Abstract for: Capability Trap in Humanitarian Operations: An Interactive Simulator

The increasing need for humanitarian relief necessitates humanitarian organizations to improve their operations by building capabilities. However, seeking to improve the process can lead organizations to fall into a “capability trap.” The capability trap is a phenomenon where an organization allocates its resources to the work effort for short-term success. The lack of resources allocated to building capabilities results in a reduction in the performance of the organization over time. As the organization experiences lower performance, it allocates even more resources to the work effort leading to even lower performance, closing a vicious reinforcing mechanism. This study presents an interactive simulation game that focuses on humanitarian relief organizations and tackles the issue of capability traps in an experimental context. The experiment examines the combined effects of high and low values of the variables Investment Time, Erosion Time, and Productivity. Participants will be randomly assigned to a treatment and decide on what percentage of the effort will be allocated for relief. By looking at the allocation of effort, our aim is to get an idea about the threshold levels of the variables where the investment decision in organizational capability changes.