Organisational psychologists have worked in many important and noteworthy ways to enhance human welfare since the beginning of our discipline in the 19th Century. However, here, we focus only on the more recent events that specifically led to the establishment of the discipline of humanitarian work psychology and this organisation:


The electronic mailing list known as “Povio” was established by Stuart C. Carr at Massey University’s Poverty Research Group to connect organisational psychologists interested in “pro-social” applications of organisational psychology.

April 2008

Symposia entitled “Organizational psychologists and world poverty: Our roles and obligations” (Reichman et al., 2008) and “The poverty of psychology: Can we reduce it?” (Carr & MacLachlan, 2008) were held at the annual conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) in San Francisco, California. During these symposia, both organisational psychologists and professionals from other disciplines, including Walter Reichman, Michael Frese, Virginia Schein, Stuart C. Carr, Malcolm MacLachlan, and Frank Landy discussed organisational psychology’s role in poverty reduction. These discussions led to calls for the establishment of a “Global Task Force on Organizational Psychology for Development” (Carr et al., 2008).

June 2009

Repeated calls for a task force were answered by a gathering of over ten concerned professionals from several different countries at University College, London. This meeting created a temporary working group charged to “foster the practice, promotion, and development of HWP by unifying an international community focused on aligning prosocial agendas and decent work with local needs” (Thompson, 2009, p.29). It was at this meeting that the term “humanitarian work psychology” was first used. Three co-chairs, Mary O’Neill Berry (USA), Stuart C. Carr (New Zealand), and Leo Marai (Papua New Guinea), were elected to lead the task force that became known as the Global Task Force for Humanitarian Work Psychology (GTF) – see below for a list of the original members of the GTF.

2009 to 2012

The GTF undertook a concerted effort to raise awareness about the application of organisational psychology to poverty reduction and decent work. The GTF was featured in symposia at multiple international conferences organised by groups including the European Association for Work and Organisational Psychology (EAWOP), the International Association for Applied Psychology (IAAP), the Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology (SIOP), the Psychological Association of the Philippines, the New Zealand Psychological Society (NZPsS), and the Australian Psychological Society (APS). The GTF and the discipline were also featured in the prominent organisational psychology textbook by Frank Landy and Jeffrey Conte (2010) and a Global Special Issue on Psychology and Poverty Reduction was coordinated by Stuart Carr, out of Massey University in New Zealand. Moreover, the first courses prominently featuring humanitarian work psychology were held at Massey University in New Zealand, the University of Bologna in Italy, the University of Barcelona in Spain, and Elon University in the United States. Finally, the GTF began interfacing with policymaking bodies by making a formal statement at the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit in 2010.

January to August 2012

  • In early 2012, the GTF held online and in-person meetings and formed committees to begin the process of transitioning from a task force to a permanent organisation. A call for new members of the organisation to replace the GTF was put out and over 100 people from over 20 countries applied to join as founding members.
  • The book Humanitarian Work Psychology, edited by Stuart Carr, Mac MacLachlan, and Adrian Furnham, was released in the first half of the year. The book detailed work from a wide range of I-O psychologists and development experts on various issues within the emerging field. A book launch and round table focusing on humanitarian work psychology was hosted by the Centre for Socio-Economic Development (CSEND) in Geneva and featured a host of leaders from the international development community.
  • In July, the first meeting of the GTF’s successor organisation was held at the 2012 International Congress of Psychology in Cape Town, South Africa. At this meeting, the process for electing new leadership and selecting a name were determined. It was decided that the organisation would be led by an interim executive committee which would oversee the formalisation of the organisation’s by-laws and systems.
  • The name “the Global Organisation for Humanitarian Work Psychology” was selected and a chair, three coordinators, and a student representative were elected to compose the interim executive committee. The former co-chairs of the GTF began serving on the interim executive committee as out-going co-chairs.

September 2012 to October 2013

The interim executive committee, consisting of a chair (Ishbel McWha), three out-going co-chairs (Stuart Carr, Leo Marai, and Mary O’Neill Berry), and three coordinators (Alexander Gloss, Jeffrey Godbout, and Kristen Kirkland) developed a set of bylaws which included the permanent structure for the organisation’s leadership. This website was also developed during this period by the web manager Doug Maynard in consultation with the executive committee. In October 2013, the by-laws were formally approved by the GOHWP membership and elections were held for the first slate of leadership positions, with those elected taking office on November 1st, 2013.

Original Members of the Global Task Force (GTF)

(See above for details on the history of the GTF)

  • Paul Anand, Open University, England
  • Steve Atkins, Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand
  • Peter Baguma, Makerere University, Uganda
  • Mary O’Neill Berry, Sirota Survey Intelligence, New York, U.S.A.
  • Stuart C. Carr, Massey University, New Zealand
  • Morten Eikeland, Save the Children, Norway
  • Adrian Furnham, University College London, England
  • Sarah Glavey, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
  • Jeff Godbout, University of Baltimore, U.S.A.
  • Nigel Guenole, Goldsmiths, University of London, England
  • Harry Hui, University of Hong Kong, China
  • Jane Klobas, Bocconi University, Italy, and University of Western Australia
  • Mac MacLachlan, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
  • Leo Marai, University of Papua New Guinea, Papua New Guinea
  • Ishbel McWha, Massey University, New Zealand
  • Jose Maria Peiro, President Division 1 of IAAP, Europe
  • Walter Reichman, Sirota Survey Intelligence, U.S.A.
  • Virginia E. Schein, Gettysburg College, U.S.A.
  • Lori Foster Thompson, North Carolina State University, U.S.A.
  • Callist Tumwebaze, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, and Makerere University, Uganda