Innovation summary

Exchange and use of knowledge and learning within the global field of mental health & psychosocial support (MHPSS) has been severely constrained by poor access for field-based practitioners and policy-makers in low and middle-income settings to technical resources and expertise globally and even within their own regional and national contexts. Researchers in academic settings often face comparable challenges to ensure that the focus of their work is relevant to the priorities of local contexts.

The online mhpss.net platform seeks to respond directly to these challenges by providing a hosted online platform for connecting stakeholders in the field and actively supporting sharing of knowledge and resources.

The mhpss.net platform is a unique, globally scalable interface for knowledge-exchange for this field and uses both social networking technology and deployment of online technical hosts to enable practitioners, policy-makers and other stakeholders to access and apply evidence-based and most-promising approaches.

Impact summary

  • 107,972 unique visitors from 219 countries/territories and 7793 cities (over 3 year period) and 862,865 page views, with visitors spending over 12935 hours on the site (over project period).
  • Approximately 800 resources were uploaded each year resulting in a total of 3569 on the site by end of the 3 year project and over 230,000 downloads of site resources during the same period. Membership of the network grew from 1514 to 3818.
  • MHPSS.net supported responses in major emergencies like Typhoon Haiyan, the Ebola crisis, and the Syrian crisis.

“For the past six months I either watched or downloaded the archived sessions or participated in all the [webinar] trainings, which is just phenomenally useful . . . I’ve participated in as many as I’ve wanted to, which is all of them.” 

 

-Practitioner, interviewed in independent evaluation of MHPSS.net 2015

This innovation is funded by Grand Challenges Canada.

Innovation details

The MHPSS Network platform was established in response to a need, recognized by the global MHPSS community, to better connect practitioners, clinicians, policymakers and researchers working in the field of MHPSS in emergencies and other situations of adversity. Personnel in low and middle-income countries, especially those in field contexts, often lacked access to relevant resources and contact with peers, and were often constrained in sharing their own knowledge and experiences.

As a Community of Practice (CoP), the MHPSS Network aims to enrich services provided to affected populations and individuals by allowing practitioners and stakeholders access to evidence-based research and peer collaboration through an online platform. Given the great diversity within the field of MHPSS, in terms of disciplines, theoretical and practical perspectives, and contextual realities, the MHPSS Network aims to reflect and respect this plurality, but also seeks to bring these many strands into proximity with one another to increase interaction, engagement and the sharing of knowledge and experiences.

This exchange and use of knowledge and learning within the global field of MHPSS has been severely constrained by poor access to technical resources and expertise from global, regional and even national contexts., for field-based practitioners and policy-makers in low and middle-income settings. The MHPSS Network responds directly to these challenges by providing a hosted online platform for connecting stakeholders in the field and actively supporting sharing of knowledge and resources. It has also been adopted as the main online platform for use by the IASC Reference Group on MHPSS[1], comprised of key agencies that undertake and lead MHPSS responses in humanitarian crises, as it promotes and coordinates systematic, evidence-based and consensus-based interventions.

How It Works

The MHPSS Network has sought to establish the website as a means for the MHPSS community to access resources and support that will strengthen their interventions for service-users in emergencies and situations of adversity. This was done through a system of specialist and network hosts that work towards ensuring the availability of key resources while expanding and activating the membership to respond to issues and themes in their localities.

The COP provides a way for members to share resources, join groups and interact with others, based on their work and interests. The platform also plays an important role in mobilizing capacities, resources and ensuring coordination around MHPSS response during emergencies. Recognizing that technology alone is not always sufficient to enable exchange or grow communities of practice, the network’s team of online hosts supports members in using the site and in helping members connect with others across the network. The MHPSS Network hosting team itself consists of MHPSS practitioners, with diverse backgrounds and working in different parts of the world.

Features of the MHPSS Network

Features that support COP members’ learning, participation and engagement include:

  • Repository of key resources in the field (manuals, articles, grey literature, etc) which is continuously updated by members across the world, with additional curation by the mhpss.net team.
  • Profiles, public posting, online forums, webinars, private messaging, live chat, resource rating and peer review, to create opportunities for knowledge exchange amongst members.

    [1] IASC Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings:  Established in December 2007. Its main task is to support and advocate for the implementation of the IASC MHPSS Guidelines in Emergency Settings. The Reference Group consists of more than 30 members, and fosters a unique collaboration between NGOs, UN and International Agencies and academics, promoting best practices in MHPSS. 

Key drivers

  • Global hosting team engaging with local actors to develop local community
  • Partnership with leading international agencies and consortia in the field of MHPSS or related sectors
  • Member-led activity on the site – therefore not dependent on central capacity to populate with materials, review and comment
  • Using latest in social media and increasing accessibility – through languages, mobile technology, pushing content to multiple platforms etc
  • Ability to play strategic role in connecting the local and international response in major emergencies

Challenges

  • Difficulty of recruiting quality candidates for novel online hosting roles
  • Diversity of theoretical perspectives and backgrounds of members creates challenges for systematic discussion of evidence and evaluation issues
  • Challenges to obtain appropriate technical assistance for ICTs for Humanitarian Settings and also guidance on sustainability planning

Continuation

The mhpss.net model is currently under consideration for use by other humanitarian sectors in developing their own strategies for knowledge management and building communities of practice.

There are several processes underway to integrate and share content with mhpss.net from key initiatives and institutions in the field, including Intervention Journal, the Child Protection Working Group and the IFRC Psychosocial Resource Centre.

Evaluation methods

In 2015, an independent external evaluation, funded by Grand Challenges Canada, was carried out to assess performance, evaluate progress towards objectives and provide strategic direction for the MHPSS Network. The performance evaluation looked into the network’s social learning activities such as a) sharing information, tips and documents, b) learning from each other’s experience, c) helping each other with challenges, d) creating knowledge together, e) keeping up with the field, f) stimulating change, and g) offering new types of professional development opportunities.

Objectives of the Evaluation:

1. To assess its effectiveness as a knowledge management tool, including new knowledge creation, knowledge sharing, storage, and refinement, in addition to understanding of where and in what forms knowledge exists, creating processes that span network functions, and ensuring that initiatives are accepted and supported by network members

2. To identify lessons learned and factors that lead to improvements in practice and better performance

3. Ultimately, inform the CoP sustainability strategy and its role within and beyond the global MHPSS community

Evaluation Findings:

The evaluation, which consisted of a desk review, and a series of in depth interviews with active MHPSS network members (42), MHPSS Network Hosts (8), and MHPSS Advisory Board Members (4), validated the importance of the MHPSS Network for the MHPSS sector and MHPSS actors around the globe. Despite challenges faced and the need for ongoing improvement to improve its success, the network presents as an influential platform to construct and share knowledge around MHPSS.

Action Steps:

The evaluation identified key problem areas and provided recommendations for cultivating and enhancing the operational, functional, and technical structures and features that support members’ learning, participation and engagement. The network has since then, with support from GiZ and in line with these recommendations, taken concrete steps to improve effectiveness and performance of the site by Implementing a project titled “Re-think: MHPSS.net upgrade 2016” defined by 3 benchmarks:

1.The improvement of existing features of MHPSS.net based on the results of user feedback reported in the 2016 MHPSS.net evaluation report.

2.The improved functionality of MHPSS.net with new features, including special interest groups like the creation of the “Middle East MHPSS Community of Practice”, and the creation of an online 4Ws actor-mapping functionality to support and facilitate real time updates to mapping data by country, that a) supports the identification of gaps in the MHPSS response to enables coordinated action, b) enables referral by making information available about who is where, when, doing what, c) informs appeal processes, d) improve transparency and legitimacy of MHPSS through structured documentation, and e) improves possibilities for reviewing patterns of practice and for drawing lessons for future response

3.The contribution to emergency preparedness and response

Cost of implementation

GCC: $807,347 USD, over three years (24/09/2012 – 24/09/2015)

Impact details

 

During the 3 year project (Sept 2012 – Dec 2015):

  • 107,972 unique visitors from 219 countries/territories and 7793 cities
  • 862,865 page views, with visitors spent over 12935 hours on the site
  • Approx 800 resources were uploaded each year resulting in a total of 3569 on the site
  • Over 230,000 downloads of site resources in the project period.
  • Membership of the network grew from 1514 to 3818 during project period
  • MHPSS.net supported responses in major emergencies like Typhoon Haiyan, the Ebola crisis, and the Syrian crisis.
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