The social preferences of local citizens and spontaneous volunteerism during disaster relief operations

Saileshsingh Gunessee, Nachiappan Subramanian, Samuel Roscoe, Jothibasu Ramanathan

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Existing studies on disaster relief operations pay limited attention to acts of spontaneous volunteerism by local citizens in the aftermath of disasters. The purpose of this paper is to explore how social preferences motivate citizens to help during post-disaster situations; above and beyond their own self-regarding interests. The paper begins by synthesising the literature on social preferences from the field of behavioural economics and social psychology with the discourse surrounding behavioural operations management and humanitarian operations management. By doing so, we identify the motivators, enablers and barriers of local citizen response during disaster relief operations. These factors inform a theoretical framework of the social preferences motivating spontaneous volunteerism in post-disaster situations. We evidence facets of the framework using archival and unstructured data retrieved from Twitter feeds generated by local citizens during the floods that hit Chennai, India in 2015. Our model highlights the importance of individual-level action during disaster relief operations and the enabling role of social media as a coordination mechanism for such efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6793-6808
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Production Research
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Behavioural operations management
  • Disaster relief operations
  • Social media
  • Social preferences
  • Spontaneous volunteerism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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