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Managerial Practices to Ensure the Well-being of Humanitarian Volunteers: A Realist Evaluation
Aldamman, Kinan
Background: Humanitarian aid workers are at an increased risk of adverse mental health outcomes due to the nature of their work. Research on the mental health outcomes of volunteer humanitarian workers, who constitute the majority of humanitarian workers worldwide however, is scare with some evidence suggesting that they are more vulnerable to psychological morbidity compared to their paid counterparts. While this may be partially explained by the fact that volunteer humanitarian workers come from the same affected communities that they serve, volunteers also receive fewer resources in terms of security, insurance, support structures, and access to services typically reserved for paid staff. Moreover, as non-professionals, volunteers tend to be less prepared and trained to cope with the challenges of humanitarian work. Furthermore, while the act of volunteering is typically linked with positive outcomes, this relationship tends to be reversed within humanitarian contexts. The literature suggests that the quality of support available from humanitarian agencies in terms of supervision, teams, and other organisational factors, are essential in the prevention of adverse outcomes among paid staff. How organisational factors contribute toward the mental health and well-being of volunteers working in humanitarian contexts, however, is less well understood. Objectives: This thesis investigates the support mechanisms available to Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers who work in humanitarian settings and explores how existing organisational factors impact on their well-being. This aim will be achieved through answering the following research questions: 1) What are the relationships between perceived organisational support, perceived supportive supervision, team support with perceived stress and mental health of humanitarian volunteers? 2) How, why, for whom, and in which contexts do the volunteer management practices impact on the mental health of volunteers? Methodology: The research questions are answered in the context of the Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS), using a multi-method, four-phases study utilising Realist Evaluation methodology. In Phase 1, a desk review for the SRCS volunteering documents, a field visit, informal observations and meetings, and current evidence and theories on volunteer mental health were all utilised to formulate rough theories. Phase 2 included the development of initial programme theories (IPTs), whereby the rough theories benefited from the findings of a quantitative study of 409 SRCS volunteers (in fulfilment of research question 1), as well as five formal interviews with experts in volunteering within the context of the SRCS. The resulting IPTs are then tested and systematically refined in Phase 3, which involved a field case study of the SRCS White Nile branch through eight interviews with SRCS volunteer leaders and six focus group discussions with volunteers. In total, 51 participants participated in these interviews and FGDs, results of which were used to answer the second research question. Lastly, Phase 4 of the research included synthesising the results of Phase 3 into a middle-range theory for how, why, for whom, and in which contexts volunteer management practices impact on volunteer mental health. Results: The resulted refined theories included multiple Context-Mechanisms-Outcomes Configurations (CMOs) on leadership and supervision, team support, training volunteers, working through community-based approaches, and the general organisational supportive measures. Each CMO sought to explain the causal pathways between the practices within the organisation and outcomes of volunteer mental health. The refined CMOs were then synthesised in light of formal organisational well-being theories using a three step-process. The resulting Resource-based Model for how organisational resources influence the mental health of volunteers across different levels of humanitarian emergencies; Stressor-based Model for how organisational resources prevent stressor-related mental health outcomes; and Dual Effect Theory for how organisational resources work to promote well-being and prevent adverse mental health outcomes among humanitarian volunteers are presented. Conclusions: This study contributes to our growing understanding of how organisational factors, including perceived organisational support, supportive supervision and team support, are related to humanitarian volunteer mental health outcomes. Results: further support the importance of organisational support, organisational justice, favourable environments, fulfilling volunteer's needs, skill development, psychological preparedness, availability of psychological help, volunteer recognition, and using community practices towards humanitarian volunteers' mental health. The study findings have multiple practical implications for humanitarian organisations, many of whom rely on volunteers in emergencies, helping them to und...
Keyword(s): Volunteer, humanitarian workers, organisational support, work-related stress, well-being, mental health, Sudan, emergency contexts, Realist Evaluation, volunteer management, Red Cross Red Crescent, Th
Publication Date:
Type: Doctoral thesis
Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Language(s): English
Institution: Trinity College Dublin
Citation(s): Aldamman, Kinan, Managerial Practices to Ensure the Well-being of Humanitarian Volunteers: A Realist Evaluation, Trinity College Dublin.School of Psychology, 2020
Publisher(s): Trinity College Dublin. School of Psychology. Discipline of Psychology
Supervisor(s): Vallieres, Fr?d?rique
First Indexed: 2020-06-30 06:50:15 Last Updated: 2020-10-29 06:22:35