Mélange du Mercredi/Humanitarian Work Psychology & the Global Development Agenda

Welcome to Mélange du Mercredi (Wednesday Mix). Each week, we highlight one of the latest and greatest in reading, film and other scholarly resources, focusing on a variety of issues pertaining to international humanitarian law. As always, if you have suggestions, or would like to submit a post on something you feel our readers will also enjoy, we're happy to include them. Just email Editor Niki Clark

Humanitarian Work Psychology & the Global Development Agenda edited by Ishbel McWha-Hermann, Douglas C. Maynard and Mary O’Neill Berry 

Reviewed by Ashley J. Hoffman of North Carolina State University, and Drew B. Mallory of Purdue University originally published in the International Review of the Red Cross

Entrenched in human resources, leadership development and Fortune 500 selection
systems, industrial and organizational (I-O) psychology is the study of human
psychology in the workplace. I-O psychologists employ an empirical approach to
selection, training and performance management in order to improve the
profitability and overall success of organizations. I-O psychology has not classically
been known for a focus on the humanitarian pursuits and organizations of the
world. However, recent years have seen the growth of humanitarian work
psychology (HWP) as a subfield of I-O, focused on translating research and
application of traditional I-O principles to improving human welfare. With this
increased interest in the ability and responsibility of I-O psychologists to contribute
to the “greater good” has come a strong call for more information and research on
effective methods of transferring I-O across humanitarian contexts. This book is
among a growing number of publications taking steps to address the poverty of
concrete scholarly literature addressing HWP concerns, but is unique in its
approach to and organization of the subject matter. The book is broadly targeted to
researchers and practitioners who work within the social sciences (e.g., psychology,
sociology, anthropology), economics or international development fields, as well as
professionals who are involved with the United Nations (UN). Uniquely, the
volume uses the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of global
aspirations to reduce poverty and improve human well-being, as a thematic matrix
into which the chapters and examples are funnelled. By using case examples and
thoughtful treatises against this backdrop, the book seeks to address how
organizations and the way they work can impact global development in both smalland
large-scale operations.

In line with the current enthusiasm within work psychology for applying
science for the betterment of humanity (versus corporations), the book seeks to
recount the work of organizations and individuals that have contributed to the
research and practice of HWP while documenting how these specific contributions
have furthered both the field of I-O psychology and the UN’s goals related to
poverty reduction, social justice and equality. For example, a large project was
undertaken by researchers affiliated with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,
whereby the authors used traditional I-O psychology principles and research
related to goal-setting to improve the motivation and performance of front-line
health workers in rural India. This project not only contributed to I-O
psychology’s understanding of the viability of goal-setting theory in a developing
setting, but also improved the distribution of maternal and youth health care.1
Collectively, the book makes a compelling case that it is possible to both conduct
research toward this purpose and make a measurable impact through targeted

To read the full review, click here