Case study

Embedded learning: SSHAP Fellowship Programme

The SSHAP Fellowship is a flagship component of the Social Science in Humanitarian Action Platform (SSHAP). It brings together mid-career social scientists and humanitarian and public health practitioners from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to take part in a process of mutual learning and exploration of the role and potential of social science in crisis response.

May – August 2021, September – December 2021, May – August 2022, October – December 2022, May – August 2023
Approximate cost
Fellows receive a £1,000 honorarium. All other costs are met by the project.
Pairing social scientists with practitioners in the same region to facilitate and encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and knowledge exchange.


To build the skills of future leaders in social science that encourage emergency responses that are effective, adaptive, contextually informed and based on social and interdisciplinary science and evidence.


The Social Science in Humanitarian Action Platform (SSHAP) is a programme of work focusing on the social dimensions of emergency responses. It aims to encourage emergency responses which are effective, adaptive, contextually informed, and based on social and interdisciplinary science and evidence. SSHAP’s overarching objectives are to build capacity for social science in humanitarian response globally, and to grow the SSHAP network.

SSHAP believes that future leaders in social science need to be able to apply their knowledge to humanitarian emergencies in locally relevant ways.

The SSHAP Fellowship, a flagship component of SSHAP, contributes to these objectives by bringing together mid-career social scientists and humanitarian and public health practitioners, from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to take part in a process of mutual learning and exploration of the role and potential of social science in crisis response.


The SSHAP Fellowship is a competitive process, with two cohorts a year. To be eligible, applicants must be a national of and currently living in a LMIC and be either a social scientist with research experience or a public health or humanitarian response practitioner in a position to influence design and/or rollout of humanitarian activities.

Once the Fellows have been selected, they attend 12 core weekly online sessions. Preparatory materials are provided before sessions to encourage dialogue around the different themes covered, including political economy, vulnerability and social difference, cultural logic, and a range of more operational-focussed sessions.

Fellows are grouped together with their regional counterpart(s) (resulting in complementary social science and practitioner duos/trios) to complete assignments. This helps to build relationships between the different Fellows, thus growing the SSHAP and IDS network.

With regular meetings with a SSHAP mentor from IDS, the small groups work to co-develop network maps of organisations within their region that SSHAP could reach out to in cases of crisis, as well as an outline for a SSHAP brief based on a mutually chosen humanitarian crisis in their region.


The professional development and learning of the SSHAP Fellowship is coordinated and run by IDS, Anthrologica and LSHTM.

IDS SSHAP colleagues include:

SSHAP Partner colleagues include:

  • Eva Niederberger, Anthrologica
  • Soha Karam, Anthrologica
  • Diane Duclos, LSHTM

Participant information

Fellows bring with them a diverse range of experience from organisations spanning research and practice, with roughly a 50-50 split between the two.

Fellows have come from across academia, government, civil society, and international humanitarian response, including, for example:

  • Universidad del Valle, Colombia
  • Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief and Development (ACBAR)
  • Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (AUB)
  • Centre for Infectious Disease Research
  • World Health Organization
  • International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC)/Red Crescent Societies
  • Save the Children

Examples of Fellow job roles from the latest cohort include:

  • Assistant Professor
  • Medical Epidemiologist
  • Research Faculty and Lecturer
  • Disability Inclusion Specialist
  • Senior Field Assistant
  • Refugee Research Program Coordinator
  • Study Manager for a mental health study
  • Communications and Advocacy Practitioner
  • Lecturer and a Medical Anthropologist
  • Country Coordinator

Participant numbers

  • 59 social scientists and practitioners from around the world.

  • SSHAP received 10,073 expressions of interest for the fifth phase of the Fellowship, which runs from May – August 2023.

  • Of the 1,940 applications that were completed in the fifth phase, there were applicants with 96 different nationalities.


Beyond the broader impacts of strengthening and growing the SSHAP network, SSHAP Fellows themselves have reported a number of benefits of participating in the programme, as well as the impacts of their learning on their work after the programme.

SSHAP Fellows also gain great benefit from working closely with their peers and leading thinkers and practitioners from within the SSHAP partnership.

Being a part of the SSHAP Fellowship has enabled Fellows to view their work and the humanitarian situations through a broader perspective. This includes gaining a wider appreciation and consciousness of political and economic contexts of conflicts, and the importance of recognising the uniqueness of different contexts.

Fellows have integrated SSHAP learning into their everyday work. For example, one Fellow described how she had put her knowledge from SSHAP to use in training mental health and psychosocial support workers in the response to the conflict in Northern Ethiopia.

Selected partly for their extensive networks, Fellows reported that they not only continued their engagement with their existing networks, but also engaged with new ones as a result of the Fellowship.

Overall, Fellows expressed enjoyment of the programme due to the richness of learning, and the solidarity that comes with engaging with colleagues from all over the world. This is intrinsically valuable, as it validates and motivates Fellows in their work and commitments.

I can say that a lot of great collaboration and connections have come out of this SSHAP fellowships starting with the network mapping of course. And then it just pretty much snowballed […] I cannot have seen this happening unless I was a part of the SSHAP fellowship that's for sure.
- Stephanie Bishop, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, UNICEF
I plan to apply my understanding of how social understanding of political economy, vulnerability, and cultural logics should affect humanitarian response in the way I design my studies. I have applied for a grant to study SRH needs in IDPs different from the Northeast IDP context that many actors are familiar with. If I get this grant, I will be conducting studies in IDPs in Northwest Nigeria and the study will be designed with these new ideas I got from the fellowship.
- Michael Kunnuji, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Lagos

Related content