Social and Emotional Learning in Crises and Conflicts




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Mar 26, 2019
by Lucy Browett
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Social and Emotional Learning in Crises and Conflicts

Cornelia Janke and Margi Bhatt discuss SEL’s power to help children in adverse contexts Picture by Perry Grone on Unsplash

Participants at the program Social and Emotional Learning: Time for Action explored many aspects of SEL, from digital and cultural identities to assessment and measuring of SEL metrics.

While participants came from a variety of nations, backgrounds and disciplines, the importance of implementing SEL into curriculums and schools was reiterated time and time again.

Cornelia Janke is the director of Education in Crisis & Conflict Network (ECCN), a USAID initiative, which brings together policymakers, researchers, and practitioners working in education in crisis and conflict situations. She said of SEL, “It’s important for everyone because it’s an essential element of how humans learn to be human. It’s not something that we just do once when we’re children. We do it throughout our lives.”

For the millions of children in crisis and conflict situations, obtaining social emotional skills is of the utmost importance.

Janke said, “Especially in contexts where children have experienced very adverse or violent situations, it’s helpful to have a little toolbox that includes social skills, emotional skills, and cognitive skills all working together to help them make sense of that experience at whatever life stage, whether they’re children or youth or even adults.

“Without those tools, it’s just that much harder to be resilient, bounce back, move on and grow.”

These tools are crucial for children who are dealing with various traumas as a result of the conflict situation they are in, and helping them to process their surroundings.

“Social emotional skills are taught by and honed through trusting and stable relationships with a range of people in our lives, whether that’s in our family, whether that’s in a school setting or a work setting or a spiritual community…

“If we help children build those skill-sets in one setting, and help them learn to transfer skills into other settings, they’ll be able to continue building relationships in their community. Positive relationships with a range of people, connected in different ways, are a key ingredient for supporting resilient individuals and creating a cohesive social environment - for creating community.”

ECCN shares tools and practices, as well as knowledge, as part of its community of USAID staff and implementing partners.

On the research side, organizations such as the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) curate the work of SEL researchers on a global scale, complemented by other initiatives such as ECCN.

Margi Bhatt is the coordinator of education policy for INEE. Bhatt said, “As a network of more than 15,000 individual members and 130 partner organizations in 190 countries, it’s really important for us to be a convener of the knowledge and evidence for Social and Emotional Learning in education in emergency contexts, so we can ensure those who need resources have access to them and duplication is avoided.

“It’s important for us to use our strength as a network to provide advocacy and impact policy, to represent voices at tables where they are generally not represented.”

Within the education policy working group of the network, members have already developed a background paper and guidance for psychosocial support and social and emotional learning , which will be disseminated by webinars and training modules.

The members are also conducting a mapping exercise of currently used frameworks and tools for academic and social and emotional learning in crisis and conflict contexts.

Additionally, the members, who are all volunteers, are also developing a unified framework for social and emotional learning in partnership with Harvard University’s EASEL Lab, and supporting , through a reference group, the Measurement and Metrics Initiative of the International Rescue Committee and New York University.

The work of INEE is important to ensure that “research gaps” are filled. Curating the already existing research prevents duplication, but there are still areas to be explored when it comes to research of SEL in crisis and conflict contexts.

Bhatt said of the journey to filling these gaps, “It’s a big, big task. But we are up for it.”

“I think one of the things that we really need to focus on is a way to harness all of the activity that’s happening in Social and Emotional Learning research and figure out a way to house all of this activity to make sure those who need it can and do access it.

“I think the INEE learning agenda will contribute to better understanding the gaps in research, regionally, in education in emergencies (including SEL) and facilitate the connection of researchers and practitioners.

“We connect and represent a wide range of stakeholders, and the resources produced by INEE are global and open resources, so we are well positioned to facilitate the curation and dissemination of SEL knowledge and resources for the education
in emergencies sector.”

The conversation will be continued in the next program in the multi-year series Education for Tomorrow’s World in December 2019.

Education and Workforce Opportunities for Refugees and Migrants will bring together experts, policymakers and practitioners from a wide range of organizations, sectors, and countries to develop policy and financing solutions that can create better education outcomes and life chances for both refugees and displaced people and their host communities.

Read more in Issue 3 of the program newsletter:

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The program Social and Emotional Learning: Time for Action is part of Salzburg Global’s long-running multi-year series Education for Tomorrow’s World. The program is held in partnership with ETS, Microsoft, Porticus, Qatar Foundation International and USAID’s Education in Crisis and Conflict Network.