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The
Community
Psychologist

Volume 51 Number 2 
Spring 2018

From the President

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Yolanda Suarez-Balcazar 
ysuarez@uic.edu
University of Illinois at Chicago

Building our Road Ahead on Our Values and Strengths 

One of the cornerstone values of community psychology and the work that many of us engage in is the focus on assets and building on strengths. Consistent with this value, at the last Mid-Winter Meeting I invited the Executive Committee (EC is composed of 19 members) to engage in an Appreciative Inquiry approach to reflect on our (as a society) strengths and successes and envision the future. Appreciative Inquiry is a positive approach to planning that builds on the premise that strategic planning should be grounded on the organization’s values and strengths. We are often so blitzed with troubles and issues to resolve, that we can easily overlook the strengths and values that keep us together and matter to us. Celebrating our strengths and values allots us a strong sense of community and belonging.

Executive committee members agreed that we value as a Society social action, voluntarism, research as reflection—knowledge yoked to action, success aligned with our values, and diversity. These values reflect who we are as an organization and who we are as scholars and practitioners. Many of you have contributed significantly to the existing body of literature on social action and the production of new knowledge translated into action and products that benefit communities and individuals. Contributions to social action research has definitely been one of the hallmarks of community psychology.

Following this discussion, we identified our strengths.

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Our values and strengths are evidently centered on our remarkable and active membership. SCRA draws a committed and talented group of individuals who share common values and are passionate about social justice, diversity, and advocacy. These and other values and strengths weave together across our membership base serving as a foundation for our efforts and initiatives.

Not surprisingly, voluntarism was identified by EC members as one of our core values and as a strength given our strong voluntary base. We couldn’t be what we are today—a thriving professional organization—if it wasn’t for the invaluable countless hours of work that many of you invest with your dedication and commitment to making a difference. We couldn’t do it without our members.

Our third task during this reflection section was to identify our success during 2017.

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These and other accomplishments are a reflection of our committed SCRA members. In hindsight, this reflection during the MWM was an enlightening process for me as I was eager, in my role of President and my first MWM ever, to engage the EC in a reflection process. I just wished that we have had more time for discussion—given that our agenda was packed with business items. Nevertheless, I am confident that we will continue to build on our strengths and values and rely on them to undertake the issues we need to work on.

The fourth part of the reflection focused on identifying goals, envisioning the future and areas for growth. In unison, we agreed that we need to develop a stronger way to evaluate the impact of the mini-grants and examine the benefit that such projects have had. We also thought that as an organization, we might benefit from supporting “big, innovative ideas” that are likely to contribute to advancing the field of community psychology. We are not sure what those “big innovative ideas” might be, but we would like to invite you all to provides us with input and share your thoughts.

Although several ideas were generated on future goals, we spent time brainstorming on two such future goals. First, we talked about enhancing the diversity of our membership and mentoring. Some of the suggestions identified included refining efforts at connecting junior professionals with potential mentors, improving our communication with students, enhancing our commitment to diversity and to diverse members, and developing a survey to capture the mentoring needs of our membership. The second goal focused on the need to evaluate our efforts and funded initiatives and to make funding decisions accordingly. Furthermore, to enable committees, groups, and councils to evaluate the impact of their initiatives as well as their alignment to our values as a society. We also discussed the need to identify lessons learned with the mini-grants; evaluating the strategic plan’s success; appraising the meaning of success and celebrating it. I know this a challenging task as there is not one metric by which all initiatives can be closely evaluated. Yet, it is an essential step to strengthening SCRA, its impact and sustainability.

Reflection about Diversity

The EC also engaged in a reflection about diversity focusing on two critical questions: What are our concerns related to diversity and inclusion in SCRA and what should we do to address them? Several concerns were identified and among them is the fact that we may not know what are the concerns of our membership about diversity. Yet, those concerns identified by the EC denote a long road ahead of us to truly embrace diversity and inclusion. As a step in the right direction, I applaud CERA’s initiative in developing a diversity statement approved by the EC as SCRA’s official position on diversity (The Concept of Diversity is available on the SCRA website at http://scra27.org/publications/tcp/concept-diversity-ceras-position/).

EC members identified the following concerns regarding diversity: The taxation of CERA being placed in the role of "educating" the EC/SCRA on issues of diversity and inclusion; lack of indicators of progress towards diversity applicable to councils, committees and sectors of the EC/SCRA; need to improve diversity representation in EC, groups, councils, and in our leadership; need to be more intentional about embracing and practicing diversity; enhance our processes and structures to better support diversity; and need to improve efforts to seek a diverse group of awards nominees. Finally, EC members thought that we needed to query our SCRA membership about their concerns regarding diversity. Your opinions are essential.

The above concerns indicate that we have room for growth when it comes to embracing diversity and inclusion. Our strong commitment to diversity as a value and strength needs to be better aligned with our actions as we strive to be an open, welcoming, organization for all. We also discussed the following ideas for action:

Ideas for Action

  • Place diversity and inclusion into practice within individual behaviors, journals, and SCRA in general.
  • Produce special issues on the themes of diversity and inclusion in the Global Journal, The Community Psychologist, and AJCP.
  • The EC should be more accountable for diversity within our groups, promote metrics, and query members.
  • Support and attract more diverse leaders to the EC.
  • Enact values that reflect diversity -- and the processes and implementation.
  • Consider differences beyond race, gender and other dimensions of identity including age, disability, and intersectionality.
  • Ensure that diversity remains on the EC agenda. Include items on diversity and inclusion on membership surveys.
  • Scaffold sense of belonging -- create spaces for people to "add value, feel valued."
    • Ensure that the awards are aligned with our values of diversity. Review and change the call for awards and improve the nomination process.
    • Develop accountability measures and standards.
    • Be intentional about diversity.
    • Include in the Biennial more opportunities for diverse SCRA members to be visible;
    • Highlight the voices and experiences of diverse members.

Addressing diversity concerns often involves difficult dialogues and developing an intentional plan and being accountable. Moving forward, we could become an exemplar model division when it comes to embracing diversity and inclusion if we make it a priority. We have an exciting opportunity yet daring, in part, because it requires being intentional about diversity and inclusion. Diversity will continue to enrich us all, will open us to new ways of thinking. Valuing diversity includes holding ourselves, our institutions, and our organizations accountable for embracing diversity as the core and foundation of who we are, not as an add-on. Valuing and truly embracing diversity and inclusion is everyone responsibility.

To conclude, please email me your thoughts about this column, I would love to hear your ideas. What do you think are our values, strengths, and accomplishments in 2017? What are your concerns about diversity? And what do we need to do to address such concerns? I invite your reactions (ysuarez@uic.edu).