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Volume 52 Number 1 Winter 2019
Edited by Taylor Scott, Penn State University
Written by Regina Day Langhout, University of California Santa Cruz and Christopher Corbett, Albany, NY
I was contacted by a friend who is a lawyer, asking me if I knew of any policy briefs adopted by learned societies regarding the effects of deportation on individuals, families, and communities. He was working on a pro-bono immigration case and thought this would be useful. I did some searching, including reaching out to the SCRA listserv, and found nothing. I thought this was an important topic, so I emailed SCRA’s Immigrant Justice Interest Group (of which I am a member) and asked if anyone wanted to work on a policy brief with me. Sara Buckingham, Ashmeet Kaur Oberoi, Noé Rubén Chávez, Dana Rusch, Francesca Esposito, and Yolanda Suarez-Balcazar all agreed to work on the brief, and others sent along materials that might be useful. I read carefully the SCRA policy paper on detention and modeled the policy brief after it. Within a few months, thanks to the hard work and generosity of this amazing team, we had completed the brief.
After approval from the Policy Committee and the SCRA Executive Committee, SCRA staff member Jean Hill uploaded the policy brief to the SCRA webpage, CommunityPsychology.com, sent a tweet, and made a Facebook post. An email also went out to the listserv. I contacted some allied groups, as did other authors of the brief.
By this time, the paper was under review with the American Journal of Community Psychology. As this was happening, the social psychology area at UC Santa Cruz (my work home) hosted a colloquium on publicizing research with Jennifer McNulty, the UCSC Strategic Communications Director/Social Sciences Writer. If there was ever anything that I was the lead author on that deserved attention, I thought it was this. I therefore reached out to Jennifer to tell her about the policy brief. She was extremely interested in ensuring it made it into the media, especially given that it was now around the time that the current president changed the US practice and was forcibly separating children from their parents at the border. Although this was not the topic of the policy brief (we focused on deportation and forced family separation from the interior of the US), and although this inhumane practice was not in place when we started writing the brief, it still had implications for the current “zero tolerance” practices at the border.
Jennifer interviewed me and wrote a press release. She coordinated with press people from the other authors’ institutions, and the day the paper appeared in the “early bird” view of AJCP, she put out the UC Santa Cruz press release, locally and nationally. The other institutions communications staff focused on their regions. The AJCP editor, Nicole Allen, was able to negotiate with Wiley to have the policy brief be open access for the first 90 days. We were advised to “lock down” our social media accounts due to the topic of the policy paper and the potential for doxing. Based on other experiences with receiving hate email, I had been counseled by Michelle Fine and Bettina Aptheker not to respond to any hate mail, but to keep it, in case I needed to share it with campus council. This is what I planned to do.
I was contacted by my region’s NPR affiliate, KAZU, the local paper, and another outlet that was unknown to Jennifer, my coauthors, SCRA staff, and me. Other authors were contacted by press in their areas as well. A reporter wanted to interview me from KAZU. I asked her to please email some of the questions she planned to ask me, so I could prepare. Jennifer and I practiced me giving answers, to help calm my nerves. I was interviewed, and a four-minute segment aired on KAZU. A few days later, the piece was picked up by The California Report, which means it aired state-wide on NPR affiliate stations.
The local paper asked me to write an op-ed, focusing on what we could do, as a community, to better support immigrants who were in the US without authorization. We knew we wanted to write op-eds because of the research on their effectiveness of changing opinions of those who read them (Cummings, 2018). I wrote a draft, shared it with Jennifer, and based on her feedback, she and I re-wrote the entire thing. The op-ed was published in the Sunday edition of the paper. Another community member wrote a supportive letter to the editor in response, which was published a few days later. An op-ed was also published in another paper by a co-author (Sara Buckingham). The fact that we focused on the regions of several of the authors enabled us to capitalize on opportunities to disseminate this information.
As a team, we chose to ignore the press inquiry from the unknown source, due to the source being unfamiliar, as well as the types of questions they were interested in asking.
I also sent the link to the policy brief to local immigration attorneys, various bar associations, city council members who had asked for it through my own networks, and to our local “thriving immigrants” initiative. Other authors sent the brief to folks in their networks, including immigrant rights advocacy groups, immigrant mental health coalitions, researcher and practitioner listservs, social media networks, and university administrations (departments, offices of diversity and inclusion, etc.). SCRA also did another publicity push, including putting me in touch with APA; APA tweeted about the policy brief.
Over all, I felt very supported by SCRA staff and leadership, and I did receive some email based on the media attention. I’m happy to report that all of the emails were positive. One that will stay with me forever was by a person, unknown to me, who is an immigrant, thanking us for raising awareness around these important issues.
As for future dissemination efforts, all authors plan to continue spreading the word about the impact of forced separation and deportation, present at professional conferences and talk with others, including community members. For example, I have been contacted by campus groups and the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum to give a talk about these issues. We also plan to continue to advance our work with immigrants and listen to their concerns and efforts to thrive in times of uncertainty and stress.
The mass school shooting of February 14, 2018 in Parkland Florida left the nation, especially students, paralyzed. Yet paralysis shifted quickly to mass mobilization, especially of students, where many thousands descended even on the state capital in Albany, NY in protest, demanding politicians end such senseless gun violence. Although heartening to see student passion and action, my fear was most student efforts, expended over months, or years, would fade into disillusionment given dim prospects of success--given powerful forces thwarting any efforts at gun control. My immediate thought was: could I, as a community psychologist, identify at least some path where student efforts expended had decent prospects for success?
Given the need to work across the aisle, I searched for state and legal precedent where bipartisan cooperation created incremental improvement to reduce gun violence. I needed to find “Model Legislation” (Corbett 2015), that could be replicated and provide bipartisan legal precedent for incremental progress in preventing gun violence. I found after Sandy Hook’s tragedy, Connecticut passed the first “red flag” law that allowed suspending gun ownership where significant risk to self or others is shown-- brief enough to feature the actual legislation in The Community Psychologist. A short step by step article was drafted that could be carried by any student directly into any legislator’s office across the nation. Despite filing beyond TCP’s February 15 deadline, under the circumstances it was accepted by S. Wolfe (Editor, TCP), for prompt publication in Spring 2018 (Corbett 2018a). Further support by SCRA was also provided when it was promptly published on SCRA’s new public facing website: communitypsychology.com.
In my efforts to further disseminate, I requested to meet with the Council of Education Programs to request they consider distributing to their student networks, which they graciously accommodated. They also specifically advised me to submit to the American Psychological Association’s Public Interest Directorate to request publication on their website: publicbenefits.org. Unaware APA supported dissemination through the APA’s PI Directorate, and not an APA member myself, I thought acceptance unlikely. To my surprise, they immediately responded and committed to publication, substantially enhancing dissemination by APA, and adding their own compelling picture of students protesting, increasing visibility of the article. It can be viewed at: publicbenefits.org where it remains available, as well as having been promoted on social media, such as through the Public Interest Directorate’s Twitter Account.
These various avenues of dissemination exceeded expectations: The Community Psychologist; communitypsychology.com; CEP networks; APA’s publicbenefits.org. and related social media accounts. These avenues I successfully accessed are open to all SCRA members--providing many new opportunities for dissemination, potentially to mass markets, available to practitioners and academics alike. Also, notably, my networking with Council of Education Programs was critical as it was CEP that was knowledgeable about student networks, and also the opportunities provided by APA’s Public Interest Directorate on publicbenefits.org.
Another policy and ethical issue of great personal concern is the global crisis of climate change. What can, and must, we do as citizens, and community psychologists? This has been a concern for several years and the subject of a Workshop I presented at SCRA’s Biennial at last year’s Conference in Ottawa, Canada (Corbett 2017a).
The ethical issue was first raised in The Community Psychologist 50(4), in an article entitled: “Community Psychology and the resist movement: Do community psychologists have a moral obligation to resist?” (Corbett 2017b). In it, I argued the obligation to resist falls heavily on community psychologists, particularly considering Core Competencies #5 Ethical Reflective Practice and #7 Prevention and Health Promotion (p. 17-18). Specifically, I cited President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, noting US withdrawal undermines and jeopardizes the Agreement, presents grave risks to public health, clearly contrary to the public interest and harms the public welfare (p. 18). I cited the workshop presented a few months prior that addressed global climate change in detail, particularly what citizens and community psychologists can do to help prevent or mitigate climate change.
Given my dissemination experience and success with Preventing Gun Violence detailed above, I drafted a Part II article (Corbett 2018b), building on the Ottawa Workshop, in the form of a Call to Action and submitted it to The Community Psychologist. The article was accepted by TCP and published on communitypsychology.com with a more detailed Call to Action. Based on my prior unexpected success with APA Public Interest Directorate, I again submitted it and it was immediately accepted for publication on publicbenefits.org. Dissemination achieved was similar to prior article: The Community Psychologist; communitypsychology.com; APA’s publicbenefits.org and related social media. Again, all these dissemination opportunities are available to all SCRA members, including practitioners and academics alike which increases awareness of CP based scholarship, the field, SCRA and its outlets, including The Community Psychologist and communitypsychology.com. Such dissemination also has the potential to bring new students to CP education, and members to SCRA, while increasing SCRA’s value proposition to bachelor, master and doctoral level students and graduates in the process.
The examples noted above help illustrate that the dissemination of community psychology scholarship and research is enabled by many factors. One key factor is the timeliness of the policy issue. Community psychologists who tackle the most critical and challenging of public and political needs, such as deportation and forced family separation, the crises of gun violence, and climate change are likely to find willing public outlets. This is especially true of issues of compelling social justice that resonate nationally as well as cross-nationally. Indeed, there is a demand and urgent need for Letters to the Editor, Op-Eds, radio interviews, and other public and social media for issues that address intense public needs. For additional detailed guidance on using social media, please see Scott and Maryman (2015).
If you are interested in increasing your involvement in public policy, put yourself in situations where you can increase the community psychology core competencies related to this work (Dalton & Wolfe 2012), participate in various professional settings including the SCRA biennial conference and APA conferences, get involved with councils and committees (through SCRA and other places), submit articles for publication in more public outlets, such as Communitypsychology.org, talk with press people at your institution (if they exist), and get involved in APA’s Public Interest Directorate. Community psychologists have an ever-growing number of dissemination opportunities, creating new valuable outlets and venues for distributing your scholarship and research, and most importantly, advancing public and community interests in the process.
Corbett, C. (2018a). Action or inaction in the wake of the Parkland Florida Tragedy? Preventing gun violence through model legislation. The Community Psychologist, 51(2), 21-23.
Corbett, C. (2018b). Call to action- Applying core competencies to prevent climate change: Intervening in communities to reduce carbon emissions. The Community Psychologist, 51(4).
Corbett, C. (2017a). Public Policy 601: Climate change and grassroots advocacy. Workshop presented at the 2017 Biennial Conference of SCRA held June 20-24, 2017, 1-40.
Corbett, C. (2017b). Community psychology and the resist movement: Do community psychologists have a moral obligation to resist? The Community Psychologist, 50(4), 17-19.
Corbett, C. (2015). Model Legislation: Public Policy 501. Workshop presented at the 15th Biennial Conference of SCRA held June 25-28 in Lowell, Massachusetts.
Cummings, M. (2018, April 24). Study shows newspaper op-eds change minds. Yale News. Retrieved from https://news.yale.edu/2018/04/24/study-shows-newspaper-op-eds-change-minds
Dalton, J. & Wolfe, S. (2012). Joint Column: Education Connection and The Community Practitioner, The Community Psychologist, 45(4), 7-14.
Scott, T. & Maryman, J. (2015). Leveraging social media tools for advocacy. The Community Psychologist, 48(1), 18-19.