Advancing Staff Care in 2017


Advancing Staff Care in 2017

By Lynne Cripe

Director of Resilience Services The KonTerra Group

As we enter a new year, it’s the perfect time to look at perennial issues that are top-of-mind for all of us in the development and humanitarian communities. One of these is staff care, an issue that Humentum addressed last year at this same time, in a blog entitled 2016—The Year the Needle Moves on Duty of Care. That piece noted that while many NGOs were focusing on the critical issues of safety and security for staff in the field, it was time to “move the needle”—make a noticeable difference—in the area of staff care as well. In this blog, we take a look at why staff care is important in our sector, how we have advanced in this area over the past year, and some new resources that will be available in 2017.

This blog was co-written by Lynne Cripe, director of resilience services at the KonTerra Group, an Humentum Industry Partner, with Tina Bolding, director of at Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation, and Humentum’s Marie McNamee, director of program and member services.

The Importance of Staff Care

The international humanitarian and development sector works most often in challenging environments, assisting people who have been victimized, supporting communities that have been devastated by earthquakes and famine, or aiding those fleeing war and persecution. This work can take a psychological toll on staff, resulting in depression, insomnia, or posttraumatic stress. Even staff who are not on the ground providing services but who are in supportive roles have been found to suffer from vicarious/secondary trauma. During the Haiti earthquake, one NGO that was rotating staff and volunteer health professionals on a bi-weekly basis to Haiti found that their HQ-based recruiters began suffering from vicarious trauma after a few weeks of hearing about the devastation from colleagues returning from the field.

Stories like this underscore that organizations have legal, ethical, and business reasons to ensure the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of their staff. While lawsuits, higher medical costs, and reputational damage are among the most well-documented risks of neglecting these obligations, there are also other outcomes: reduced productivity and morale, staff turnover, and harm to projects.

2016: The Year the Needle Moved

We’re happy to report that 2016 was indeed the year that several initiatives came together which collectively will help to advance organizations’ abilities to care for their teams.

One such initiative is a guide that will be launched later this month, Essential Principles of Staff Care: Practices to Strengthen Resilience in International Relief and Development Organizations, developed by The KonTerra Group. KonTerra,, and Humentum have joined forces to launch a guide based on experiences of large and small organizations, humanitarian and development actors, sector-specific and multi-sector NGOs, and organizations with secular and faith-based missions. The document outlines principles and practices that will contribute to the resilience and psychological health of international relief and development workers and strengthen an organization’s ability to offer a comprehensive staff care program.  Organizations can use the guide to: benchmark their organization against industry best practices; provide guidance to begin a new staff care program; identify gaps of support in an existing staff care program; and advocate for donor funding for staff care services and programs.’s free portal has a compendium of staff care resources including online courses like Staff Care for Managers, Wellness Briefing, and Safety and Security as well as resources such as Managing Stress in Humanitarian Workers and Understanding and Addressing Vicarious Trauma. Additionally, in February, will be hosting an event to learn more about the Essential Principles, ask questions and discuss how it can support your organization’s staff care priorities.

The Headington Institute has initiated an international research project aimed at understanding the primary protective factors that promote resilience and stress and trauma recovery. They are developing the Headington Institute Resilience Inventory (HIRI) intended to provide the most comprehensive measure of resilience available.

CHS Alliance and the START Network, two UK based organizations, are also actively working to provide resources and other support that will help the sector strengthen and build staff care programs. and The KonTerra Group along with CHS Alliance and the Start Network will explore where collectively united efforts can bring holistic support to the sector.

Looking Ahead in 2017

As you can see, there are many new initiatives launching to address the gap in organizational staff care planning. All are committed to working together to forward mutual goals, prevent duplication, and provide community support. We look forward to 2017 as we jointly work to promote the resilience and psychological health of individuals working in our sector.

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