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ResiliencEngage: Human to Human, in the Field.

ResiliencEngage protects the core humanity of HAWs to help them truly connect across the boundaries that separate human beings.

Photo of Jane Reilly
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Humanitarian aid workers (HAWs) support people in crisis at border transitions and facilitate their movement through refugee camps and into permanent settlements. However, too little is done to support aid workers in engaging with displaced persons with humanity, empathy, and compassion. HAWs share in the extremely stressful conditions of the people with whom they work, and their repeated exposure to traumatic events negatively impacts their relationships with displaced persons, jeopardizing the emotional recovery of those they work with. At the same time humanitarian systems often serve to dehumanize HAWs and displaced persons alike by portraying displaced people as helpless and desperate, and assistance as charity. This approach traps HAWs in asymmetrical power relationships with displaced persons and can condition them to pathologize and medicalize the refugees. ResiliencEngage is a program that enables HAWs to consciously understand how their personal state and the power dynamics they will be entering into impact their relationships with displaced persons, and to cultivate their awareness of and resilience to the psychological stresses of their work. The program consists of an online classroom-based resilience training which is integrated into orientation prior to departure; modules focus on trauma awareness, the neurobiology of stress and trauma, self-care and self-compassion, the empathetic/compassion connection, and stress resilience. These modules also provide guidance for HAWs on how to appropriately share resilience and self-care strategies with the people they work with. Ongoing psychological support is provided in the field and upon re-entry via a mobile app which connects the worker to a dedicated clinician for one-on-one support, to a cohort of peers for group support, and enables self-care through ongoing self-assessment and tailored app-delivered recommended reset activities. Please see attachments: "An Introduction" & "How It Works"

Geography of focus (500 characters)

HAWs work in all regions of the world where people experience crisis, conflict & displacement, & include those who support displaced persons as they transition to their new permanent homes. ResiliencEngage can empower & support them to build meaningful & trusting relationships in all of these communities. As a primarily digitally-delivered program, HAWs can interact with ResiliencEngage prior to, during, & post assignment, on their own schedule anywhere internet access is available.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

By helping HAWs harness all that makes them human, ResiliencEngage promotes a shared human rights approach where there is a shift from seeing beneficiaries of humanitarian aid as “victims” to be pitied, to one in which HAWs fully recognize the humanity of those they partner with, & aid is seen as a collaborative undertaking between two communities working together on equal footing to manage their shared traumas & stresses.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Our aid systems often dehumanize aid workers & displaced persons alike by perpetuating power differentials & inadequately addressing the psychological traumas that each community faces. In 'Policy and Behavior in Humanitarian Organizations', Mark Walkup describes how the coping process that aid workers go through contributes to transference, “where aid personnel are no longer able to detach themselves from the ever-present suffering that they are incapable of alleviating…they begin to rationalize failure by transferring the guilt away from themselves and…begin to blame the victims." By increasing their capacity to cope, ResiliencEngage helps to reduce burn out & cynicism, & equips HAWs to engage with displaced people with greater hospitality & humanity, helping aid worker & displaced person alike to keep hope intact, & allowing them to hold onto the future possibility of joy.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

As HAWs practice self-care & coping strategies, they build protective barriers against stress & trauma. Because they no longer bring states of emotional dysregulation & cynicism into their relationships with displaced persons, space is created for aid workers to naturally model & share these same strategies, thereby supporting displaced persons as they manage their own traumas of displacement & resettlement. Please see attachment: "ResiliencEngage Evaluation Framework"

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

My inspiration to create a Humanitarian Aid Worker (HAW) Program began in the late 1990s while working with refugees in NYC where many of my colleagues had recently returned from the field. I witnessed their distress upon re-entry & their commitment to continuing this essential work for humanity. This sparked my desire to support HAWs. Years later, while in the DR Congo as Clinical Lead supporting returnees, my colleagues & I experienced a fundamental lack of psychosocial support. We know many HAWs return home with psychological distress. I was not immune & carried home symptoms of PTSD, requiring healing attention. I’ve spent years in leadership alongside my therapeutic work & understand the systemic challenges for NGOs. During that time, my commitment to support HAWs has only grown. I’m proud to lead a team of experts—scientists, technologists, mental health professionals, spiritual teachers, HAWs & refugees—to find remedies to the challenges HAWs & refugees face.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

The communities HAWs join are often wrought with turmoil & dysfunction due to traumatic upheaval or a lack of safety & infrastructure. HAWs are expected to provide resources, safety & support to communities while experiencing traumatic events alongside community members . Too often, aid resources are limited & HAWs must deny services to some, or interrupt services prematurely & then watch as community infrastructure is threatened in an environment of scarcity & competition. Cumulative stress intensifies when one feels unable to help & is one of the most debilitating & often unrecognized types of stress in humanitarian work. Some emotional results are anxiety, frustration, guilt & depression leading to forgetfulness or poor concentration, which can affect humane execution of job performance. As a result, personal relationships may become damaged through resentment, intolerance, & isolation.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Our engagement process is based on respect, collaboration, shared vision, & reflection & follows these four steps. LISTEN ACTIVELY: To better understand the impact of trauma & stress on the relationships between HAWs & displaced persons, we will survey resettled refugees & expect to conduct interviews/focus groups with MSF-SA aid workers & the communities they serve. CO-CREATE: A team of expert clinicians, aid workers, & resettled refugees will use this feedback to draft ResiliencEngage content which we expect to be piloted by MSF-SA, & further refined in collaboration with local humanitarian organizations. ENGAGE DIRECTLY WITH MULTIDIMENSIONAL WORKSHOPS: We will develop master trainers who will offer training & support to humanitarian organizations. SHARE ACTIONABLE INSIGHTS: Using built-in feedback from the ResiliencEngage app & our evaluation findings, we will share our learnings through community & professional education. Please see attachment: "How We Do It"

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

Stillpoint Engage receives the backing of PrairieCare’s hospital & clinic system (University of Minnesota Medical School Affiliate), & researchers & analysts from its PrairieCare Institute will provide clinical content expertise for the development of ResiliencEngage training modules & app-based resources, alongside HAWs, displaced persons & other community stakeholders. We are currently in conversation with Magenic, & Atomic regarding ResiliencEngage road map development (both are digital technology development companies located in Minnesota), & Atomic indicates interest in making in-kind contributions to the project. An introductory conversation with Microsoft is scheduled. We also propose to collaborate with local humanitarian organizations supporting displaced persons to assure the ongoing leadership & engagement of aid workers & displaced persons in the development of this project. Agencies include, for example, Alight, CVT, & Wellshare International.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

Stillpoint Engage

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Stillpoint Engage is an international, humanitarian nonprofit organization that engages multidimensional approaches, grounded in depth psychology, to alleviate human suffering. We directly engage under-served, post-disaster, & post-conflict communities to enable individual & community healing. ENGAGE COMMUNITIES DIRECTLY: We engage communities by listening, & co-creating multidimensional psychological & social support activities, inside or outside a formal mental-health context. SUPPORT HUMANITARIAN WORKER: We support HAWs by providing a program that includes: preparatory Compassion & Resiliency Training, psychosocial support & stress assessment throughout their time in the field, & optional therapeutic services to facilitate successful re-entry. GENERATE ACTIONABLE INSIGHTS: We generate actionable insights into the root causes of human suffering today, through quantitative & qualitative research, curated discussion & debate, & innovative community & professional education.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

United States

Organization Headquarters: City / State


In preparation for expert feedback: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in these categories? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea. (600 characters)

ResiliencEngage (RE) depends on field experienced clinicians to deliver support to HAWs. How do we build a cadre of trainers large enough to scale up worldwide? RE will better protect HAWs from high risk situations, so companies providing aid organizations with international travel & security insurance would benefit from requiring their clients to use RE. How can we best engage & partner with them? RE captures data on the HAWs who use it, allowing us to refine & enhance our program. What can we build into RE to also help us better understand the experiences of the displaced persons?

Did you use the resources offered during the Improve Phase (mentorship, expert feedback, community research)? (2000 characters)

We met with our mentor, solicited expert feedback, & conducted empathy interviews with HAWs, displaced persons, & with leadership at MSF South Africa. 

Our mentor described how much it meant to her to be welcomed to Jordan by a caring, non-judgmental HAW when she fled Syria, & how the relaxed, confident HAW helps the refugee to feel safe & empowered. She emphasized the need for the HAW to have strong communication skills, suggesting that a trained & supported HAW is in a good position to provide basic psychosocial support, including instruction on simple stress resilience practices to the displaced person. The displaced people described how they depended on HAWs to survive, “I was able to get a job from them. It saved my life, as there was not enough food in the camp.” They said that the HAWs who were curious about the local culture, religion, & language were the most helpful to them. 

We also learned how unprepared/overwhelmed/isolated a HAW can feel in their work, & how little support they receive to manage traumatic situations, “You’re out in the field all day hearing and seeing things…& you go home like its normal. But it’s not normal, & it affects everybody. People go into the field driven to help; they should not be coming out so completely broken.” Clearly, the high-risk/high-stress environment HAWs experience impacts their wellbeing & their ability to be fully engaged with the community/displaced people who depend on them. MSF validated this experience, “Our field workers often don’t realize how their traumatic experiences affect them until later in their career. Our people need support, they often return broken”. As such, they were enthusiastic about the potential of RE, “RE is what we need in the field, for the HAWs that are being deployed in foreign locations where their normal support networks are not available”.

In what ways would potential BridgeBuilder funds allow you to pursue your idea that other funding opportunities have not? (1000 characters)

BridgeBuilder provides incentives & structures to promote the sharing of ideas between a transcontinental cohort of organizations all focused on the same goal. We recognize a unique opportunity for unflinching review & refinement of our work from those best positioned to understand the impact of what we do.

We plan to reach out to the extensive professional networks of this unique cohort of stakeholders to convene a broad-based virtual conversation to solicit input & build a cadre of future collaborators/consultants in the areas of: content & approach of the RE curriculum; selection of resources to be delivered via the RE app, training videos, exercises, case studies, research around the impact of trauma on the relationships between HAWs & the displaced people with whom they work; recruitment, training, & support of RE expert trainers; communications, marketing, sustainability & scalability of RE.

What aspects or proportion of the overall idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (1000 characters)

BridgeBuilder funds will be used to fully develop our on-line curriculum. In addition to conducting the virtual stakeholder conversations described in #2 ($10,000), we plan to: engage stakeholders in curriculum design workshops so they may share their lived experience with our content experts, informing the design & delivery of training modules. For example, we will conduct listening sessions & design workshops in Jan 2020 with 40 MSF field workers in South Africa prior to their field deployment ($75,000); create an on-line content library by identifying &/or creating new content to populate the on-line training platform we are currently developing ($65,000); solicit ongoing input from design & content experts, including via meetings with MSF South Africa senior managers & psychologist scheduled for Feb 2020 ($10,000); identify & orient clinical experts with field experience to deliver training & support individual HAWs along their journey ($40,000).

What are the key steps or activities for your idea for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (1000 characters)

Our project will evolve in three major phases over the next three years. 

PHASE 1 will focus on curriculum development & app build. We will first establish the BridgeBuilder stakeholder input conversations, with input from this cohort identify subject matter specialists to design module content & outcome indicators; secure experts to teach & supervise the curriculum, & engage them along with stakeholders in a series of design workshops to finalize curriculum content & approach. Beta testing & iteration will follow before launch of the curriculum. PHASE 2 will focus on private & NGO sector partner engagement for marketing & support, utilizing RE app data to generate evidence in support of scale up. PHASE 3 will focus on institutionalizing RE & continuous quality improvement, generating routine data reports for stakeholders; refining/maintaining the curriculum & app. 

Please see attached GAANT chart for more detail.

What will community-level impact look like over the timeframe of your idea? How will you determine whether or not you have achieved that impact? And what outstanding questions do you still have? (1000 characters)

IMPACT: Ultimately, we expect RE to become a standard of care for NGOs employing HAWs. Its impact will be measured by HAW demand & engagement, sustained improvement in NGO staff retention & decreased utilization of crisis & mental health services, & by changes in measures of stress, depression, & burnout among HAWs. In the short term, by 2022, we expect to train 1000 HAWs from 2 NGOs on RE; 60% of those will be using the app on a weekly basis in the field.

MEASUREMENT: Individual HAW’s daily interactions with the RE app result in a data stream that will include measures of stress over time, frequency & types of reset activities utilized, frequency & type of stress indicators triggering clinical interactions, etc.

QUESTION: What can we build into RE to also help us better understand its impact on the displaced persons interacting with participating HAWs?

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (1000 characters)

Please see attachment. 

Lastly, how did you apply new learnings to your idea? (1000 characters)

Drawing on all of this feedback, we plan to enhance the RE program by: incorporating guidance for HAWs on how they can best support each other through a peer network; developing communication & training competencies of HAWs so they can provide basic psychosocial support & teach simple stress resilience strategies to displaced persons; building translation capabilities, off-line modes, & IT support into the app, as well as links to language tools; developing stand-alone modules for NGOs to use in HAW orientation, including cross-cultural communications, safety and security, & how to assess potential employees for their psychological readiness for the work; developing key outcome indicators at an early stage, in order to collect evidence needed to engage future stakeholders for scale-up & sustainability, including international NGOs, international travel & security companies, & digital development companies.

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Attachments (4)

An Introduction.pdf

An introduction to ResiliencEngage: Human to Human, in the field.

How It Works.pdf

ResiliencEngage How It Works - In reference to question: What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work?

ResiliencEngage Evaluation Framework.pdf

ResiliencEngage Evaluation Framework - In reference to question: What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea?

How We Do It.pdf

Stillpoint Engage How We Do It - In reference to question: How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Isaac Jumba

Dear Jane Reilly ,

Great reading through your final submission. I'm glad that the feedback from mentors, experts and users were helpful in helping your team advance the idea. A

Are there specific locations that your team is thinking of piloting the project? HAWs from specific regions --

Photo of Jane Reilly

Hello Isaac,
Thank you for reading our work and for your comment! Yes, we will be piloting ResiliencEngage with MSF (Doctors Without Borders) South Africa, slated for early Spring 2020. We have so many ideas of where this could really make a difference and all of the different ways in which it can be used. We would love to hear any thoughts you have on that. We are very much looking forward to seeing it in action!

-The Stillpoint Engage Team

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