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Caring in Crisis? Findings From The UK Public Dr. Bruna Seu, Dept. of Psychosocial Studies, BIRKBECK.

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Presentation on theme: "Caring in Crisis? Findings From The UK Public Dr. Bruna Seu, Dept. of Psychosocial Studies, BIRKBECK."— Presentation transcript:

1 Caring in Crisis? Findings From The UK Public Dr. Bruna Seu, Dept. of Psychosocial Studies, BIRKBECK

2 RQ 1: Responses and Everyday Morality 1. What are the moral responses and reactions evoked in audiences by humanitarian communications?

3 RQ 2: Socio-Cultural Scripts and Biographies 2.1. What socio-cultural scripts do people use to make sense of humanitarian communications and what are the ideological, emotional and biographical underpinnings of these responses? 2.2. How do people get to think and behave the way they do in terms of their biography and their own history of engagement with humanitarian issues? What emotions are evoked by humanitarian issues and their communications and how do people manage them?

4 RQ 3: Congruence Between NGOs and The Public 3.1. How do audiences’ responses to humanitarian communications relate to those intended by humanitarian organizations? 3.2. What assumptions and what conceptions of lay normativity direct NGOs communications?

5 Summary of Morning Presentation Sustaining Connectedness Sustaining Connectedness The Humanitarian Triangle The Humanitarian Triangle Case Studies Case Studies 2 Models of ‘Doing Humanitarianism’- 2 Models of ‘Doing Humanitarianism’- Project Website: research/research-projects/mediated-humanitarian- knowledge

6 The 3 ‘M’s model CONNECTEDNESS Morally significant actions Meaningful understanding Manageable emotions

7 4 Blocks to action 1. Emotional disconnection 2. Cognitive distancing 3. Moral pointlessness and parochialism 4. Problematic public-NGOs relationship

8 The Humanitarian Triangle

9 The Humanitarian Paradox The British public is: Generous and engaged in helping others in their communities. Generous and engaged in helping others in their communities. Sympathetic to distant sufferers. Sympathetic to distant sufferers. Thinking, talking and behaving as if the world were a small village Thinking, talking and behaving as if the world were a small village

10 Fatigue in response to humanitarian communications ‘Stickiness’ and ‘stuckness’ of particular beliefs about humanitarian causes Cynicism and despondency towards current models of humanitarian actions

11 Troubled Relationships: The Public and The Distant Sufferer Blocks to action and positive responsiveness. Blocks to action and positive responsiveness. Discordance between models of humanitarianism Discordance between models of humanitarianism  Mobilising public empathy is a necessary but not sufficient condition for action  Need for ways of sustaining connectedness over time

12 Model 1: Predominant Model The ‘hit and run’ Approach A. Distant Sufferer B. The Public C. NGOs

13 The Psychosocial Prism

14 The Emergency Model: When the current humanitarian triangle works In emergencies: In emergencies: a) Evidence of usefulness of monetary donations. b) Clarity of what is needed c) Visibility of what can be achieved through aid. d) Emergencies are perceived and responded to as discrete episodes expressing temporary needs and consequently making discrete demands. These differences were mentioned across all focus groups.

15 Engagements Through Telethons and One-Off Donations Andrew: Commitment, that’s exactly right, not investment. But for a lot of people it’s a lot, I mean say there’s a massive flood, people need support and money and it’s a lot easier to say Q Q. That’s going back to what I said about Comic Relief. We have one night, I know people think it goes on for months around the year, but they have one night where they go Q Q, and throughout the night they’re saying Q Q. It’s a lot easier for people to go Q Q so they ring up and give their details, they pay and then they forget about it. I think a lot of people think like that and it’s a weight off their mind. They think Q Q, so then they do and then they think Q Q. Andrew: Commitment, that’s exactly right, not investment. But for a lot of people it’s a lot, I mean say there’s a massive flood, people need support and money and it’s a lot easier to say Q Q. That’s going back to what I said about Comic Relief. We have one night, I know people think it goes on for months around the year, but they have one night where they go Q Q, and throughout the night they’re saying Q Q. It’s a lot easier for people to go Q Q so they ring up and give their details, they pay and then they forget about it. I think a lot of people think like that and it’s a weight off their mind. They think Q Q, so then they do and then they think Q Q.

16 Unpacking The Paradox: Case Studies The UK public is more complicated than it appears. The UK public is more complicated than it appears. If it is desirable that a relationship between the public, the distant sufferer and NGOs should be sustained and deepened over time, it is crucial to know about these complexities. If it is desirable that a relationship between the public, the distant sufferer and NGOs should be sustained and deepened over time, it is crucial to know about these complexities. The psychosocial prism enables a deeper and nuanced understanding of audiences. The psychosocial prism enables a deeper and nuanced understanding of audiences.

17 2 Case Studies Ingrid Presents herself as ‘not particularly caring’ and having been selfish when she was young Emotionally, she defines herself as ‘a bit of a cry baby’, easily and deeply affected emotionally by others’ suffering. Her overall mode of connecting to the distant sufferer is through identification, empathy and pity. Caroline Was brought up and has been actively involved in caring for others since young age Emotionally, she defines herself as “not a particularly emotional person but I’ve got a very strong sense of justice: I’m very concerned with social justice ” Her overall mode of connecting to the distant sufferer is ‘justice’ based, unemotional, political and ‘solution- based’

18 Ingrid In her childhood she was overlooked (if not neglected) and often sick. Loss of father through parents’ divorce at 16 Attempt at finding an alternative family through joining the army straight from school. Marries and has children young. Denial of husband’s unfaithfulness. Divorce. Life seems to catch her unprepared. Caroline Tomboy as a child. Mother emotionally unavailable and distant. Father emotionally present. Father dies when C is 15. Mother falls apart. C. goes to University, joins Amnesty and is involved in other pro-social activities. She spends about 10 years working abroad.

19 Ingrid “I’m sort of very much in my shell […] home, home, home, home’s is where I’m safe.” “It’s a scary old world out there isn’t?” She resents NGOs for upsetting her. Caroline She sees herself as “a citizen of the world.” “I’ve travelled a lot and seen how resourceful people are and how they cope with things.” She feels that humanitarian issues are always political.

20 Ingrid “You hear these awful things going on in Africa.. the children might go off to school and never see their parents again.. when you try and relate it to your family..it’s just horrendous you just can’t get your head around it so..you feel so helpless.. and then you turn off the news and these things are in your house you can’t, it’s difficult to turn away… so I just have to turn it off.” Caroline C: When I feel that they're trying to manipulate my emotions I switch off. Bruna: Why do you think they try to manipulate people's emotions? C: I suppose, I suppose they think that'll make them put their hand in the pocket, which I suppose initially it does but as I've said, later if you keep, you can't keep hitting that same note, after a bit, you get a, you know, you get a hardening of attitudes and a backlash […] that's when you want the political analysis, you know, well, you know, people can't feed themselves 'cause they can't go to the fields because you know, the snipers for example, you need to know this, you know.

21 Sustaining Connectedness Through The 3’M’s Model 1. Emotionally Manageable 2. Cognitively Meaningful 3. Morally Significant

22 Sustaining An Emotionally Manageable Connection Strong emotional reactions to humanitarian information. Strong emotional reactions to humanitarian information. Sadness and shock acceptable and expected, but it has to be manageable. Sadness and shock acceptable and expected, but it has to be manageable. Many felt they didn’t know how to maintain a manageable connection with distant suffering. Many felt they didn’t know how to maintain a manageable connection with distant suffering. For those displaying more emotional responses, an on- going connection with humanitarian issues was often too disturbing (e.g. Ingrid). For those displaying more emotional responses, an on- going connection with humanitarian issues was often too disturbing (e.g. Ingrid). NGOs unhelpful and sometimes the source of difficulties in emotional management of connection with distant suffering NGOs unhelpful and sometimes the source of difficulties in emotional management of connection with distant suffering

23 Managing emotions through understanding Florence: I used to be really scared about hearing things, but I don't now. I think I grew up as a person and started to embrace everything, so like if I see something on the news and I don't understand it, I’ll ring up my dad and he explains it to me, so I understand. Because […]. you can only be here for a certain amount of time, you need to know what's going on in the world..

24 Cognitively Meaningful Connecting Through Understanding Jonathan: I saw that and I thought, I didn’t particularly think that was an amazing picture, but obviously, like, it’s okay, and then I turned over and saw the thing on the next thing, that artillery destroyer…At first I thought it was, like, fireworks or something, and then I read it and I was like, oh my God!!. That’s, like, a cluster bomb attack or something, isn’t it? And, then you realise these people are running for their lives, and that really hit home, and then that made me want to read all of this, and then what I realised is, as I was reading it, I didn’t feel like when I read these things. I didn’t feel like it was trying to get money out of me. I felt like it was trying to educate me, and so that made me want to read more. In fact, I didn’t finish reading all of it, because I didn’t have enough time, so…if you’ve got a spare one, I’ll take it away.

25 Morally Significant A different way of ‘being there’ Hugh: I find it easier to be charitable if I go to a fundraiser or something. I think it’s easier because it becomes more personal than…. Fawzia: That’s why I would rather go to different countries to help than give them money because then I know I’m helping rather than just giving money because the next day I’ve forgotten I’ve given them money because I don’t feel I’ve done much to help them.

26 Morally Significant Jonathan: I know other friends that have done this, that have gone to villages in Africa and like, say, help build a school or something, just for a couple of months, and I really feel that something like that is, it’s good for both parties, because you’re doing something, you’re giving your time and your effort, and probably your sweat and your tears as well, and there’s something physical that you can see, that’s come out of it, rather than just cash, into a big pot that you don’t know where it’s going.

27 Blocks To Action 1. Emotional blocks: ‘Turning away and switching off’. 2. Cognitive block: ‘The Africa thing’ 3. Moral blocks: Futility and parochialism. 4. Crisis with NGOs.

28 Troubled Relationships: The UK Public and NGOs The relationship between public and NGOs is in crisis: The relationship between public and NGOs is in crisis: Need for a shift in the way NGOs relate to the public Need for a shift in the way NGOs relate to the public And in their role as ‘mediators’ between the public and distant sufferers And in their role as ‘mediators’ between the public and distant sufferers

29 ‘The Africa Thing’ Africa as shorthand for what is quintessentially intractable in humanitarian issues Africa as shorthand for what is quintessentially intractable in humanitarian issues Man-made problems are believed to be endemic to the country in need, particularly in the case of African countries. Man-made problems are believed to be endemic to the country in need, particularly in the case of African countries. Monetary or other interventions are futile and ill advised; the British public and government are not responsible or equipped to intervene. Monetary or other interventions are futile and ill advised; the British public and government are not responsible or equipped to intervene.

30 Milly: “I think we’ve got used to, you know.. the Africa thing.” Hugo: “They’ve been starving in Africa – I’m not being funny about it – since I were a kid. And, like, we’ve had Live Aid, Band Aid, whatever it is, but they’re still starving in Africa.” Imogen: “I don't think it’s going to make any difference. Well, you know, I think everybody’s skirting around the issue which is, you know, chronic poverty and chronic corruption in a lot of countries”.

31 Imagining connectedness to the Other Language of care (in contrast with money) Language of care (in contrast with money) Sufferers need ‘more than money’ Sufferers need ‘more than money’ Wished for physical proximity (but not simulated) Wished for physical proximity (but not simulated) Need for knowledge and appropriate and manageable emotions Need for knowledge and appropriate and manageable emotions Imagined care is profoundly relational (rather than transactional) Imagined care is profoundly relational (rather than transactional) Based on practices of relating and caring that people are familiar with Based on practices of relating and caring that people are familiar with

32 Model 1: Predominant Model B. The Public The psychosocial prism C. NGOs A. Distant Sufferer The ‘hit and run’ approach

33 Model 1: The Public’s Desired Relationship B. The Public The psychosocial prism C. NGOs A. Distant Sufferer


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