How can your organization improve your life as a humanitarian worker? A final question The final, open-ended question on the survey asked, “What are your thoughts about what your organization could do to improve your life as a humanitarian aid or development worker?”. At the end of a 43 item survey, this question generated 53 responses, 35 from females and 18 from males. Below I have included over two dozen responses, broken down into themes. The comments I make reflect some of what I have learned from the entire survey. Need for attention to the emotional strain of the job This first set of responses addresses the emotional strain of doing humanitarian work. As one respondent put it, “This line of work is very demanding, long hours, weekends, very little support, fatigue. It effects the physical as well as mental health.” Question 28 on the survey asked, “Humanitarian work can be emotionally…Read More
“Although I love my work, I do think this sector is very damaging and it must be scrutinized and criticized more often.”
How can organizations can be more effective in improving lives?
Question 41 on the survey was open ended, asking “What are your thoughts about how humanitarian aid and development organizations in Jordan can be more effective in improving the lives within the affected communities? That a total of 48 women and men took the time to write in responses at the end of a long survey -57% of the total respondents- tells me they wanted their opinions heard. So here they are.
One consistent theme throughout the comments was these aid workers felt humanitarian organizations need to engage in “More listening.” This young female worker had her sentiment repeated again and again in various phrasings by other respondents. Another female said, simply, “Activate feedback system from beneficiaries.”Read More
Treated with respect and dignity? [updated 14 August 2018] Basic human needs Humans have basic needs, among them are the obvious like food, water, shelter, and freedom from constant danger. These, largely material (or materially satisfied) needs, are the first focused on when people think about responding to communities at risk. Critically, in the minds of many both institutional and individual donors, once these needs are met the job is done. How the above mentioned material needs are met is critical in determining the degree to which some vital non-material needs are met, namely the existentially critical necessity to have and to be treated with both respect and dignity. An article authored by Valerie M. Meredith and published with the ICRC (“Victim identity and respect for human dignity: a terminological analysis“) says, in part, “The notion of human dignity is central to the discourse of the ICRC and what it wants for…Read More
Deepening the conversation regarding ‘local aid workers’ [updated 12 Aug 2018] Guilty as charged I have been researching and blogging about ‘local aid workers’ for a couple years now. (You can click elsewhere on this space to see my posts about national aid and development workers in Zambia, the Philippines, and Jordan.) In this short post I hope to deepen the conversation regarding ‘expat’ versus ‘local’ aid workers. My first act is to remove this phrase from my vocabulary, ‘expat versus local’. I must admit to being among those -guilty!- who are too imprecise in their usage of terminology, not just with this particular issue, but regarding many others relevant to the humanitarian ecosystem. That said, the humanitarian aid system is an ever expanding and adapting global system that is extraordinarily dynamic and complex. Describing it with precision can be a bit like trying to grab smoke. How to talk about…Read More
In answer to the question “Do you feel that there is a need for an organization whose primary mission is to represent the needs of humanitarian workers in Jordan?” only 17% induced that there is “no need for such an organization.” The remainder of the respondents were equally divided, half indicating that “Such and organization would fill some needs, but it is not necessary” and the other half -42%- agreeing that “Such an organization would fill many needs, and there is a need for such an organization.”
I asked two interrelated questions. “In general, to what extent do you see a gap between donor interests and the needs of the affected communities?” and “How does the gap between donor interests and the needs of the affected communities impact your work and motivation?” In summary, the results indicate that well over half (55%) of the respondents ‘frequently’ or ‘constantly’ see a ‘gap between donor interests and the needs of the affected communities’ and the vast majority -83%- are ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ frustrated by these gaps.Read More
Although the word ‘corruption’ translates pretty much exactly (الفساد), the wisdom was this had more political, big business kinds of associations rather than the more general “misuse of power.” In the end, the word ‘corruption’ was deemed too vague, and we arrived at an alternate phrasing. “Which statement below best describes your experience with the misuse of power or funds by people working for NGOs in Jordan?”Read More
Overview of remaining survey data from Jordanian aid workers More results from the Jordanian humanitarian worker survey. Where we have been In the past months I have presented and commented on the survey data from a small (n =86) sample of Jordanian humanitarian aid workers. To date I have made over two dozen posts covering several major sections of the survey, addressing such topics as perceptions of the working relationship between ‘local’ and ‘expat’ aid workers, the mental health stressors faced by national staff, how marital status impacts work expectations, and even the ‘diversity’ question. My posts have been a blend of data presentation -numbers and graphs- combined with contextual comment and sociological reflections in equal measure. Where we are going In the next several weeks I will complete the preliminary analysis of and comment on the data in additional blog posts. Some important topics are yet to be…Read More
The diversity question More results from the Jordanian humanitarian worker survey. First, a comment about status, privilege, and being ‘woke’ From the worker perspective, one very important factor determining comfort in the workplace is how accepted one feels concerning their various social statuses. There are many statuses, both ascribed and achieved (and some a hybrid) that, depending upon the social context, emerge as ‘master statuses’ which can significantly color how one is viewed, responded to, and ultimately either accepted or marginalized both socially and professionally. Among these statuses are gender, age, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, level of education, and outstanding physical attributes. Adding to the complexity is the fact of intersectionality, the complex and inherent interconnection of power and marginalization that impacts everyone either directly or indirectly. Most of us train ourselves to see beyond the surface (to become ‘woke’), but the reality is that life-long socialization into using specific cultural lenses…Read More
The mental health of Jordanian humanitarian workers More results from the Jordanian humanitarian worker survey. Suicide happens I write this post in the immediate aftermath of watching the many tributes to American author, chef, and CNN ‘correspondent’ Anthony Bourdain. News of Bourdain’s suicide came just days after designer Kate Spade met the same fate. As is the way of the news cycle, there is now a great deal of attention on mental health issues generally and depression specifically. This topic is personal. Regarding depression, I can say ‘me too.’ It sucks. Given the context, this post on the mental health of humanitarian aid workers seems timely. As a blanket statement I’ll argue (the obvious?) that far too little attention is paid to the mental health of both aid workers and those in the affected community. Yes, I know delivery of effective treatment is complicated and even contentious, and many HR…Read More