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Organisational principles or value standards are considered crucial for maintaining quality in humanitarian assistance. Research among staff members of Médecins Sans Frontiéres-Holland (MSF-H) showed that fieldworkers construct their own interpretations of principles and priorities in response to demands placed on them in the field. Organisational principles are important for the performance and the well-being of volunteers: they serve as beacons, identity markers, and interpersonal ‘glue’. It also becomes apparent that while in practice staff members renegotiate the formal principles of their organisation, they also adhere to patterns of organisational culture resulting in a number of ordering principles they deem typical of their organisation.

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