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Pro-Social I-O—Quo Vadis: Inception to Impact?

Stuart Carr, Massey University

Tena koutou Tatou/Valued Contributors to and Readers of Quo Vadis in TIP!

This is the final episode in QV as we know it because I am leaving the column in the next issue and handing over to some very capable and motivated good people to continue the charge.  More will be announced by and in the journal soon. Watch this space! In the interim, for this final column, I invited past contributors to QV to sign off with any last-minute observations about the column, in particular with reflections about any impact it may have had, or been felt to have had.  To accomplish that task we use the classic Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick (2006) structure for evaluation.

Today we are privileged to be joined by Professor Dianna Stone from the University of Texas at San Antonio and outgoing editor of the Journal of Managerial Psychology. Alexander Gloss joins us from the IOTech4D Lab at North Carolina State University, where he also plays a leading role in the Global Organization for Humanitarian Work Psychology. John C. Scott is chief operating officer of APT Metrics, Inc, and heads up SIOP’s representation to the United Nations. Professor Malcolm (Mac) MacLachlan is with the Center for Global Health in Trinity College Dublin and is an editor of the volume Humanitarian Work Psychology (2012). Donald M. Truxillo is professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Portland State University and Chairs the SIOP International White Paper Committee

Reactions: Did you like the column generally or any particular ones, any critical incident?

Truxillo: Yes. Taken together, the columns challenged I-O as a field about its mindset and to think about how we can serve a part of the world’s population that may not be considered by us.

Gloss: I remember, quite fondly, our writing/jam session on the bus from Auckland to the North Shore after we met with representatives from Greenpeace, New Zealand. I felt truly privileged to be working on such an innovative and important project—and this was reflected in a resulting column for our discipline (Briggs-Hastie et al, 2010)!

MacLachlan: Yes, I thought it was good, bringing what was outside of I-O, a critical challenge, into the realm of I-O as a whole. The column also showed possibilities for people who are inside of I-O: a window on development challenges.

Learning: Do you feel it created any learning, either personal or general?

MacLachlan: Yes. Part of the learning is of the linkages between people working in apparently disparate areas, so you learn that the potential influence of I-O is more pervasive than one realized and less encapsulated in the for-profit sector.

Gloss: The column highlighted an important gap (or at least an underdeveloped area) in research within the discipline of I-O psychology, namely, an understanding of organizational behavior in nonprofit, prosocial, and/or campaigning organizations. While this observation was not necessarily new, hearing it from the viewpoint of the manager of a major nonprofit organization drove home the point in a compelling manner. 

Truxillo: Yes, the columns informed us about ways in which I-Os could join forces to help support people in the world. It also suggests that we may be missing a context in which we can have a substantial impact—and greater visibility.

Behavior: Did you use any of them, the column contents, either your own interview contents or any others´ insights across the column generally?

Gloss: The content of the interview has inspired an entire line of research projects that endeavor to investigate the unique characteristics of work within nonprofit organizations. 

Stone: Based on the column, we realized that relatively little research in I-O psychology has focused on prosocial issues (Cascio & Aguinis, 2008). As a result, at least one major journal now emphasizes prosocial issues in many of its special issues.

MacLachlan: I referred students to the column on a periodic basis.

Results or impact: Did the column generally have any impact, either on your own teaching, practice and/or ideas, or those of others, in your view?

Truxillo: Yes, I’ve brought up a number of the points in my classes, both undergraduate and graduate.

Gloss: Absolutely, the content of the entire Quo Vadis column has not only inspired me but also many of my colleagues to become involved in I-O psychology and to apply I-O psychology to nonprofit organizations, to humanitarian and international development work, and to prosocial issues more generally.

Stone: I believe the column’s emphasis on prosocial I-O psychology has greatly benefited the field of I-O psychology. Such writing was the impetus for changing the focus of our journal. For instance, we have recently published special issues on poverty reduction, workplace bullying and aggression, job loss, age diversity, and I-O psychology’s contributions to society. It is clear that our field has a great deal of knowledge that can be applied to enhancing our understanding of social issues or changes in society. Thank you QV for helping us to develop such a significant focus. We know that the changes at JMP will make important and lasting contributions to our field.

Truxillo: Yes, it’s added to my general evolution towards thinking that we can move beyond our standard mindset in how we help organizations and workers, and consider the millions of nonindustrial workers that typically aren’t even on our radar.

MacLachlan: I think the column enthused people who have been outside the realm of poverty reduction and international development. As an editor of the recent book on humanitarian work psychology (just nominated by the Red Cross/Crescent as its Book-of-the-Month), I can say that the book benefited greatly from the extracts out of Quo Vadis that were included in the contents.1 They gave a more rounded impression of the realities of international development work, and brought some key stakeholders into the I-O-development nexus.

Scott: (Quoted directly from Scott, 2012): “Chapter 8: Quo Vadis Interviews in Practice—Demand; and Chapter 9: Quo Vadis Interviews in Practice—Supply…flesh out how I-O psychologists can apply their discipline to addressing significant humanitarian demands. [Quo Vadis, 2012a, b] accomplishes this task through a series of interviews with leading researchers and practitioners and has organized their responses into six categories, along a continuum from broad political to individual. The information contained in these two chapters is insightful, detailed and dovetails nicely with other chapters in the volume... The interviews contained within these chapters and the work reported in [them] provide a comprehensive collection of demands within the humanitarian sector that are accompanied by ideas for ‘supplying’ solutions to meet these demands. This work and these interviews should be continued and expanded to further flesh out areas where the skills and expertise of work psychologists can be applied. This will be essential for educating and engaging a new generation of I-O psychologists who represent the future of this specialty” (ibid, p. 34, parenthesis added).

Thank you everyone, it’s been a wonderful journey. With John, Dianna, Mac, Donald, and Alex, I would like to close by saying a huge THANK YOU to the community of readers and editors and managers at TIP. A very special thank you goes to TIP’s outgoing EditorLisa Steelman, to former TIP Editor Wendy Becker, and of course to Jen Baker at SIOP, for being such wonderful colleagues, professional advisors, leaders, supervisors, and ultimately friends! Thank you to Dave Nershi, for your constant support, including SIOP’s very kind and generous permission to reprint some of the columns in the landmark book of contributions that is Humanitarian Work Psychology. Thank you to the late Professor Emeritus Frank J. Landy, who had the original idea for the column and then inspiringly enabled it to grow into something real.


Briggs-Hastie, A., Carr, S. C., & Gloss, A. E. (2010). Building capacity in nonprofit organizations: A meeting with Greenpeace in the city of sails. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 48(4), retrieved from http://www.siop.org/tip/april11/10carr.aspx.
Cascio, W. F., & Aguinis, H. (2008). Research in industrial and organizational psychology from 1963 to 2007: Changes, choices, and trends. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93, 1062–1081.
MacLachlan, M., Furnham, A., & Carr, S. C. (eds.) (2012). Humanitarian work psychology. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave-Macmillan
Kirkpatrick D. L., & Kirkpatrick, J. D. (2006). Evaluating training programs: The four levels (3rd edition). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
Quo Vadis. (2012a). Quo Vadis interviews in practice: Demand. In S. C. Carr, M. MacLachlan, & A. Furnham. (Eds), Humanitarian work psychology (pp. 182–200). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave-Macmillan.
Quo Vadis. (2012b). Quo Vadis interviews in practice: Supply. In S. C. Carr, M. MacLachlan, & A. Furnham. (Eds), Humanitarian work psychology (pp. 201–224). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave-Macmillan.
Scott, J. C. (2012). Review of Humanitarian Work Psychology (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave-Macmillan). Journal of Pacific Rim Psychology, 6(1), 32–35.