Humanitarian aid refers to the effort to relief the suffering of people affect by armed conflict and natural or man-made disasters. Since the mid-1990s, this altruistic motivation has been supplemented by a focus on the effectiveness of aid provision. Central to this development is the effort to professionalize humanitarian organizations’ management and workforce. Focusing on the management of one humanitarian organization, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/ Artsen Zonder Grenzen, this dissertation examines diverse aspects of organizational life and how these reflect, or are shaped by, professionalization efforts. Focal areas of analysis are MSF’s human resource management approach, the socialization of new recruits, staff turnover and retention, as well as the impression management and legitimation strategies MSF applies to maintain a status as a highly respected organization despite recurrently drawing criticism for unconventional acts. Research involves the quantitative and qualitative analysis of various data sources, including MSF’s personnel database, interviews with staff members, employees’ performance evaluations, and organizational policy documents covering 18 years of MSF’s history. This detailed case study offers a comprehensive examination of an internationally distinguished humanitarian organization and its efforts to consolidate professionalization processes with the moral cause of humanitarianism.
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