Social Psychology researchers continue to set the agenda in the fields of community psychology, gender studies and social development with papers in leading international journals.
In a paper for Health & Place (impact factor 3.0) Dr Jenevieve Mannell, coordinator for the Health, Community and Development MSc Programme, discusses how development NGOs translate donor understandings of ‘gender’ into local needs (link to the paper). In the paper, she highlights how practitioners in development organisations often manipulate donor policies on gender, and that while we think of this as bad, it can actually be quite good when it means practitioners are adapting policy ideas to suit local needs. Another paper, also published this year by Dr Mannell in the Journal of the International AIDS Society (impact factor 4.2), explores the thorny issue of how to evaluate HIV/AIDS interventions from a social perspective, again making a case for why we need to pay more attention to local context (link to the paper).
Fellow HCD Researcher Dr Rochelle Burgess has also just had a paper published in Health Policy & Planning (impact factor 3.44) focusing on how practitioners respond to the mental distress of HIV-affected women and communities in South Africa. Again, Dr Burgess is discussing policy and the need to be aware of the social realities that frame the mental health of AIDS-affected women. Together these two HCD researchers are taking the gender and AIDS policy world by storm, and calling into question some of its most basic assumptions.
Rochelle Burgess – who started her academic career on the MSc in Health, Community and Development, has just been awarded her PhD by the London School of Economics. Rochelle’s thesis – entitled Supporting community in an era of global mental health: A Case study of an AIDS-affected South African Community – focused on the challenges facing the newly founded Movement for Global Mental Health, in its efforts to improve levels of mental health worldwide.
Some have argued that biomedical services are not necessarily the most appropriate response to low levels of mental health in the most marginalised settings, where distress is often fuelled by negative social relations such as gender inequality, poverty or conflict. Rochelle’s research looked at responses to extreme distress faced by women affected by HIV/AIDS in rural South Africa, looking at the interface between women’s own personal coping mechanisms, informal family and friendship networks, public sector primary health care facilities and national mental health policy, in the context of wider global efforts.
Rochelle’s work has already been published in several outlets (http://lse.academia.edu/RochelleAnnBurgess/About) and in her co-guest-edited special edition of the international journal Transcultural Psychiatry (http://tps.sagepub.com/content/49/3-4.toc), where she introduced the concept of a ‘mental health competent community’ (http://tps.sagepub.com/content/49/3-4/379.abstract). Rochelle, who is well known for her warm and unconventional personal style, startled the very formal LSE graduation platform party when she gave LSE Director, Prof Craig Calhoun, a hug in place of the usual handshake.
Rochelle, who is currently working with HCD’s Prof Campbell and Dr Mannell in setting up a study on the role of public deliberation in tackling domestic violence (http://psych4.lse.ac.uk/agency/) is about to take up a lectureship in Health and Social Care at London Metropolitan University, from where she will continue to be an active member of the HCD Research Group.
Cathy Campbell, HCD Director, gave the keynote address at the SIPCO 10th National Conference of the Italian Society of Community Psychology at the University of Bologna. The conference theme was ‘Building Sustainable and Hospitable Communities’. The title of Cathy’s talk was ‘New forms of social protest and new social movements: implications for the theory and practice of community psychology’.
The paper elaborated on themes introduced in the recent special issue of the Journal of Health Psychology (co-edited by Cathy hperlink to my website and Flora Cornish), which focused on new ideas for equipping Community Health Psychology for the 21st century:
The Health, Community and Development Group recently hosted the 9th Annual HCD MINI-CONFERENCE in the Old Building at the London School of Economics. The day focused on the challenges of creating health enabling environments in settings of extreme inequality.
The programme was organised and chaired by HCD co-director Dr Jenevieve Mannell. The day’s programme consisted of presentations by 11 MSc students, covering issues to do with health, participation, community and gender in countries including: Ghana, Malawi, India, Rwanda, Zambia, South Africa and the UK. All the research was carried out in the context of partnerships between students and community-based NGOs in the research countries.
The day was full of lively discussion. Some of the discussion focused on technical issues, including how to understand and implement criteria for good research (significance, originality and rigorous) and how best to construct compelling narratives to frame research reports. There was also much lively discussion about how best to define and operationalise concepts including human rights, Freirian dialogue and structural violence to produce research that is both analytically rigorous and actionable.
Amy Abdelshahid, who graduated on the MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology in December 2011, has had her MSc dissertation published in the JOURNAL OF COMMUNITY AND APPLIED SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, a leading outlet for work in community health psychology. Amy’s thesis sought to reveal the complexity of rural parents’ attitudes to the circumcision of their daughters in Egypt. In a field that is rife with inaccurate generalisations and stereotypes, her paper makes a significant and interesting contribution. Amy is an experienced market and social researcher in London.
Link to the publication online (early view) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/casp.2195/abstract
Sharon Jackson of the HCD PhD Research Group, was awarded the ESRC Doctoral Training Award at the LSE Research Festival for her photograph of Mount Kiliminjaro. The festival, which is held every year, aims to celebrate creativity in research. The posters, photographs and short films presented at the festival highlight the diverse and innovative research being done at the LSE.
Sharon and her winning photograph
Talking of her entry, Jackson commented: “The highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania is the focus for my research on climate change and social change. The amount of ice and snow covering its peak is shrinking and may be gone entirely by 2020. The relationship of global climate change to this and other physical alterations of the mountain is the subject of much debate and international research. At the same time, Mount Kilimanjaro is extremely significant in the lives of local people. It is central to agriculture and tourism, and has great symbolic and cultural value among societies in surrounding countries and across the continent. In my PhD research working with groups linked to the mountain, I am interested in how communities conceptualise and participate in these local-global and material-social relationships, and how they shape responses to climate change and other development issues that affect their lives.”
The HCD doctoral group also submitted another joint entry to the Research Festival, in which six doctoral students mapped out common themes across all their research, all of which seeks to advance understandings of what constitutes a ‘health enabling community context’. Designed and coordinated by Clare Coultas the poster included reference to research by Clare and Sharon in Tanzania, by Emily LeRoux-Rutledge in South Sudan, Imara Rolston in South Africa, Sara Belton in Uganda and Apurv Chauhan in India.
Clare Coultas (3rd from right) displays her poster with fellow PhD students (from left) Emily LeRoux Rutledge, Apurv Chauhan, [Cathy Campbell, supervisor], Clare, Sharon Jackson and Sara Belton
The themes embedded in this poster will form the starting point of a journal special issue to be master-minded by Emily, Imara and Apurv in the next year.
HCD’s Dr Jenevieve Mannell has been awarded a coveted teaching prize – nominated by the LSE’s Teaching and Learning Centre – on the basis of exceptional student evaluations of her performance on the Health, Community and Development core course. Dr Mannell is Co-Convenor of the HCD programme, on which she taught classes on gender, social capital and policy. She also chaired the fortnightly student seminar, and served as academic advisor and supervisor to several students.
Jenevieve with HCD students during review workshop
Congratulating Dr Mannell on her achievement, class reps Aruna Dahal and Maddie Guerlain commented as follows: “Jenevieve is a true role model and inspiration for those of us who aim to incorporate theory into practice and use practice to strengthen theory. She brings all her experience in the field to strengthen what she teaches in a manner that is always clear and engaging. There is always a safe space to critically discuss and challenge in all of her lectures, and office hours. On top of this she is kind, caring and always thinks of our interests as students in every circumstance. Thank you Jenevieve!”
Unemployment is continually portrayed as the current EU ‘illness’ in need of a social and institutional cure. The disease is especially acute in certain EU regions like southern Spain where youth unemployment has reached 66% generating an increase in poverty, in mental health problems, and in institutional distrust to name but a few consequences. An EU research team that includes Dr Lucia Garcia, from the Department of Social Psychology, has been conducting research on the social and psychological processes surrounding the high unemployment levels in Southern Europe during the last 18 months. The aim of the research however is to look beyond the ‘unemployed condition’ exploring the novel ways in which the unemployed are responding creatively to the pressures created by lack of jobs; from organizing protest movements reclaiming housing, to local community support arrangements to developing daily tactics that resist and outline an alternative vision of what it means to be unemployed.
For a recent coverage of the research by the BBC see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-27212890
Louise Andersen and Constance Nyamukapa with colleagues from Biomedical Research and Training Institute during dissemination workshop at Cresta Lodge in Harare
In his book “One day this will all be over“, Zimbabwean academic and counsellor Ross Parsons argues that for many HIV-positive children, “the horror of life (with AIDS) threatens to render all experience unspeakable”. He further argues that the social sciences lack a conceptual toolkit for documenting and analysing the suffering experienced by HIV-affected children in under-resourced settings in sub-Saharan Africa.
For the past 2 years, HCD researcher Louise Andersen has been running a large ESRC-DFID funded project focusing on the potential for schools to offer social protection and pastoral care to children whose significant adults are unable to play this role. The research has been carried out in rural Zimbabwe in partnership with colleagues at Imperial College London and the Biomedical Research and Training Institute. The culmination of this work has been an extensive dissemination exercise – which has involved feeding back research findings to policy makers in the education and AIDS ministries at the community, district and national levels – co-hosted with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
Research team during community dissemination activities in eastern Zimbabwe
This has involved a series of workshop at which multi-method research findings have been presented to and debated with key stakeholders in relevant sectors. The findings have been positively received, particularly by educational policy makers and teacher representatives, many of whom have felt overwhelmed by the additional demands the epidemic has placed on the already sorely stretched public and civil society sectors. Given high levels of AIDS stigma at all levels of society, the ability of key actors to openly name and discuss the problem has often been reduced – and the workshops provided urgently needed space to challenge this silence.
Constance Nyanukapa presenting research findings at dissemination workshop co-hosted with Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Harare.
One of the key findings of the research is that it is too much to expect already overworked teachers to single-handedly ‘substitute for the families’ of HIV-affected children in the absence of significantly greater resources and formal and institutionalised recognition of caring as part of a teacher’s job description. A great deal of work remains to be done in thinking through how teachers can better be supported to enable them to perform this role in in low resource settings. In particular international policy makers need to guard against glib assumptions that teachers are able to provide such support without due attention to ensuring that support structures are in place to enable an ‘ethic of care’.
Current HCD student Ines Mahr spent three weeks in Rwanda this past April to work with the African Institute for Integral Psychology (AIIP). The AIIP conducts ‘life wounds healing’ workshops with traumatized people based on the immediate or long-term effects of the genocide. In order to evaluate the mental health benefits of these workshops for her MSc dissertation, Ines interviewed 15 former participants and 5 facilitators of the workshops, as well as the founder of the institute, Prof. Simon Gasibirege.
Ines was in Rwanda during the 20th commemoration of the genocide. Reflecting on her experience and this special time for Rwanda, Ines says: ‘What was striking to me throughout my stay is the fundamental need for people to be supported to overcome their traumatic past and to improve mental health on a national level. 20 years after the Rwandan genocide the economic development of the country is impressive and a variety of innovative social policies support the reconstruction of a sense of community. The advancement of a unified Rwandan identity in order to overcome the former divisions among Hutu and Tutsi is strongly fostered. However, so far there is no overarching social policy that helps people to confront their past and improve mental health in culturally appropriate ways. 20 years after the genocide mental health should be a priority.’