Update on the Hilton Prize Coalition Humanitarian Wellbeing Project

In the spring of 2018, The Task Force for Global Health and Heifer International were awarded a Collaborative Models grant from the Hilton Prize Coalition for their Humanitarian Wellbeing Project. This project had its origins in the recognition that the stresses inherent in humanitarian work in settings of human deprivation, suffering, and trauma can lead to burnout, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Such experiences can negatively impact employee wellbeing, and in turn, limit the effectiveness of humanitarian organizations.

Humanitarian Wellbeing Project
By: Dr. David Addiss and Dr. Deirdre Guthrie

To better understand these stresses, inventory current practices to address them, and identify opportunities for Hilton Prize Coalition members to improve employee resilience and psychological health, The Task Force for Global Health and Heifer International collaborated with anthropologist Deirdre Guthrie, PhD, at the Keough School of International Affairs, University of Notre Dame. Eleven Hilton Prize Coalition member organizations accepted the invitation to participate: Aravind Eye Care System, ECPAT International, Heifer, icddr,b, IRCT, Operation Smile, Partners in Health, PATH, The Task Force for Global Health, Tostan, and Women for Women International.

This project included interviews with CEOs, Human Resource leaders, and front-line staff members. These interviews, along with organizational responses to an online survey,  assessed policies and practices that support organizational and employee wellbeing, as well as perceived challenges to wellbeing.

Although not statistically representative in terms of our sample, initial interview and survey findings reveal several patterns that are consistent with the literature on burnout. Initial findings suggest that across Hilton Prize Laureate organizations stress is ubiquitous, burnout is not uncommon, and resources for wellbeing are inadequate. These stresses differ depending on whether the organization is primarily engaged in medical missions, community empowerment, research, or providing psychosocial support. In particular, gender impacts staff experiences of personal safety, burnout and other work-related stressors. For example, women report concerns related to safety and security of travel, as well as challenges related to competing responsibilities of work, family, and community. Additional challenges relate to the office contexts of many humanitarian organizations, including tensions related to real and/or perceived differences in compensation and opportunities available to local and international staff. Employees report a strong sense of calling and commitment, which provides a sense of meaning and purpose and may be essential for this kind of work. However, the high degree of self-identification with work also makes it difficult for staff to adequately attend to their own needs for personal and relational wellbeing. Participants reported inadequate self-care, even when organizational leaders care deeply about employee wellbeing.

Reflecting on the Collaborative Models grant, Dave Ross, CEO and President of The Task Force for Global Health, remarked, “the Collaborative Models grant provided us an excellent opportunity learn more about the common challenges that we face as Hilton Prize Laureates, as well as how, collectively, we are addressing these challenges. By making challenges to employee wellbeing more visible and sharing information about current practices with the Hilton Prize Coalition, the project aims to provide Coalition members with information to strengthen and improve their organizations’ employee wellness initiatives.”

Dr. Guthrie and colleagues at The Task Force for Global Health and Heifer International are working on the final report, which they expect to complete in early 2019.

(Photos courtesy of The Task Force for Global Health)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 23 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

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