by John Fawcett, editor
Beyond protection, we must create space to grow, flourish and develop.” With this premise, John Fawcett thoughtfully develops field research findings taken from research conducted among World Vision personnel.
World Vision Resources, 800 W. Chestnut Ave., Monrovia, CA 91016-3198, 2003, 152 pages, $12.95.
—Reviewed by Priscilla Hirst, Personal and Professional Development and Asia-Pacific Departments, TEAM.
Beyond protection, we must create space to grow, flourish and develop.” With this premise, John Fawcett thoughtfully develops field research findings taken from research conducted among World Vision personnel. This book reveals and emphasizes what works on the ground for international relief and development personnel who are often at high risk of burnout from depersonalization, emotional exhaustion and lack of personal accomplishment.
Fawcett and his colleagues focus on a strategy of flourishing rather than containment (boundaries, margins) for developing resilient personnel. This handbook is divided into three parts: 1) definitions of stress; 2) overview of research methods and results; and 3) recommendations for better support systems, spirituality, on-site personal and team strategies, and organizational interventions.
Because it uniquely blends readable research and practical tools for evaluation and stress-management focused on multiple audiences, this handbook is an excellent investment. Definitions and terminology are highly professional, up-to-date and well explained. Case studies are compelling and thought provoking. End of chapter checklists and questions prompt aid workers and agency management to assess stress levels, design stress management programs, prevent serious traumatic disability, and improve working conditions for personnel.
The book also includes six measurement scales (Appendix One) and a recommended reading list with an extensive bibliography of professional psychological literature (Appendices Two and Three).
Fawcett’s research confirms that strong relationships afford the best protection for personnel. Those with compromised social support are at higher risk to experience trauma, un-wellness and acute anxiety. Social networks that are health promoting and protective are comprised of people who know each other well; the network’s interconnectedness, not its size, makes it protective.
According to the research, many stressful events are not the difficult situations and dangers associated with relief and development projects, but originate in the organizational culture, management style and operational objectives of the relief organization itself. Fawcett emphasizes that addressing matters of social support, team cohesion and leadership quality are the most effective ways to relieve considerable stress. Focusing on themes of team dynamics, consultative leadership style, clarity of mission objectives and agency structure treat the roots of organizational stressors.
Faith-based organizations should carefully consider Chapter Six, “Spirituality as the foundation for growth,” and the discussion on religious behavior as correlated to stress experiences. “There isn’t a worldview rooted in any location, culture or country that will not be significantly challenged upon exposure to front-line humanitarian work.”
Although this research is still in progress, it clearly contains insights and material critical to the development of hardy people working in a world in crisis.
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