Meredith Turner
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I-O Helping Make the World a Better Place: SIOP Collaborating With Other Psychology Organizations at the United Nations

SIOP UN Committee: Mathian Osicki, Julie Olson-Buchanan, John Scott, Mary O’Neill Berry, Lori Foster, Deborah Rupp, Lise Saari, Nabila Sheikh, Walter Reichman, Drew Mallory, Aimee Lace, and Dan Maday

In 2008, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) submitted an application to the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) requesting special consultative status as a non-governmental organization (NGO). The ECOSOC is one of six organizational pillars within the United Nations established by the United Nations (UN) Charter in 1945, and it serves as the central forum for formulating policy recommendations regarding international economic and social issues (ECOSOC website: https://www.un.org/ecosoc/en/about-us).  SIOP’s application process with ECOSOC spanned the terms of four SIOP presidents and countless hours on application forms and special requests.  On Aug 1, 2011, the efforts finally paid off as SIOP was officially granted NGO special consultative status with the ECOSOC (Scott, 2011).

Shortly after obtaining NGO consultative status, the SIOP UN Committee developed a charter and set of guiding principles by which they operate in support of the UN mandates around topics such as peace and security, climate change, sustainable development, human rights, terrorism, humanitarian and health emergencies, gender equality, decent work, governance, and more.

The SIOP UN committee mission as it reads today: The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) United Nations team seeks to bring theory, research, and practice of work psychology to support the achievement of UN mandates (as found on the SIOP UN team website: http://www.siop.org/Prosocial/UN.aspx).

Today, the SIOP UN team is composed of five principal SIOP representatives (in the New York City United Nations location), four principal SIOP representatives (in the Geneva United Nations location) as well as a handful of honorary, former representatives, and intern members who have made direct contributions to a number of the UN mandates over the past few years. For example, the team has delivered presentations at the UN to share practice and theory around topics such as women in the workplace, survey design, and humanitarian work psychology to name a few.  The team has also tapped the larger SIOP membership for assistance on position papers and consultation on selection and performance management processes.  Other projects and programs the SIOP UN team have been involved in at the UN include supporting the UN Global Compact mission by helping usher academic institutions into the community, holding workshops/brownbags for UN staff on I-O topics such as effective survey design and promoting I-O related jobs at the UN at an annual I-O psychology career fair.  Group members have also published books linking I-O and the UN.  For example; Walter Reichman (2014) authored “Industrial and Organizational Psychology Help the Vulnerable: Serving the Underserved,” and Mary O’Neill Berry (2016) coedited “Humanitarian Work Psychology and the Global Development Agenda: Case Studies and Interventions.”

In addition to these SIOP UN team specific efforts, SIOP served as a founding member of a Psychology Coalition of NGOs Accredited at the United Nations (PCUN).

Members of the PCUN collaborate in the application of psychological principles, science, and practice to global challenges of the UN agenda. As stated on its website (https://psychologycoalitionun.org) “The PCUN seeks to accomplish this overarching aim through advocacy, research, education and policy and program development guided by psychological knowledge and perspectives to promote human dignity, human rights, psychosocial well-being and positive mental health.”

Some recent PCUN activities include: submitting written and oral statements on psychology-related themes to UN entities and commissions, issuing statements or clarifications on important global issues relevant to well-being, mental health, and human behavior, conducting panels and parallel events as part of UN meetings, influencing the wording of a UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to address psychological well-being, working with specific missions to apply psychological principles to address critical issues.

The SIOP UN team is currently leading a PCUN Infrastructure Task force to help improve the basic foundational infrastructure of PCUN.  The task force is leveraging I-O theory and research around goal setting, feedback, team dynamics, motivation theory, leadership theory, organizational design, and basic project management to help sustain the group’s existence and future effectiveness.

The journey toward achieving SIOP’s special consultative status with the UN has been long but rewarding, with significant progress made over the last 7 years.  That being said, the group, and the field, is still in the early stages of understanding where I-O theory and knowledge can be most effectively shared to aid the UN and its 193 member states in its life-sustaining global mandates. As members of the SIOP UN team, we will continue to strive to make an impact on the UN’s SDGs and Global Compact, and we look for ongoing input from SIOP membership—maybe you want to help? (SIOP UN Committee website: http://www.siop.org/Prosocial/UN.aspx; United Nations (UN) Website: http://www.un.org/en/index.html).

References

McWha-Hermann, I., Maynard, C. D., & O’Neill Berry, M. (2016).   Humanitarian work psychology and the global development agenda: Case studies and interventions.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Reichman, W. (2014). Industrial and organizational psychology help the vulnerable: Serving the underserved. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.

Scott, J. (2011).  SIOP granted NGO consultative status with the United Nations. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 49(2), 111-113. http://www.siop.org/tip/oct11/492_news.pdf

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