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GOHWP: Who We Are, Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Headed

Ashley Hoffman and Laura Sywulak

From its inception, the idea of humanitarian work psychology seemed to be fairly compelling to a great deal of I-O psychologists. Whether it was the idea of professionally contributing to a global issue, or bringing a new level of meaning to work, or even a calling that demanded fulfillment, the number of people captivated by the intersection of I-O psychology and the greater good was significant. In fact, when the Global Organisation for Humanitarian Work Psychology put out the call for founding members, nearly 90 like-minded individuals from around the world joined immediately. From there, GOHWP has continued to attract members from across the globe, working in multiple disciplines, with varied professional interests. It is our hope that with this column, we can update our readers about the current state of GOHWP membership, some of the interesting projects our members have shared with us, an update on our membership benefits survey progress, and a roadmap of where we are going from here.


Before doing so, however, I’d like to share two pieces of news. First, my coauthor on this column is my fellow GOHWP board member, Laura Sywulak. Laura and I have been on the board together for the last 2 years, and she has been a valuable contributor to all aspects of the organization. She has chipped in to work on a communications strategy, ran the blog and social media aspects of GOHWP, and has readily stepped in when there have been gaps that needed filling in projects of any nature. She is a tireless champion of the mission of GOHWP, and I’m personally encouraged and inspired by her leadership on the board and in the field.


Additionally, as my second term as the chair of GOHWP draws to a close, I will also be stepping down from authorship of this column. Tara Behrend and I have agreed this column will continue being published semiannually in TIP as part of the responsibilities of the current chair of GOHWP, the new chair of which will begin his or her term November 1, 2016. In addition, the incoming column editor will be working with the SIOP UN team column editor in order to avoid duplication of effort and to continue to provide the most recent happenings in the HWP realm. Thank you for being exceptionally attentive and kind readers during my (Ashley’s) tenure, and thank you also to Stu Carr, Lori Foster, and Alex Gloss for preparing the way in this column, as well as Morrie Mullins for his ceaseless support of HWP. Now, on to the nitty gritty details!


The current GOHWP membership has grown from the aforementioned 90 members to 500 members strong as of August 2016. Our membership comes from a variety of applied backgrounds, as well as academic settings, including professors and instructors, I-O psychologists working in corporations, consultants with their own practices, and people working in government and military settings. We have a strong student population, with 19% of our members enrolled as undergraduate students with an interest in pursuing HWP work long term. We have a particularly strong presence at University of Ghana, where we have 42 undergraduate student members, many of whom actively serve on our student volunteer committee.

Our membership consists of 406 full members, either professionals or graduate students, and 94 undergraduate members; 306 members identify as female, 189 as male, and 2 people with nonbinary gender identities.

We are represented in 53 countries and have recently made our way into South America with new members in Chile, Colombia, and Brazil. We are excited to continue to expand throughout Europe and to reach even more like-minded people throughout the world. Additionally, we are proud to represent members from IAAP, EAWOP, and Division 52 (among others) of APA.









In addition to our membership growth, we have continued to make progress as an executive board. We sent a membership benefits survey to our members in 2013, asking them to indicate the types of initiatives and benefits they would like to see the board pursue.


The main priorities were:      

  1. Clarity around GOHWP/HWP
  2. Information sharing
  3. Networking
  4. Member recruitment

As a board, we have continued to keep these four priorities in mind when creating organizational strategy, setting our annual goals, and making decisions about which projects to pursue. As such, we would like to highlight some of the ways we have sought to address the requests and needs of our membership.


1. Clarity Around GOHWP/HWP

Clarity has been an ongoing issue within HWP as well as GOHWP. As mentioned in previous editions of this column, people often ask if what they do “counts” as humanitarian. In fact, the conversations continue, even internally, when members feel like their work is humanitarian in nature, but they don’t quite “fit” with what everyone else is doing or researching. This goal continues to be important for the board as we seek to be inclusive rather than exclusive in our membership. We have always said it is our hope that HWP tenets become so entrenched into what it means to be an I-O psychologist that GOHWP doesn’t have to exist as a separate entity any longer. To that end, we want to see decent work practices, humane environments, and corporate social responsibility to be mainstream initiatives in all work contexts. Whether you are studying volunteers who work in developing countries, running the CSR program in your organization, or leveraging your position to influence the company’s policy decisions, you are doing HWP. When you are a person-centric, prosocially oriented employee, you can call yourself a supporter of the pillars of HWP. To that end, many GOHWP members participated in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Summit at SIOP in April, which is perhaps the most salient link between GOHWP initiatives and more traditional I-O psychology. The summit provided an excellent opportunity for GOHWP members and nonmembers alike to learn about the ways that I-O psychology is involved in pro-social research and applied work, and continued to further the mission of GOHWP.


Our mission is to understand and support efforts that enhance human welfare. To that end, we are committed to a continued focus on educating the public about HWP and connecting people who are engaged in this work. From blog posts highlighting current news and topics to partnerships with like-minded organizations, GOHWP strives to educate individuals about this space and strengthen the network of HWPs around the world.


2. Information Sharing

There are two distinct tracts that exist within information sharing as we see it on the GOHWP executive board. The first is sharing of information from the organization to members using a strong communication strategy. We have been working to identify factors that impact communication, including the improvement and standardization of our branding, creating a cadence of communication so members know when to expect communication from the organization, and exploring more unique forms of communication, such as a town hall meeting, social media outlets, and video messaging. These are ongoing goals, and we hope to have many of them addressed during the current term.


The second tract of information sharing is between members. This information could be anything from submission notifications, publication opportunities, research collaborations, and a many other resources. We have continued to explore the best ways to meet the needs of our members, most recently by creating a membership profile system on our webpage. This profile system allows members to search for other members in the organization by location, interests, and/or openness to collaboration. It is our hope that members will leverage the profiles in order to connect with each other and share information. In addition, we hope to reinstate our member discussion list, where anyone can send an email to all members (who have opted into the feature) to share information and opportunities with each other.


3. Networking

We also have treated networking as two separate ventures, one that includes networking with like-minded organizations and another that addresses networking between members. We have been working diligently this term to identify and align ourselves with other like-minded organizations. For example, we have had meetings with high-level executives at a variety of nonprofit and volunteer organizations as well as department chairs and deans at universities around the globe. These networking opportunities have allowed us to connect with organizations that will promote the mission of GOHWP and provide us with access to membership opportunities, such as pro bono consulting work or research proposals, as well as potential long-term relationships and volunteer or employment opportunities.


To improve networking opportunities between members, we again are hopeful that members will take advantage of our internal profile system. However, we also support other opportunities for networking, such as our Facebook group (Global Organisation for Humanitarian Work Psychology), Twitter (@gohwp) page, and LinkedIn group (Global Organisation for Humanitarian Work Psychology). We try to publish posts on these sites in order to maintain a noticeable presence, and also use these tools to highlight some of the opportunities that arise between newsletters or email blasts. We also hope that members will use these sites to publicize information, and connect with other individual members for networking purposes. Finally, we have worked hard to have a presence at conferences and continue to hold our annual meeting at a large conference each year. This year we gathered at SIOP, where we held a networking happy hour in addition to our membership meeting. We also used badges to advertise our GOHWP membership and tried to have at least one GOHWP board member in attendance for all sessions related to HWP work, of which there were at least 16 posters and symposia, including the theme track sessions related to community engagement and improvement.


In the future, we are going to continue to improve our networking options and are hopeful that we will be able to create local interest groups, student-led groups, and other opportunities for connection.

4. Member Recruitment

As mentioned in our networking portion, we have made connections with many nonprofit organizations, as well as universities. These connections have led to small increases in membership. However, we have also had two major coordinated efforts to recruit new members. The first was a letter that was sent to members of the International Association of Applied Psychology, and the second was an invitation to all members of APA Division 52 (International Division). Both of these messages lead to an increase in membership, and many of the members who joined as a result of these initiatives continue to be highly engaged members in GOHWP.


In the future, we will continue to seek other outlets for outreach, including university recruitment, SIOP visibility, and nonprofit, NGO, and military exposure. We have a written script that we have used with great success in the past, and will seek to continue to refine our message and reach members who share our interest in HWP.


GOHWP was created largely to fill a perceived gap for I-O psychologists who didn’t fit neatly into a traditional area within I-O. As we have continued to grow, we have noticed that the pool of interested individuals is much larger than we could have anticipated and continues to grow, not only in SIOP but around the world. We are working hard to lay a firm foundation in order to allow GOHWP to scale into a large membership organization, with the intention of eventually being absorbed as a mainstream part of I-O psychology and those membership organizations already in existence. We recognize that often this work is done quietly and behind the scenes, but we want you to know we continue to seek the improvement of the organization and continued benefit to our members and the world. We hope to send a new membership benefit survey in the coming months to continue to identify the areas that are important to our members and to refine our approach to serving those members. We are thankful for the support we continue to receive, not only from our members but also from SIOP, EAWOP, and IAAP, among other organizations. We look forward to ongoing progress, and hope that you will continue to support us as we grow!

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