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Frontline Humanitarian Logistics

Sustainable technology capability for the humanitarian community to enable interoperability across the sector and provide a large efficiency gain to all.

With many nonprofit organizations moving to deploy or replace their core Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) capability in 2019/20, there was a systemic opportunity to deliver a sustainable technology capability for the humanitarian community. This would enable interoperability across the sector and provide a large efficiency gain to all. (Interoperability is defined as the ability of two or more systems to operate together in concert, literally to ‘inter operate’.)

To save time and costs and enable interoperability of information systems within and between organizations, NetHope and a group of its nonprofit Member organizations began the Frontline Humanitarian Logistics (FHL) Data Standard project. The project was joined by Proteus, a digital change consultancy, to help create the Data Standard that would help the whole sector – and ultimately better help people in need of humanitarian support.

The fact that this collaboration includes the technology companies is powerful because it is these companies that provide the backbone systems that nonprofits, international agencies and governments use, including in the forefront of their aid delivery. If these systems are designed with sensitivity for frontline situations, by using common processes and data entities across frontline humanitarian logistics, then they can be a huge enabling and effort-multiplying factor for the sector. This would save significant time and cost for individual organizations that require a system, and enable interoperability and quick sharing of frontline humanitarian data which can be vital in a crisis. Conversely, if these systems continue to be unsuitable for frontline environments, they can quickly become a limiting factor in emergency response and recovery. In some cases, they may even require bespoke or inefficient ‘work arounds’ or ‘hacks’, adding further burden to the nonprofit’s vital resources.

This FHL Data Standard project brought together experience from nonprofits, some of the world’s biggest technology companies with expertise in supply chain management, technology consultants and academics with a focus on humanitarian logistics. Together they ensured the data standard would be rigorous, fit for purpose, and crucially, could be dynamic and built upon. They knew their standard would increase in relevance and value as it was further tested in the fire of large-scale software development and real-life aid situations.

While the establishment of the FHL Data Standard represents a major milestone of progress, significant work remains to be done. To that end, NetHope and a growing core of stakeholders will build on its success and continue to drive towards wider and deeper implementation of the Data Standard. This will be achieved through integration of the Standard in the technology tools and products that the sector relies on to manage humanitarian logistical support.

Award Winning! This FHL initiative and Mike Smith have been recognized by the Start Network for their effort in grappling with the challenges of systemic change in the humanitarian sector, and for driving lasting change within the wider system.

You can be part of this ground-breaking project

Do you work in nonprofit last-mile logistics? If you do, we would love for you to join our movement for greater collective impact and cohesion in this vital area! If you work for a NetHope Member organization, check out our Working Group page on the NetHope NetWork. Note: You will need to create a login to access the working group areas of the NetWork. Also, register your interest in joining the FHL Data Standard project.

If you are not part of a NetHope Member organization, email and we will connect you to the group.

We are also looking for technology and funding partners to empower our Members to embed the data standard in their work. To be part of this crucial movement for change and increased impact, email the NetHope Team at

Frontline Humanitarian Logistics Data Standard and Guide for Use (Version 1.0.2 - September 2020)
download Word Docx file
Frontline Humanitarian Logistics Learning Exercise Summary (April 2020)
download Word Docx file




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