Professor Stuart Carr with Ishbel McWha.
Better practices for foreign
Ishbel McWha was so impressed
with the work of organisational psychologist Professor Stuart
Carr that she returned from the front line of aid work in Cambodia
to work for him and the Poverty Research Group in the University’s
School of Psychology.
Professor Carr is now six months into an international project
that is expected to lead to better practices in the complex world
of foreign aid and the thousands who work in this field – from
the poorest of local people to highly paid ex-pats. The project
is called ADD-UP (Are Development Discrepancies Undermining Performance).
He has played a leading role in bringing together a team of
psychologists and sociologists from 10 countries to examine the
human dynamics of aid salary discrepancies and the significance
of these big differences in income levels, to the outcome of
projects in poor countries.
Professor Carr’s commitment to applying organisational psychology
to the world of aid workers was triggered 15 years ago when he
was working in Malawi and watching aid projects unravel, as the
side effect of unfortunate human dynamics. Many years on, he says
in a world “awash” with aid workers, there is growing
acknowledgement that there have to be better practices. For this
reason, he says, the research initiative has been widely applauded.
A cornerstone of a best practice is that pay should be aligned
and harmonised across worker groups.
Professor Carr has been establishing working relationships
with groups in Malawi, Uganda, India, China, the Solomon Islands
and Papua New Guinea.
Ishbel McWha, fresh off the plane from Cambodia, joined him
at his Auckland-based office in July as project manager and research
A postgraduate student at the University’s Palmerston North
campus, she had developed a strong interest in the social marketing
of poverty. In 2003 she headed for Rajasthan, in India, where she
worked as the programme officer at a local NGO helping to raise
the profile and expand the activity of the organisation.
Later she moved on to a local NGO in Cambodia to help build
capacity. She learnt the language, travelled to remote places
and embraced a rewarding but challenging time working towards
She blames a rogue mosquito under her desk for the subsequent
onset of a very serious case of dengue fever that forced her
to evacuate first to Bangkok and then home, to recover.
Determined to continue, she returned to her project in Cambodia.
The chance to return to Massey and join the aid project enabled
her to apply her education in a way she says she had never imagined.
Now she and Professor Carr have their international networks
in place and they are developing the methodology and framework
for this groundbreaking project.