At the foundation of psychosocial support is community involvement and leadership. The local community is best positioned to provide psychosocial support and healing during an emergency. The local community knows the needs of their community, understand the culture and customs, and have pre-existing relationships and networks. Building the capacity of local partners is a critical component to integrated, effective, and sustained psychosocial programming.
Objectives of psychosocial support
There are many unique and creative ways that local partners can provide psychosocial support. Through PSS Capacity Building, local partners should be equipped to do the following:
- Identify appropriate protection strategies and develop effective modalities for supporting the varying interests, needs, vulnerabilities and capacities of the affected community.
- Address a wide-variety of protection issues, including case identification, crisis management, mental health and PSS concerns, domestic and community violence, and conflict mediation. Local partners can work directly with individuals, families, and community structures to enhance positive coping strategies and promote resilience, equipping communities to positively adapt in difficult circumstances. Through this resilience based approach, communities and families will support one another to address protection concerns, thus reducing vulnerability and negative coping strategies.
- Facilitate referrals through appropriate referral pathways. Though communities have the ability to self-manage the majority of protection concerns they face, there are some issues that require specialized interventions. Local partners, if trained, are strategically positioned to be able to facilitate appropriate referrals.
- Lead outreach initiatives, working with community stakeholders conduct trainings, awareness raising sessions, and community activities about protection issues, sexual and gender-based violence, child rights and available services.
When should we use psychosocial support capacity building?
Capacity building for local partners should be a component of all programmes. Any local partner providing services to an affected community in emergency should have basic knowledge about psychosocial support. PSS Capacity Building for local partners is a critical piece of all programmes.
How to set up this programme
Establish a group of people responsible for capacity building efforts. Identify the local partners and develop a plan and goals for capacity building efforts. Trainings and capacity building should not be one-time or ad hoc events, but should be part of an integrated, complementary strategy across sectors. The team should also identify the following:
- Minimum qualifications for participants in capacity building/training events
- Identify people from the local community to contribute to the efforts
- Organize the logistics for these events and identify needed resources
All capacity building should be done in coordination with other stakeholders, including the local partner and the affected community.
Assess the current understanding of PSS among local partners. One of the challenges of psychosocial issues is they are not often explicit, and it requires training and practice to be able to identify psychosocial issues.
Develop Training Plan
Some initial workshops should be held to understand the training needs and interests of local partners. Discussion questions for these workshops could include:
- What is the traditional way of dealing with loss, hardship, etc.? (Storytelling, talking, concealing feelings, faith, etc.)
- Do women/men and adults/children cope differently?
- Who is most vulnerable in your community? Why?
- What are the traditional ways of giving meaning to an event?
- How does the community understand and explain symptoms of distress?
- What are the needs and expectations of your community?
- How are people who are experiencing distress perceived by the community? Is their stigma? Support?
Trainings should include the following:
- What is psychosocial support?
- Human Rights-Focus on right to life with dignity
- Mapping of community needs and capacities
- Understanding signs of distress
- Risk and Protective Factors
- Coping and Resilience
- Children’s Reactions to Distressing Events
- Promoting self-help
- Supportive Communication
- Re-establishing community structures
- Types of psychosocial interventions
- Referrals and Coordination
Monitoring and Evaluation
Trainings alone are not sufficient. Support should be provided to local partners as they begin to implement PSS programmes. Local partners should receive ongoing support, including visits, discussion groups, and continuous learning.
For support with developing monitoring and evaluation measures see:
Resources to be mobilized include: staff, volunteers, space for activities (ideally provided by an existing local partner), materials for activities and trainings (stationery, art supplies, sports equipment, office materials, etc.) and training resources.
Additional tools and resources
Additional tools and resources for psychosocial support capacity building are here