By Ashley Hoffman, North Carolina State University & GOHWP Chair & Drew B. Mallory, Purdue University & GOHWP Vice-Chair
As with any growing subfield, we humanitarian work psychologists are always quite excited to see any new research coming to print. Starting with the 2012 book, Humanitarian Work Psychology (Carr, MacLachlan & Furnham, eds.), and continuing with books dedicated to the intersection of I-O and vulnerable populations (Reichman, 2014) and I-O Psychology and the greater good (Olson-Buchanan, J. B., Koppes Bryan, L. L., & Thompson, L. F., Eds., 2013) the number of publications devoted to highlighting the work being conducted in the HWP realm has been rapidly proliferating. Yet, despite greater publicity and increased research and interest in the role of I-O psychologists in contributing to the greater good, the appetite for even more information and research is strong. The latest publication to add to this body of literature is a book edited by former GOHWP Chair, Ishbel McWha-Hermann, as well as former Vice-Chair Doug Maynard, and current board member Mary O’Neill Berry. My colleague, Drew B. Mallory, and I would like to use this month’s column to introduce you to the book, provide a short review of the content, and share with you an interview with the editors, who discuss their vision of both the book and the larger area of HWP.
This book, Humanitarian Work Psychology and the Global Development Agenda (2016), is among a handful of other books that have taken a step to fill the relative dearth of literature addressing HWP concerns, and does an admirable job at tackling the task at hand. The book seeks to address the way that work and organizations can impact global development, both in small- and large-scale operations. It is a collection of research studies and theoretical articles targeted to researchers and practitioners in the I/O field, and—especially—professionals involved with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and their successors, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
HWP and the Global Development Agenda (2016) seeks to address the organizations and individuals that have contributed to the research and practice of humanitarian work psychology, and how these specific contributions have furthered both the field of I/O psychology and the United Nation’s goals related to poverty reduction, social justice, and equality. The book makes a compelling case, not only for the practical applications of research and work that has already been conducted, but also about the processes aid and development workers use during the implementation of initiatives. The final section of the book also showcases some thoughtful reflections on the state of the field, the responsibility of I/O psychology in contributing to the greater good, and how the progress in implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will dovetail into the accomplishment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The introduction of the book by the editors provides an overview of the Millennium Development Goals and introduces unfamiliar readers to HWP. The book separates author contributions into thirds: articles addressing practical applications; specific processes; and reflections and projections, each related to the MDGs. As this book is a collection of research and practice from a variety of professions and interests, the contributors come from different backgrounds, including traditional I/O psychology scientists, as well as aid and development workers and practitioners. Additionally, the authors come from a variety of scholastic and professional backgrounds and represent very diverse countries and communities. The work of many important figures in HWP is represented, as is the work of many interesting and well-known organizations. The work that the IBM has done in Nigeria (Osicki), the more mainstream processes employed in corporate sustainability and the United Nations Global Compact partnerships (Cruse), and the variety of “calls to action” (e.g., Viale; Lefkowitz), in particular, are highlights of the informative and compelling vision of the state of HWP, the gaps in research and practice, and the roles that need to be created or filled moving forward. Not only do these chapters serve as a broad overview of the kinds of work that humanitarian work psychologists do, they also aim to continue the discussion surrounding I-O psychologists’ ethical responsibility to improving the lives of people both locally and globally, and to focus on such outcomes as much as or more than we have traditionally focused on improving the bottom line of the corporations in which we work. To that end, the volume concludes with a poignant piece leaving the reader feeling a renewed sense of responsibility and urgency to contribute to the MDGs and the SDGs moving forward.
This book showcases the work that has been done to this point. It also serves as a subtle reminder that we, as members of the field of psychology (and particularly the area of Humanitarian Work Psychology), have a great deal of research and work to do in order to both understand and contribute to the aid and development field.
Having sufficiently introduced you to the book concept and format, as well as its relevance and timeliness to the area of HWP, we would like to take this opportunity to have the book editors speak a little more about some of the “behind the scenes” process of compiling the book, as well as addressing some specific questions about their perceptions of the book’s strengths, purpose, and the future of HWP.
Hi Ishbel, Doug, and Mary! Thanks so much for contributing to this edition of the HWP TIP column. Let’s jump right in!
Ashley: I’d love to know your process for compiling the book? How did you come up with people and projects to include?
MB: Many of the authors are known to the editors since the early days of HWP; many are members of GOHWP, or closely networked with our group. We looked for broad geographical representation and a wide range of projects to include, with the intent of demonstrating the scope of HWP and the many and varied ways in which it can be of assistance in furthering the global development agenda, in particular, its application to the implementation of the MDGs, and, by extension, the SDGs.
IMH: We wanted to spread the net as wide as possible, and try to hear from people who were doing as broad a range of interesting and innovative work as possible. To do this, and ensure we reached people we might not have already known, we put together a call for proposals and circulated it to as many networks as we could find. We were really excited about the number of high quality submissions we received from around the globe. Once we had reviewed the submissions we looked for a broad geographical representation, as well as a range of projects which covered all of the MDGs in some way.
Ashley: Yes, it is evident that the projects covered are representative of the truly global nature of HWP, and the reach of the MDGs. I know Drew and I are really excited about this book and the contributions it provides. What do you all believe are the biggest strengths of the book?
IMH: The book was conceived and written at a really exciting time in the global development agenda, as the MDGs evolved into the SDGs. We felt that as the world put the development agenda under the microscope it was critical for I-O psychology and HWP to step up and highlight the contributions we have made to the MDGs and put forward our thoughts and aspirations for where this can go in the future. At the same time we recognized the opportunity for the fledgling HWP movement to shift from conceptual discussion of why I-O psychology can and should contribute to this agenda, to a practical demonstration of the excellent progress that work psychologists have already made. We hoped that providing practical case studies would help, encourage, and inspire others to undertake these kinds of projects, by showing that such work can be done and IS being done.
MB: We feel that the finished product does indeed demonstrate the breadth and depth of HWP application in a variety of types of case studies and geographical parts of the world. By making explicit the connection to MDG implementation, we think that the book serves as a blueprint or roadmap for how HWP can serve to also implement the SDGs, which define the global development agenda for the next 15 years. In addition, the book includes some “thought pieces” from leaders in the field, commenting on the progress made to date by HWP and their hopes for the future of HWP.
Drew: We absolutely saw that breadth, as well as the practical implications of the publication as we were reading. As a researcher starting out in this area myself, I’d like to hear you speak to what is missing in the HWP literature that another book could address?
DM: Using the MDGs as a framework for organizing and viewing the content of the book, it becomes clear that there is a greater focus on some areas of global development than others. This is not surprising given that the psychology of work is a more natural fit with some initiatives (e.g., eradicate extreme poverty, promote gender equality) than others. But we believe that HWP has much to contribute to all of these areas and look forward to seeing how practitioners find creative ways to apply our science across the broad spectrum of social, health, and environmental issues.
IMH: This book focused specifically on the global development agenda, because of the timing of the development goals. However, this reflects only one half of HWP work, as defined by GOHWP. Another book could provide a balanced illustration of both aspects of HWP (one being a focus on humane and decent work, the other on humanitarian aid and development work), and in addition to work in the humanitarian sector could include for example, projects that help marginalized and vulnerable workers in higher income settings. Additionally, as HWP grows in momentum we learn about more and more projects which are being done in the area, for example through AOM’s humanistic management network, and organizations like the Social Impact Research Lab. I’d like to see future work collaborating with scholars in these areas, and others, to learn across the disciplines.
MB: Yes, we would have liked to include more case studies illustrating the broader definition of HWP, namely, studies of work psychology applied in a humanitarian way, regardless of the sector or type of workplace. We look forward to covering this more completely on a future occasion!
Ashley: There is so much good work being done, and we are only beginning to scratch the surface of connecting as a global network. Are there any other projects you would have liked to highlight but didn’t have the space to include?
MB: Additional work being done on wage inequality/living wage issues, such as the GLOW initiative (Global Living Organizational Wage) – this is increasingly becoming a topic which is front and center of economic and social debate and media coverage.
IMH: To be honest, I think we packed as much into the book as we could! With 19 chapters I don’t think the publisher would have allowed us to include any more!
Drew: Anything else readers should know before beginning to peruse their copy?
MB: We encourage readers to read the initial chapter, which sets the stage and summarizes the various case studies, then to pick and choose other chapters at will; each chapter stands on its own merits, it is not necessary to read them in sequence. The reflective essays in Part lll and the final chapter we think bear reading together, as the foundation for the future direction of HWP. We hope that the book will encourage, if not inspire, readers to consider how they can practice and/or research HWP in their own careers.
It was such fun speaking with Ishbel, Doug, and Mary about this new book, and get a little more insight into how it contributes to the HWP literature at large. Humanitarian Work Psychology and the Global Development Agenda is hopefully the first of a large number of books devoted to highlighting and promoting the work that professionals in the psychology field are doing to further the accomplishment of the United Nations MDGs and SDGs. As we continue to move forward in our pursuit of these global goals in tandem with the United Nations, it is imperative that we also continue to publish empirical and theoretical research that speaks to the importance and relevance of the social sciences in solving local and global issues, and improving human welfare. This book is a wonderful launching point for any psychologists, new or seasoned, to improve their understanding of the interaction of the psychological profession and the world, and how psychologists can maximize their positive impact around the globe.