Group Information Page
The Psychosocial Working Group (PWG) was established in 2000 with the support of grants from the Andrew Mellon Foundation as a collaboration between academic institutions and humanitarian agencies committed to the development of knowledge and best practice in the field of psychosocial interventions in complex emergencies.
Joint co-ordinating partners
- Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh, Institute of International Health Development and
- University of Oxford, Refugee Studies Centre.
- Christian Children's Fund;
- Columbia University, Program on Forced Migration and Health;
- International Rescue Committee, Program for Children Affected by Armed Conflict;
- Medecins Sans Frontieres, Holland;
- Mercy Corps;
- Save the Children USA;
- Solomon Asch Center, University of Pennsylvania;
- Harvard University, Program in Refugee Trauma.
The main aim of the PWG was to address the lack of consensus on goals, strategy and best practice that currently challenges the field of psychosocial intervention in complex emergencies.
It has approached this through a programme of linked activities:
- Through dialogue between humanitarian agencies and academic organisations and consultation with resource persons representing a range of approaches and orientations to psychosocial intervention the group has worked to develop a Conceptual Framework (pdf) which maps the field of psychosocial intervention in complex emergencies. This framework is elaborated and applied to particular field contexts in the series of papers: A Framework for Practice (pdf), and the case studies, Child Soldiers (pdf), Sexual Violence (pdf) and Exhumations (pdf).
- The group has developed a 'Inventory of Key Resources' collection, which allows ready access to project-related documentation exemplifying key methods and principles of psychosocial intervention.
- The working group has focused on the development of a set of principles that will guide organisations during the implementation of psychosocial programmes in non- Western settings. The document Considerations in Planning Psychosocial Programmes (pdf) is not intended to be a set of rigid rules, but projected to contribute to the current discourse on psychosocial interventions. A further document was prepared in response to the Asian tsunami; After the Tsunami (pdf).
- The working paper Reflections on Identifying Objectives and Indicators for Psychosocial Programming (pdf) provides exemplars for framing objectives and indicators based on current good practice in psychosocial programming.
- In relation to this framework, the group has outlined a research agenda (pdf) identifying the key gaps in current knowledge, and suggesting priority topics for commissioned research.
- The group has commissioned a series of collaborative research studies addressing issues raised by the framework and associated research agenda.
Through all such activities partners have sought to model and advance the forms of effective collaborative working relationships between humanitarian agencies and academic groups that are required for the goal of developing the field of psychosocial interventions.
PWG publications and resource collections:
See the PWG produced papers section for PWG publications.
The Inventory of Key Resources contains examples of key project documentation.
The Wider Collection of publications lists other related documents.
The Ongoing Vision 2006
The PWG has established shared understandings and effective collaboration between academics and practitioners over the years since its inception in 2000. We identify three priorities within the field of psychosocial interventions:
The development of an evidence-base for practice remains crucial to providing a clearer understanding of effective psychosocial intervention. The unique mix of capacities across membership of the PWG enables the development of research proposals that combine scientific rigor and applied relevance - two qualities essential for the advancement of an evidence-base for practice. The PWG seeks to exploit such potential though the development of a number of high-quality research studies involving a range of collaborations between PWG partners.
- A number of PWG partners are working collaboratively in applied research programmes examining efficacy and impact of interventions in particular settings. The particular emphasis will be on the development of effective approaches to measurement.
We are also seeking to promote:
- Commissioned reviews of evidence-base for interventions in specific areas of psychosocial practice.
- 'Roundtable' consultations with senior practitioners and academics to define key areas of learning.
- Annual practitioner-academic fora addressing 'hot topics' in psychosocial practice.
- Dissemination program - involving documentation and workshop activity - to share developing best practice with agency staff.
The practice development aspects of the work program build upon the learning elements identified above. There is a significant opportunity - through the strong practitioner-academic ties established through the PWG - to actively promote the development of psychosocial practice in a manner coherent with the developing evidence-base.
- PWG have completed an audit of psychosocial training materials (for copyright reasons this is currently only available to participating organisations - for information please contact the PWG co-ordinator, see below).
- Partners are working together to design and implement a psychosocial training curriculum to provide quality assured training for psychosocial workers.
- Psychosocial practitioners network - our vision is to work with key practitioner, academic and policy agencies to set up web-based network to create an opportunity for dialogue between practitioners, academics and policy makers; access to technical advice up to date information; and provide a catalyst for setting up training events, symposia etc..
We are also seeking to promote:
- Facilitation of inter-agency staff exchange program for sharing practice insights
- Best practice briefing events focused on dissemination and discussion of key programming considerations.
- Practice-based workshops on measurement and evaluation of psychosocial outcome and impact.
- Independent project evaluations with respect to emerging best practice.
- Technical assistance in program design, implementation and evaluation.
Learning and practice development must inform policy. The PWG seeks to build on its achievements through a concerted series of actions seeking to inform and shape policy. Such impact is relevant for both implementing agencies (non-governmental, governmental and inter-governmental) and funders.
In addition to our individual organisational roles, we are seeking to promote:
- Production of series of briefing papers for funding agencies on evidence-base for best practice.
- Technical support for agency policy development in key areas of activity.
- Facilitation of joint agency policy review meetings to develop strategic vision for psychosocial intervention.
- Facilitation of briefing seminars for commissioning agencies regarding potential social, economic and cultural benefits (and risks) of psychosocial intervention.
For further information about the Psychosocial Working Group please contact the Convenor:
Dr Maryanne Loughry
Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford
or the Coordinator:
Dr Alison Strang
Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh