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Volume 52 Number 3 Summer 2019
Edited by Olya Glantsman, Depaul University
Written by Tom Wolff, Tom Wolff Associates
Starting in the Fall of 2018 the Community Psychology Practice Council began a monthly series of webinar/conversations with prominent community psychology practitioners. The series, hosts by Tom Wolff, is titled Conversation that Raise Your Practice Game” and the focus of the discussions was just that. Each of the presentations were recorded and you can now catch up with any of them that you missed. If you have suggestions about future presentations (including self-nominations) please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The videos can be viewed at:
The original definition of community psychology practice was efforts “to strengthen the capacity of communities to meet the needs of constituents and help them to realize their dreams in order to promote well-being, social justice, economic equity and self-determination through systems, organizational and/or individual change” (Julian, 2006)
In the intervening years much has emerged that requires the field to revisit this definition. This includes:
1. The development of the Community Psychology Practices Competencies with books, and journals addressing their use.
2. Increased focus on systems and policy change in CP Practice -including extensive writing on institutional and structural racism (see Gina Langhout on anti-racism, anti-sexism approaches and the need for self-examination); inclusion of policy work in CP graduate training (See Ken Maton’s work) and most recently the focus on decolonialization from Pacifica (Nuria Ciofalo and others)
3. New areas of community research that enhance and inform practice. If we are to rely on evidence based – what are we calling evidence? Are the lessons learned by practitioners considered evidence?
4. Community engagement and community power in our CP Practice work with communities – see collaborating for equity and justice (below)
a. Explicitly address issues of social and economic injustice and structural racism.
b. Employ a community development approach in which residents have equal power in determining the coalition or collaborative’s agenda and resource allocation.
c. Employ community organizing as an intentional strategy and as part of the process. Work to build resident leadership and power.
d. Focus on policy, systems, and structural change.
e. Build on the extensive community-engaged scholarship and research that show what works, that acknowledge the complexities, and that evaluate appropriately.
f. Construct core functions for the collaborative based on equity and justice that provide basic facilitating structures and build member ownership and leadership.
Nuria Ciofalo, a community psychologist who has been devoted to co-constructing Indigenous Psychologies in collaboration with various communities from Mexico, presented her collaborative community project in the Mayan Lacandon Rainforest in the state of Chiapas that resulted in a book entitled, “Indigenous Psychologies in an Era of Decolonization” published by Springer Nature. Mayan Lacandon youths and adults co-authored this book sharing their knowledge on environmental management, ecotourism, education, mythologies, legends, poems, and photography. Nuria is Professor in the Community, Liberation, Indigenous, and Eco-Psychologies Specialization at Pacifica Graduate Institute. This was a deeply moving conversation in which Nuria illustrated building a respectful partnership with the community that she is working with.
Kien Lee is Principal Associate and Vice President at Community Science. She has expertise in designing and implementing capacity building and evaluation strategies that support progress toward equity. She has consulted with foundations, federal and local governments, and nonprofit organizations. She believes that doing this important work as a research, evaluator, and strategic advisor requires a deep analysis of structural racism, systems, and community, as well as the commitment to go beyond the call of duty.
During this call, Kien provided an overview of the knowledge, skills, and perspectives she has had to acquire to be effective to help advance health equity including a deep analysis of structural racism, community, as well as the commitment to go beyond the call of duty. She shared general reflections and lessons learned about the trials and tribulations of being a change agent in health equity research and evaluation.
Kien also posed these questions to the group: How and where do you think you can be most effective as a change agent for health equity? How have you or can you bridge research with practice in support of health equity?
Kyrah K. Brown works as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology's public health program at the University of Texas at Arlington. She has expertise in community-based research and evaluation as well as practice experience (e.g., collaboration, capacity building, consulting) in the nonprofit and public health sector. She previously held positions with a County Health Department in Kansas and with a nonprofit consulting firm in Texas. She is committed to collaborating with communities to identify and address the social and systems-level factors that shape health (and their subsequent birth outcomes) among women of color across the life course. She believes that in order to do this important work as a researcher one has to know how to roll up their sleeves and engage with the community.
During this call, Kyrah provided an overview of her career trajectory in practice and academic settings and shared general reflections and lessons learned from her efforts to make practice and academic work more of a continuum rather than dichotomy in her career. During this call, Kyrah also posed these questions to the group: What stage are you in your career and what have been the challenges or supports that you have encountered while trying to balance practice and academic work? What does a practice-academic continuum 'look like' for others?
Our first conversation was Chris Sadeler, last year’s winner of the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Practice in Community Psychology. Chris’ work in crime prevention from a community psychology perspective is innovative, successful, and it’s being replicated across Canada. As the founding Executive Director of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council (CPC), she has been for the past 22 years, THE local leader on prevention and the promotion of wellness, as an alternative to the dominant approach in the criminal justice system of costly law enforcement, jail, and prisons. Over time, the CPC has grown from 17 members to over 40 members that represent every sector of our region – from the Chair of Regional government, to the Chief of Police, to individuals representing groups often given little voice, such as indigenous peoples, seniors, the LGBTQ community, and youth. Chris shows true leadership with this body – not by telling members what they should be doing – but by helping them work together on significant issues such as drug abuse and gang activity that challenge community safety.
Rather than focus on antisocial behavior or drug addiction of individuals, for example, the root causes approach draws attention to 4 poverty, economic inequality, racism, homophobia, sexism, diminished social capital, and a lack of opportunities. Chris conveys this approach with passion and persuasion in a way that pushes community members to reframe crime as a social problem, not as an individual failing. Chris is a graduate of the community psychology program at Wilfred Laurier University in Canada,
Wolff, T., Minkler, M., Wolfe, S., Berkowitz, W., Bowen, L., Butterfoss, F., Christens, B., Francisco, V., and Lee, K. (2016) Six principles for collaborating for equity and justice. Nonprofit Quarterly, Winter 2016, 42-53.