVID-19" (2023). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI30246436.