NSF – SEE Proposal
American Red Cross Chapter Restructuring
Basic Idea: Organizational network structure and organizational performance interact,
influence each other
Scope: Catastrophic disaster response
1. How do we define the ARC network? Vs. the environment
2. How do we measure the network’s performance / service quality?
3. How do we optimize the ARC network for stochastic demand?
a. What are the organization’s constraints?
4. How do we get the organization to form the optimal network? What are the
incentives? How does the organization evolve toward the optimal?
Assumption: The ARC will not do a complete redesign of the network. Rather they will
reorganize in steps.
1 Definition of the American Red Cross Network
The American Red Cross is a service delivery network that consists of an organizational
hierarchy, chapters, trained staff, volunteers, and financial and physical resources.
Service Area Service Area Service Area
Regional Chapter Regional Chapter
Community Community Community Community
Chapter Chapter Chapter Chapter
Figure 1 Service Delivery Organization Network
Each of the links in Figure 1 has multiple dimensions. From the administrative
perspective, higher levels of the organizational structure have more responsibilities while
lower levels interface with the public/victims directly.
Fundraising activities typically occur at the community level. In a post-disaster scenario,
funds flow to the affected communities.
Supplies, equipment, volunteers, and trained staff are associated with the community and
The network is spatially distributed, indicating that for a given disaster, supplies,
financial resources, staff, and volunteers need to mobilize. Delays will be incurred due to
time to prepare to move and travel time.
The volunteer portion of the network is stochastic; the number of volunteers available at
any given point in time is uncertain, as is their mobilization time. We will treat this as
We will work with ARC representatives to identify the details of the expanded network,
including the current location of each chapter, the supplies and equipment quantities and
locations, the decision-making authority of each node in the hierarchy, the skills of staff
at each node, and the volunteer and financial base in each area. Through detailed
conversations, we will determine how the various commodities flow through the network
when the ARC responds to a major disaster.
2 Definition of the Operating Environment
The environment plays a large role in the structure and performance of the network.
2.1 Catastrophic events
To slightly simplify the extremely complex nature of this problem, we will focus on
catastrophic events, which have a low probability of occurring but high impact when they
do. The types of disasters faced by communities across the nation influence the resource
allocation and staff/ volunteer skills and training. The resources and training heavily
influence the chapter’s preparedness for dealing with the event and victims’ needs, which
in turn, affects the service quality. Catastrophic events also damage physical
infrastructure, such as the transportation and communications systems, which delays the
communication of specific needs, tracking which victims have already received financial
support, and transporting staff, volunteers, and materials to the disaster area. These
delays degrade the performance of the network, which, in turn, affects the desirable
2.2 Interactions with Other Networks
As mentioned above, the ARC network depends on the communications and
transportation infrastructures. While the physical infrastructure is outside the control of
the ARC, several issues are within its domain. For instance, the ARC can ensure that
each chapter is equipped with multiple forms of communication (e.g. phone, ratio, and
Internet) and that staff is trained to use them. From the transportation perspective, the
ARC can ensure that contingency transportation plans are available. Furthermore, they
can carefully locate their supply centers to ensure that multiple access points are available
and that they are not sited where they are likely to be affected by the disaster. Yet, these
centers should be relatively close to communities who are likely to need those supplies;
greater distance implies more delay in meeting demand. These tradeoffs will be
examined in this study.
Aside from physical infrastructure, the ARC network also interacts with other
entities, including EMS, fire, law enforcement, and federal agencies. We will work with
ARC to determine the strength of working relationships with these other emergency
response organizations. This is a concern because if we remove the local connections, we
may have inter-agency communication issues that degrade our network performance.
2.3 ARC image
Availability of critical resources for ARC, including volunteers and funding, depends
also on the ARCs image and reputation. Therefore ARC image is an important part of the
operating environment. This in turn depends on several factors including the performance
of ARC. Therefore an interaction between ARC performance and structure are
observable, where performance drives image and reputation which in turn impact
resources available to enable performance.
3 Identifying and Modeling Demand for ARC Services
Demand for ARC services is stochastic. The demand arises from random events which
cause a random amount of damage. To further complicate the problem, populations are
dynamic; however, we will ignore this factor in this initial study. The stochasticity of the
population requiring service will be assumed to be correlated with the event type, impact
site, and the amount of damage it causes.
First we will develop a generic framework for a theoretical demand distribution and
then we will work with ARC to determine the relative likelihood distributions of different
disaster types in different locations and determine the disaster severity distribution to
enable decision analysis in ARC based on the model. Based on their historical
information, we will also identify resource needs.?
4 Measurement of the Network Performance
Dynamic / stochastic?
5 Step-Wise Network Optimization
Given a current network structure, identify the optimal network improvement.
Organizational constraints are anticipated to prevent the network from reaching a true
optimum which typically requires a complete overhaul of the network structure, but step-
wise improvements will be made. We will work with ARC to identify the types of
improvements that are considered acceptable (e.g. consolidating chapters, eliminating
chapters). The current restructuring efforts at ARC provide a great platform to enable the
impact of this research on critical disaster management operations.
The optimization problem can take the following forms:
Maximize service performance
Measures from (4)
Network survivability / resilience
organization hierarchy, network structure, and spatial distribution of nodes
Organizational constraints (e.g. politics, tolerable disruption to current structure)
Loss of jobs
Available financial resources
Fixed amount of supplies
Maintaining volunteer support
Not optimizing for expected demand, rather expected performance given a distribution of
demand and stochastic supply of volunteers.
6 Organizational Evolution Toward the Optimal
The optimization step offers guidelines for which parts of the organizational structure
should be changed. However, knowing a better configuration is only one part of
implementing a new structure. The planning for organizational re-configuration entails
the design of incentive structures that enable such change. At this step we investigate the
design of the incentives structures required to break the barriers to change and to inform
the specific steps to navigate a path of low resistance to the new organizational
configuration. We plan to use an agent-based model of network re-configuration process
that explicitly models the critical decision-making agents and investigates the impact of
different organizational and incentive structures on their motivation to follow the change
Estimated time for evolution?
How do we investigate the organization change?