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The
Community
Psychologist

Volume 53   Number 1 Winter 2020

Public Policy

Edited by August Hoffman, Metropolitan State University

Updates from the Public Policy Committee

Written by Megan Renner, Co-Chair

The mission of the Public Policy Committee comprises a broad range of activities, from communication with policymakers and collaboration with partner organizations, to the provision of educational opportunities and practice experiences for SCRA’s diverse member base. Recent activity highlights have included:

  • Sign-on to a letter from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to the Senate Appropriations Committee, in support of the historic levels of federal funding for social and emotional learning passed in the House
  • Creation of a virtual toolkit for in-district Congressional visits on gun violence prevention, cross-published in the newsletter of SPSSI, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (APA Division 9);
  • Co-sponsorship of a grant application to support a Policy Workshop & Advocacy Day on Climate Justice at the 2020 APA Convention, in partnership with the APA Divisions for Social Justice.

Other ongoing initiatives are highlighted below.

Committee Self-Assessment

During this committee year (starting/ending each August), and in tandem with the Executive Committee’s in-progress review (and moratorium) on the mini-grants and awards programs, the Public Policy Committee is undertaking a self-assessment initiative. The planned process will engage committee members, other SCRA groups, and the membership at large to evaluate past and present committee activities and assess needs and interests around possible future activities. Project aims include enhancing collaboration with other SCRA committees, councils, and interest groups; informing prioritization of where to apply our valuable (yet limited) staff and volunteer capacity; and gathering information to guide procedural improvements. We anticipate that the assessment process and a final report will distinguish between three different action areas for the committee:

  • Individual interests – supporting members’ policy-related research, education, and practice efforts
  • CP influence on APA’s advocacy agenda – applying our lens to inform the policy priorities being defined for all psychologists by the new APA Advocacy Coordinating Committee
  • The collective voice of Community Psychologists to policymakers – identifying top priorities and spreading the unique messages of our field

Action will start in December with invitations for interviews with SCRA committee, council, and interest group leaders, as well as other identified key stakeholders. All members will be invited to respond to a needs assessment and policy priority survey in the spring, with a final report to share learnings and recommendations planned for summer 2020.

Committee Efforts to Advance Racial Equity and Justice: Lens & Mirror Approaches

Committee leaders began to explore policy-related applications of a new and fast-growing racial equity approach within the Biennial workshop planning task force last winter. The workshop’s skill-building agenda included presentations and interactive breakout groups on Racial Equity Impact Assessments (REIAs). These “lens” tools facilitate systematic examination of how different racial and ethnic groups will likely be affected by a proposed action or decision. REIAs are used in a variety of contexts, including the analysis of proposed policies, institutional practices, programs, plans, and budgetary decisions. They can be a vital tool for preventing or counteracting institutional racism as well as identifying new approaches to remedy longstanding inequities. The expanding use of REIAs in the U.S. nonprofit and public sectors is grounded in the premise that when racial equity is not consciously addressed, inequity and injustice is often unconsciously replicated. As the committee considers improvements to the review process for SCRA Rapid Response actions and Position Statements, steps for conducting equity impact assessments will be prioritized for inclusion. To learn more and explore links to several REIA tools, download the 2019 Biennial Workshop slides. Have you witnessed or participated in implementation of an REIA tool within an institution or community you know? We’d love to hear about your experience, and possibly share learnings in a future TCP column: contact mrenner22@outlook.com if interested.

REIA “lens” tools support a crucial step to inform and guide the design of externally focused strategies and activities. Yet the application of any given tool is only as effective as the readiness of its users: it is thus equally important to intentionally embed a racial equity “mirror” within an organization’s internal operations. To this end, we are excited to share a new resource designed to support this “mirror” function: to examine nonprofit organizations’ structures, norms, policies, and procedures, as well as the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of its individual leaders and members. “Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture” is published by Equity in the Center, a project of ProInspire. Grounded in primary and secondary research in collaboration with over 120 practitioners, thought leaders, and subject matter experts, the tool theorizes a typical cycle of change that all organizations go through as they transform from a white dominant culture to a Race Equity Culture. Seven levers for change are then delineated across the cycle as strategic elements to build momentum: Senior Leadership, Management, Board of Directors, Community, Learning Environment, Data, and Organizational Culture. Given that the second recommended “get started” step calls to “Identify race equity champions at the board and senior leadership levels,” we look forward to ongoing dialogue with the Executive Committee and our fellow committee/council/IG chairs about how we can work together to advance a race equity culture within SCRA. Another related resource article might prove helpful for internal SCRA work as well as for those of us involved in these topics with other institutions: see “Paying Attention to White Culture and Privilege: A Missing Link to Advancing Racial Equity.

These updates reflect just a sampling of activities happening within and/or in partnership with the PPC. Members interested in learning more about our work are encouraged to visit the Policy section of the SCRA website. To share ideas, feedback, and questions, or to be added to the committee list serv to receive meeting notices, please reach out to us at publicpolicy@scra27.org.