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The
Community
Psychologist

Volume 54, Number 4 Fall 2021

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From the President

Random Thoughts and Ideas as I Begin This Year of Presidency

Written by Susan M. Wolfe, Susan Wolfe and Associates, LLC

Susan_Wolfe.jpgAs I start my year as SCRA President, I think about how much work we need to do. SCRA took many steps forward last year under my predecessor, Bianca Guzmán, but like most organizations, there are many more steps needed. I am eager to see what we can accomplish, and a little intimidated at the same time.

Last year’s call to action to end anti-Blackness within SCRA provided us an opportunity to take a deep dive and seriously examine the extent to which SCRA is a truly inclusive organization. The most pervasive issue is anti-Blackness, and we clearly need to continue to address this issue. We will begin this year by re-examining the Call to Action and the EC response, evaluate progress, and determine what needs to be done yet, as well as what needs to be done differently.

We also found, to a lesser degree there are still many other divisions whereby other members feel marginalized to some extent. Some people have mentioned that there seems to be a sense of a hierarchy within SCRA. Some examples include divisions by employment settings, race and ethnicity, age and experience, and student status. I’ve also heard suggestions that there is a perception of an “in-group” that dominates decisions. Student and early career members sometimes gather to discuss issues in what they consider to be “safe settings” whereby they feel empowered to speak out without fear that it will impact their education or future employment. 

We are aware of the importance of a sense of community for well-being, and we are community psychologists. McMillan and Chavis (1986) defined a sense of community as “a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together.” Elements of a sense of community are membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and shared emotional connection, such as shared history (or identification with the history) and participation. 

Yet, for some reason, despite all our knowledge about this topic and the work members have done to promote a sense of community in other settings, we have struggled over time to build a sense of community among ourselves. For some, SCRA does not provide a sense of belonging. Many past members have left SCRA for other professional associations whereby they feel a stronger connection or identification professionally. SCRA often fails to engage other potential members, particularly those graduating from Masters’ level programs, or those who pursue full-time practice in other fields such as public health or evaluation. 

SCRA’s last strategic plan was developed in 2016 to cover the periods 2016-2018. It is now late 2021, and time to rethink strategic planning. The following description of the prior plan is featured on the SCRA website:

This strategic plan seeks to position SCRA to be a premier destination membership organization for community psychology students and professionals. It focuses on strengthening the internal capacities of the organization to support the valuable work of our members and partners across the domains of research, education, practice and policy. Ultimately, this plan aims to further SCRA’s progress toward its vision, namely:

The Society for Community Research and Action will have a strong, global impact on enhancing well-being and promoting social justice for all people by fostering collaboration where there is division and empowerment where there is oppression.

The prior plan made progress but did not realize the completion of all the strategies, nor did it complete its mission to be a premier destination membership organization for community psychology students and professionals. Barriers included consistent (planned) turnover in leadership and reliance primarily upon volunteers who have incredibly busy jobs. Future planning will need to take this into consideration and develop methods to ensure continuity across years. A structure needs to be in place for annual planning and updating of plans so that each incoming SCRA EC member and officer has an opportunity to assess progress and continue to shape SCRA’s future. We live and work in a dynamic environment where the only constant is change, and our planning processes need to embrace the changes to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise. 

SCRA will also need to re-examine its process for budgeting so there is more room for fluidity of planning and needs and opportunities arise. The budget needs to be tied to the overall SCRA strategic direction and not simply a collection of expenses as submitted by committees, councils and interest groups (C/C/IG). There needs to be more planning and initiatives across C/C/IGs whereby the budgeting process is less siloed with C/C/IGs competing for a limited pot of funds.  

There is clearly some work to be done. Rather than allow this to become overwhelming, I would like to send a shout out to all SCRA members – and I mean ALL members. This is an opportunity to become engaged, develop new skills, identify untapped potential, share your existing skills and talents, meet other members, and become a part of this change process. Whether you work in an academic or practice setting, are full-time, part-time, or retired, are an undergraduate or graduate student, or are all of none of these, we welcome you to join us.

The old phrase “many hands make light work” comes to mind. Rather than thinking of this as a burden, we can consider it an opportunity. If each member does just one small thing – edit a TCP column for a committee or council, review and comment on a SCRA policy, participate on a subcommittee for the revision of the “competencies” – we can get a lot done.

I am looking forward to working with the SCRA executive director, Amber Kelly; SCRA’s administrative coordinator, Jadwiga Hescox; SCRA’s Outreach Communications Specialist, Ashley Simons-Rudolph; the past president, Bianca Guzmán; the president-elect, Yvette Flores; the treasurer, Chris Nettles; the secretary, Lauren Lichty; the EC members, the C/C/IG leaders, and all SCRA members this next year to accomplish what we are able. Our past president, Bianca Guzmán, left things in better shape this year for me, and I am hopeful we will be able to honor our next president, Yvette Flores similarly.

If you have questions, comments, or are interested in engaging otherwise, please email me at susan@susanwolfeandassociates.com. I am always happy to hear from members.

Susan


Reference

McMillan, D.W., & Chavis, D.M. (1986). Sense of community: A definition and theory. Journal of Community Psychology, 14(1), 6-23.