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Jenny Baker
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We’re 10 Years Old! Celebrating SIOP’s Partnership With the United Nations

Lori Foster, Julie Olson-Buchanan, Mark Poteet, Deborah Rupp, and John Scott

Note: This article was based on an Executive Board block presentation given at the 2021 SIOP Annual Conference by representatives from the SIOP UN Committee.


This year, SIOP is celebrating its 10-year anniversary of being granted nongovernmental (NGO) special consultative status by the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The ECOSOC is one of six principal organs of the UN System and serves as the central forum for formulating policy recommendations regarding international economic and social issues.

Achieving NGO status, spearheaded and supported by Past President Gary Latham, was the result of a comprehensive application process that spanned several years. Key to receiving this status was highlighting the unique skills, expertise, research, and practice that SIOP members bring that align with the UN’s vision and mission, and that can be leveraged to drive societal change.

Having NGO consultative status allows SIOP to make direct contributions to the programs and goals of the UN by accessing and participating in the work of the ECOSOC and other UN entities. SIOP representatives are able to register for and participate in events, conferences, and activities of the UN, and SIOP may designate authorized representatives to sit as observers at public meetings of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, General Assembly, Human Rights Council, and other UN intergovernmental decision-making bodies.

Since being granted NGO consultative status, SIOP has undertaken several efforts to provide strong partnership and service to the UN. This article will review these achievements across multiple levels, including efforts to build a strong infrastructure for SIOP’s UN work, working directly with the UN on critical initiatives, and advocating for the UN’s agenda internally and externally. We will also highlight future goals, plans, and initiatives, and close by describing ways that SIOP members can contribute to advancing the UN’s goals and agenda.

Building the Infrastructure

The first task to move forward with its partnership was for SIOP to form a committee dedicated to this initiative. The original committee, based out of the UN’s New York City (NYC) Headquarters, included SIOP members Herman Aguinis, Lori Foster, Ishbel McWha-Hermann, Deborah Rupp, and John Scott. Given the high visibility and potential impact of SIOP’s participation with the UN, the committee hit the ground running and quickly worked to create a charter that outlined its mission and responsibilities and established the organization around which UN activities would be conducted. This charter, approved by the SIOP Executive Board in 2012, links the SIOP UN Committee’s mission to the UN’s global vision and initiatives and ensures that the SIOP UN Committee’s work is aligned with SIOP’s agenda and strategic goals as well.

Several advancements have occurred since the original formation of the SIOP UN Committee. First, in 2014 the committee became an official SIOP Standing Committee. Second, in 2017, the committee aligned its strategic planning with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and SIOP’s Strategic Goals. This step further enhanced the positive impact that the committee’s efforts and initiatives could have on both organizations. In recent years, under the leadership of Julie Olson-Buchanan, the committee has worked to align its annual strategic planning cycle to that of other SIOP committees.

Although many original members of the SIOP UN Committee stayed (and remain) active for several years, the team has made efforts to expand the opportunities for SIOP members to contribute to the work of the UN. This includes the work of Morrie Mullins and Mark Poteet to create onboarding materials to bring new members up to speed and navigate the UN system. In 2018, SIOP was able to add an “International” team to its committee roster. This team, consisting of five UN-badged representatives to the headquarters in Geneva (to complement the five UN-badged representatives to the NYC headquarters team), allows for SIOP to have broader global representation of our field and to expand the reach of its work. This team currently includes SIOP members Stuart Carr, Drew Mallory, Ishbel McWha-Hermann, Ines Meyer, and Lori Foster.

Given the scope of the work to be accomplished, the complexity of the UN in general, and the limitation of having five UN-badged representatives on each team, it has been important to involve additional SIOP members to assist with the committee’s efforts. One of the ways in which we have achieved this is through the use of student interns. Since its inception, the committee has leveraged the talents of SIOP student members to assist with its efforts, including Drew Mallory, Dan Maday, Alex Gloss, and Aimee Lace. Building on this, over the past couple of years the committee has created a formal internship process that supports using a greater number of interns for 6-month appointments. This provides more opportunities for interested students, such as Irina Kuzmich, Lauren Moran, Maria Whipple, Jenna McChesney, Gonzalo Munoz, and Sharon Li to gain experience working both with the UN and within a SIOP committee.

In addition to receiving assistance from interns, SIOP members not on the UN Committee are sought out and involved in initiatives with the UN. For example, several of the accomplishments listed in the next section, such as speakers for the Learning and Innovation Series and participants in sounding boards for UNDP representatives, included many SIOP members whose expertise, research, and/or practice aligned with the needs of the UN initiative.

Another way that SIOP members have contributed to strengthening the UN Committee’s capabilities is through the creation of annotated bibliographies for the UN’s SDGs. Specifically, groups of faculty and students summarize I-O research and practice related to the SDGs, which then allows the committee to quickly create or speak to position papers or statements within the UN. At this point, a number of contributors from different universities have created, or are in the process of creating, bibliographies for several of the 17 SDGs.


Working With the UN

Through the work of the UN Committee and its members, SIOP has undertaken several steps to contribute to the goals and mission of the UN. The range of specific initiatives where SIOP has served as thought partners through providing guidance, expertise, and assistance to the UN has been documented in various TIP articles over the years (see https://0-www-siop-org.library.alliant.edu/About-SIOP/Advocacy/SIOP-and-the-United-Nations/Press-and-Publications for a compilation of related publications). Presented below is a summary of some of these accomplishments.


The SIOP UN Committee has authored, coauthored, and cosponsored written and oral statements on several UN organizations, such as the UN Commission on the Status of Women and United Nations Economic and Social Council’s High-Level Segment of the Annual Ministerial Review. The committee has also contributed to several reports for the UN. For example, members coauthored a foundational report on poverty reduction developed by the UNDP’s Istanbul International Center. A founding team member, Lori Foster, also authored a report entitled “Behavioural Insights at the United Nations,” providing guidance on ways in which these insights can be leveraged to address UN challenges. Beyond direct publications from the UN Committee, it is worth noting that the UN’s Joint Inspection Unit recently published a review of change management within the UN system, which involved and drew heavily from the work of SIOP members. This example reinforces the role and impact that the work and research of SIOP members outside of the UN Committee has on advancing the UN agenda. Thank you SIOP members!

Thought Leadership and Consulting Services

Several SIOP members have worked with the UN Committee to provide consulting services and guidance to different UN organs. Examples of these initiatives include

  • Revising leadership competencies and providing guidance on talent management activities for the United Nations Children’s Fund.
  • Assisting the Psychology Coalition at the United Nations (PCUN) with team building and goal setting.
  • Reviewing the performance management system and practices of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), highlighting effective features of ESCAP’s current process and opportunities for improvement, along with providing several recommendations to help ESCAP streamline and improve its system and processes.
  • Participating in two sounding board discussions with UNDP representatives to provide expertise and direction on ways to revise and enhance the UNDP’s Rewards and Recognition Program.
  • Preparing and presenting the latest research and best practices on using engagement surveys to the UNDP.
  • Conducting a half-day session on Best Practices in Talent Acquisition for Human Resources Services Division.


In 2017, members of the UN Secretariat worked with SIOP UN Committee members Lori Foster, Nabila Sheikh, and Aimee Lace to develop and launch a Learning and Innovation Series. This initiative has SIOP experts conduct brown bag presentations to UN HR personnel on important issues, such as survey design, performance management, talent assessment, and 360-degree feedback. SIOP members Chris Rotolo, Doug Reynolds, Gary Latham, David Bracken, Lori Foster, and Deniz Ones have all presented and helped to make this a very valuable and well-received initiative.

Leadership and Connection With the Broader Field of Psychology and the UN

Original members of the SIOP UN Committee, as well as current representatives, led in the work to create the PCUN. This coalition draws together psychology and psychology-related NGOs with special consultative status with the UN. Mathian Osicki (SIOP UN Committee member) continues to serve on the PCUN board. Also, two IAAP members/SIOP members, Walter Reichman and Mary O’Neil Berry, have served as liaisons on our team to further facilitate coordination. We have benefited greatly from connections with SIOP members who work within the United Nations, including Anton Botha and Leila El-Haig. Members have also contributed to, and cochaired, PCUN’s Psychology Day at the UN meetings for multiple years. UN Committee members have also served on the Board of Directors for UN groups, such as Americans for UNESCO. On top of this, committee members have attended and represented SIOP in several UN conferences and meetings related to the SDGs.

Advocating and Supporting the UN Agenda

In addition to working directly with the UN on relevant projects, SIOP and the UN Committee have actively supported and advocated for the UN mission, goals, and agenda. Several of these efforts are focused on helping SIOP members understand and pursue opportunities for contributing to the UN. Example efforts are described below.

  • UN Committee members have consistently raised awareness among SIOP members of the UN ECOSOC’s agenda items through presentations at its annual conference and publications in TIP.
  • The SIOP UN Committee partnered with UN staff to discuss SIOP’s projects, highlight job and internship opportunities at the UN, and outline how I-O psychologists can get involved with the New York Metropolitan Association for Applied Psychology.
  • In 2012 SIOP joined the UN Global Compact. By signing the Compact, SIOP has agreed to follow its voluntary code of conduct consisting of 10 operating principles for business organized around human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption categories. Many of the humanitarian and pro-social initiatives undertaken by SIOP and its members align well with the principles and categories.
  • The SIOP UN Committee has also taken on an initiative to advocate for the Compact’s 10 principles through encouraging and assisting I-O graduate programs to join the Compact by weaving the 10 principles into their graduate curricula and encouraging practitioners to advocate to their employers to join. To date, multiple I-O graduate programs have joined.
  • In 2016, SIOP hosted the Corporate Social Responsibility Summit, whereby 50 researchers and practitioners from across the globe came together for a 1.5-day pre-SIOP conference meeting for presentations and discussions. Several presentations from the summit evolved into chapters for Oxford’s Handbook of Corporate Social Responsibility, and the summit led to the development of SIOP’s CSR and Prosocial/Humanitarian I-O Registry. Both of these outcomes advance knowledge and practice in several areas directly related to UN’s SDGs.
  • In recent years, the UN Committee embarked on a Jobs, Internships, and Volunteer Experiences (JIVE) Initiative initially spearheaded by Lise Saari. In this effort, committee members and interns scan UN job postings to identify jobs where I-O psychologists may qualify, and then list these on the SIOP I-O Job Network.
  • SIOP Committee members arranged for two members of the UN External Outreach team to be at the Baruch University Career Fair in November 2018, where multiple resumes were collected for the UN.
  • Most recently, interns for the UN Committee have taken on a significant role in recording short videos whereby they discuss and share examples of the ways that SIOP members can leverage their expertise, research, and work, to help advance the 17 SDGs. These videos are currently available on SIOP’s official YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/SIOPofficial).

Looking Ahead

In its first 10 years, SIOP has accomplished a great deal in helping the UN with its mission and goals. Still, there is a great deal more that can be done. The SIOP UN Committee already has a few new initiatives being considered or in the initial stages of planning. These include expanding the Learning and Innovation Series to broader audiences and UN organs, as well as establishing a network of individuals that can scan the UN and broader environment for any emerging global work-related issues and crises, and quickly review the scientific and practical literature to provide organizations with expertise, support, and insight. However, if you have additional ideas for ways in which SIOP, or the UN Committee, can partner with the UN, please pass them along: siopun@siop.org.

Also, there are several ways in which you can express your desire to help. You can sign up on the SIOP Corporate Social Responsibility Registry to signal your interest. If you’re on the Consultant Locator Service, indicating your interests can also help, as the UN Committee uses this as a resource to locate members to assist on relevant projects. You could also volunteer to write an annotated bibliography for one of the SDGs. Encouraging and helping your organization or graduate program join the Global Compact is another opportunity to contribute.

Thanks to all of the SIOP UN Committee members and interns who have contributed immensely to this valued and impactful partnership over the years. These individuals include Herman Aguinis, Mary O’Neil Berry, Stuart Carr, Lori Foster, Alex Gloss, Irina Kuzmich, Aimee Lace, Sharon Li, Dan Maday, Drew Mallory, Jenna McChesney, Ishbel McWha-Hermann, Ines Meyer, Lauren Moran, Morrie Mullins, Gonzalo Munoz, Julie Olson-Buchanan, Mathian Osicki, Mark Poteet, Walter Reichman, Deborah Rupp, Lise Saari, John Scott, Nabila Sheikh, and Maria Whipple.

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