First Day at School

By Marcus Lithander

 

I just started school again. This time as a Ph.D.  student. This time in in the States. I’m almost as excited now as when I started school as a seven-year-old boy.

I feel very privileged to get the chance to develop as a researcher, and, to develop myself through being in a new culture. One thing that I always regretted from my undergraduate studies was that I didn’t join any exchange programs. I’m thinking to myself, why didn’t I try a new school? Why don’t switch it around?

During my first nine years, almost nothing switched. I’m lucky I was born close to a good school. Otherwise, I probably would have been stuck in a bad school for 9 years.

Otherwise, I probably would have been stuck in a bad school for 9 years.

This got me thinking about the school system and integration and desegregation. The school system is not integrated. Not on a micro level. Not on a school level. Not on a world level. You get it… Not in any level!

And this effect our learning. I stumbled upon a news article east side highs cool where 100% of the students are Black with a Cleveland High school where 45 % of the students are black.

100%! But what also struck me was when they interviewed one of the boys in Eastside High school:

 

It´s this side of the highway versus that side of the highway, it has just always been a rivalry a long time”

I couldn’t help myself from thinking of Muzafer Sherifs classicalRobbers Cave Experiment where you boys were the in-group formation and friction stage. It´s not in any way weird that students don’t want to disintegrate, does this mean that we should listen to them, of course not

“The independence day effect”

Happily, there is a third step integration stage, or as I like to call it “The independence day effect”. Why? an external threat! all humans on earth come together to fight for a common goal and this is exactly what Sherif means with his third stage, the integration stage.

When groups in a state of conflict are brought into contact under conditions embodying superordinate goals, which are compelling but cannot be achieved by the efforts of one group alone, they will tend to co-operate toward the common goals. (Sherif, 1967. p. 452)

How can this be implemented in communities and schools? Well as it happens we do have an external and common threat, global warming.

But how should this project be put together, as always social psychology has the answer!

In the 1970s in Austin had a huge problem with segregation within schools. One school decided to call in an expert, that expert was Elliot Aronson, professor of social psychology. He soon saw the same pattern has Sherif, inter-group hostility. He came up with the smart solution of the Jigsaw Classroom. A strategy where students switch between different groups, in some group, they are the learner and in some groups, they teach others. But every small group always have a small common exercise to solve together. Genius

The results of the strategy are stunning, both regarding integration and learning.

Again, I think back to those first school years. The first nine years in school I was in the same class. Not much switching and change of roles! There should be. Why don´t even try to make the jigsaw classroom into a jigsaw community? Why not send students to short exchange programs to other schools in the community?

But remember. The students don´t want to do it. Responsible guiding is needed. This needs to be regulated. Chaos through regulation.

 

#UML #commpsych

 

Marcus Lithander is a Ph.D student in Applied Psychology & Prevention Science at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

 

Second-Gen Latinx: Rescuing Bilingualism

by Diana Santana

How come your children do not fluently speak Spanish like you do? When a person asked me this question a few years ago, I felt the need to stop to do some self-reflection to respond with a better answer than “It’s just easier…” I realized I was not raising my children to embrace my native language like my parents did before I moved to the United States. As a Latina mom who came to this country pursuing the so-called “American Dream” for the sake of her children, I knew that part of that dream would not be possible if I was not willing to fully-emerged using the most spoken language in this nation. However, as I was getting to know more immigrant parents and noticing how their children were being raised leaving their Spanish behind, I started educating myself to educate others along the way. In my journey, I learned that if some research has shown that bilingualism not only could get us a higher-paid job but also the possibility to improve our mental health, then why not to teach my children to speak Español. Nonetheless, the reasons why Latinx not follow these researches that easily could be due to one important matter: Inclusion.

A Sense of Community and Inclusion Despite our Accents

The Community Psychologists, Geoffrey Nelson and Isaac Prilleltensky (2010) claim that a community helps to “fill human needs for support and connection” (p. 37). However, when a group of individuals encounter discrimination not only based on their appearance but also their accent, this sense of belonging and inclusion could easily fade and involuntarily transform into cultural assimilation or isolation.

Pew Research Center claims that 65% Latinx (ages 18-29) have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment based on their race or ethnicity. As an example, one of the most popular job-search website states that employers tend to make judgments based on their prospective employees’ accents. “Not only may someone with a Hispanic accent be deemed ‘less educated,’ but someone with a British accent may be seen as ‘more intelligent’,” Monster claims. Thank goodness, the times are changing!

Whom from our ancestors would have thought that the Latinx population would be reaching nearly 58 million in the future (2016)? Just as Community Psychology has increased its attention to diversity and inclusion in “theory, practice, and training” (Nelson: 2010, p. 39), Latinx families ought to understand that the benefits of raising their children, with the inclusion of Spanish as their second language, are in more advantage than the contrary. I truly know and I feel guilty of taking this matter in a light way. “They will learn when they grow up…”

I started believing that exclusively speaking English to my children would help me improve my English skills, as well as -perhaps to avoid possible discrimination towards them. I stopped believing in my assumptions when I realized how valuable and rewarding is to embrace the language that best represents my culture, and started focusing on rescuing bilingualism.

Helpful links:

Parents’ Guide to Teach Spanish at Home. SpeakingLatino

 

Reference

Geoffrey Nelson, Isaac Prilleltensky. (2010). Community Pasychology: In Pursuit of Liberation and Well-Being (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave MacMillian.

 

#UML #CommPsych

Social Justice and Me

by Jeremy Laporte

At the end of my interview for the position of graduate fellow at the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, the director of the office asked me a question I had been expecting: why is social justice important to you? Knowing that question was coming, I rehearsed answers to it in the days leading up to the interview, but had trouble defining social justice in a way that explained my commitment to it. Instead, I muttered the first words that came to mind, saying “uh” many times as I tried to remember intelligent-sounding phrases about the importance of equality. In my mind, the answer instantly became a blemish on an otherwise successful interview, but it must have met the director’s standards, as I was offered the position. Still, that incident stuck with me. It revealed my lack of knowledge about a term I often use. While I can speak to my investment in many social justice-related topics quite well, I struggle to describe the overall concept beyond a basic formulation like the balanced scale presented in the picture above. I worried that this inability to articulate what a just society looks like would hinder my career goals of contributing to its pursuit.

It was a small comfort, then, to recently discover that my chosen field of community psychology is also unable to produce a clear definition of social justice (Gokani & Walsh, 2017). Apparently, I am not the only one who cannot decide on the specifics of a just society! Some prestigious community psychologists share my simultaneous commitment to social justice and confusion over its meaning. However, reading the article that relayed this information also dispelled my hopes that my education in the field would dismiss my worries around my ability to contribute to social justice in my career.

In that article, Gokani and Walsh (2017) also suggest that community psychologists should not make social justice a goal of their work, but instead pursue this end as private citizens. At first, this notion bothered me, as I had always hoped to use my career to advance this cause. In retrospect, though, those authors’ ideas are much more sensible. My hope to contribute to community psychology as a scientific field necessitates the ability to operationalize the concepts with which I am working and study them in a concrete manner. In the case of social justice, this will be impossible as long as I am unable to adequately define it even in the abstract. This does not prevent me from studying the concepts I believe are social justice related, however. For instance, I can operationalize racial discrimination in the education system by looking at the differential rates of school punishment for students of color as compared to their white counterparts. Research like this, in turn, will influence my opinions and actions as a private citizen, allowing me to more emphatically and persuasively pursue social justice in this realm of my life. Perhaps, with enough research, I will be able to formulate an operationalized definition of this concept. In the meantime, I can be content to investigate related topics in my work while advocating for social justice as a citizen.

#UML #commpsych

 

Jeremy Laporte is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

 

References

Gokani, R. & Walsh, R. T. (2017). On the Historical and Conceptual Foundations of a Community Psychology of Social Transformation. American Journal of Community Psychology, Pages 1 – 11.

How Do We Ensure That All the Voices are Heard at the Community Circles?

by Hilary Clark

In a few weeks I will be co-facilitating a Community Circle at UML as part of Your Voice Matters (www.yourvoicematterslowell.org), a coalition of Lowell Public School representatives, students and parents and many local community-based organizations and non-profits who are interested in engaging additional community members to work together in new and different ways to improve Lowell’s schools.

After almost a year of planning and working with coaches from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the grant awarding agency supporting this work, approximately thirty people are trained to facilitate circles around the city in an attempt to create engaging and safe spaces for community conversations about education in Lowell, identify strengths, clarify themes and areas for improvement and to ultimately work collaboratively to set priorities for future work.

This approach is different from others that the city may have seen in the past and is in line with the guiding principles and intervention methods used in community psychology where it is assumed that community members know what they need and should be active and central participants in the process of identifying what is and is not working in the community. Who else, but the members of the community can help others to better understand why students do, or do not succeed in Lowell schools.  The objectives of these circles is to build trust and connect a variety of people, help people respect each other and listen to different ideas and help people find common ground for solutions and action when it comes to education.

Lowell’s rich history as an immigrant community creates a unique challenge in that there are so many different cultures represented within the city.  Julian Rappaport (1977) identified the value of cultural relativity and diversity as a central theme to community psychology, so as not to compare people to a single standard.  Now that registration for the circles has launched the real work begins because while all voices are important the goal is to hear from members of the community who are often times underrepresented and sometimes not represented at all.  It is so important for those that may not have had an opportunity to speak up in the past are included in these conversations.  Following the community psychology belief that people cannot be understood apart from their environment, the only way to know about the experiences of these community members is directly from them.  How do we access all of these different voices?

Community Circles are being held at different times throughout the day, at different locations around the city and will include food.  Interpreters and childcare will be provided as needed. Facebook and social media is being used to spread the word and encourage folks to register for a Community Circle, a flier will hopefully be heading home next week with every Lowell Public School student, 14,416 to be exact, community organizations involved in the coalition are spreading the word to their members and posters advertising the events are going up throughout the city, but what else can be done to reach the people that need a seat at the table and their voices to be heard?  And how do we know if we have reached them all?

Hopefully as this work continues and more community members become involved, the word will spread and more people from different cultural pockets around the city will engage, so that one day all voices are heard.  By engaging these community members, better understanding the environment these folks are living in and the experiences they have had with Lowell schools, the hope is that the community can continue to develop and strengthen resources that will enable all Lowell students to succeed.

 

#UML #commpsych

 

Hilary Clark is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

The Importance of Learning

by Karleena Corey

The spring and summer of my junior year of college I participated in a community art mural project. The project was organized by my Community Psychology professor, whom I had taken the course with. The community we were painting the mural with, however, was not the university’s, but the local state hospital’s. This local state hospital at the time, (policy has since changed), was a mental health institution for inmates, inmates awaiting evaluation, or patients who committed crimes but were not found guilty due to mental health reasons.

The goal of our project was to facilitate a feeling of belonging and unity in the state hospital community. Community psychologists are concerned with creating opportunities where community-level changes can happen, instead of individual changes, which is a large portion of mental health patients receive (Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010). We did this by creating an open discussion to the patients and inmates, and listening to what they wanted to see created onto the mural. Listening to what they wanted was important, because they have a better knowledge of what their community looks like. Community psychologists want participants in their projects or interventions to know that they are the ones who are the experts of their circumstances, not the psychologists (Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010). This also gave them the opportunity to have control over an outcome, and be more collaborative with one another.

As a student we usually learn that you can study a subject, and in the end we have a lot of knowledge that we can use to practice in our field. Learning about Community Psychology has taught me that that is not always the best practice. As outsiders we could have imagined what it felt like to be incarcerated, and what type of mural could have alleviated those feelings, but the importance of the project was for the patients and inmates to create their own vision of community. For example, the wall chosen to have the mural painted on was in the last room the patients and inmates were in before they went into their court hearings, so they wanted the mural to bring peace and serenity to them when they looked at it. We as the outsiders would have never known that if we had never inquired what they wanted, and/or needed. They decided we would paint a scene of a beach paradise at sunset. They even found a way to represent themselves into the mural by painting flamingos on the beach, because a flock of flamingos is called a “community.” The paradise theme was also representative of their goals, which was to be able to relax and be at peace.

Unfortunately, there was no evaluation in place to prove whether or not our project was truly successful. I could personally see a transformation in the way the inmates and patients communicated with each other and their staff as the project went on, but I do not know if those were long-lasting effects. I was also able to see a change within myself, and how I examine and recognize where knowledge derives from.

#UML

#commpsych

 

Karleena Corey is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell

 

References

Nelson, G., & Prilleltensky, I. (2010). Community psychology: In pursuit of liberation and well-being (2nd ed.) New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Titlow, B. (2014). A flock of Greater flamingos feeds on wild shrimp in an estuary in South America [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://blogs.tallahassee.com/community/2014/09/21/greater-flamingos-just-lawn-ornaments-in-the-us/

Community Solidarity & Progress

by Rachael Otoo

How is our community progressing if you are supported, but I am struggling?!

I attended Acton-Boxborough high school, and I noticed that there were programs available for students with different forms of disabilities, including learning disability. There was also an ELL class, to help students struggling with English. I noticed the students were given resources to support them in school. The school strived to include all the students. When there were school dance events, all students could participate or talent shows.

To feel included in a community, all members within the communities should have support. There are students who may feel that they need more support in certain areas, that other students may not need. Therefore, communities need to endeavor to fund programs such as educational programs for students. The programs should not be just in schools, but also within the communities.

There are after-school programs such as Girls Inc, and the Boys & Girls Club. These are non-profit program. Most of the children are not from wealthy families, and so, it is affordable for them to attend these programs. This solidifies the belief that, communities need to be mindful of everyone within the communities including children. The need for programs such as Girls Inc is created to be accessible to all children. These programs support students who need extra support in their academics, as well as provide them with the skills and knowledge to achieve professional and personal goals.

Programs like Girls Inc and Boys & Girls club encourage cultural integration, and diversity. They teach children about collaboration, leadership skills, healthy lifestyle etc. When children are granted the opportunities to succeed in school, they feel a sense of inclusion in the community. This would encourage them to apply the skills and knowledge they have learned to excel in the communities as well. Children grow up to become teachers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, artists, activists etc.

I intern at Girls Inc, and I have learned that the girls in the program are empowered and taught to achieve their aspirations. They are informed on ways to achieve their life goals, and taught to be socially aware of social justice and injustices. This teaches them what it means for them to be a part of community, and being in a program that supports them proves that they matter in the community. They would be able to contribute to the community to be involve in the communities in the future.

This indicates that for communities to thrive, children from diverse groups and socioeconomic backgrounds should be given the resources to excel. Children are part of the community, which means that they need to feel a sense of belonging in the community. There is no equality, if children and their needs are disregarded. This is especially true for students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, diversity and with disabilities. They need to feel involved and mattered in the community.

To provide programs such as Girls Inc, Boys & Girls club, and even school programs, funding needs to be available to support them. Learning grants were also in education that provided, computer classes, language classes, tutoring and self-esteem workshops for people in the community (Foster-Fisherman et al, 2006). Without the funds, members of the community such as the students would not be able to succeed, and socially included within the community.  The Frederick Assad Abisi Adult Education center is designed for adults who want to achieve their education. The availability of this program shows that there are members of a community that aspire to further their education. The funding for the Lowell Adult Education program provides them with the support to attend school. The center supports them in taking the GED exam. Members of a community need funding for programs that would support them.

 

#uml #commpsych

 

 

References

Foster-Fishman, P. G., Fitzgerald, K., Brandell, C., Nowell, B., Chavis, D., & Egeren, L. A. (2006). Mobilizing Residents for Action: The Role of Small Wins and Strategic Supports. American Journal of Community Psychology, 38(3-4), 213-220

Happily Ever After with Community Psychology

by Stephanie Sullivan

Taking a deep breath, I walked through the halls of Kripalu yoga retreat center. I would be leaving tomorrow, I knew, so I wanted to bask in the bliss of this no-stress retreat as much as possible. My plan was to bring this peace with me and live like this for the rest of my life.

As you may have already predicted, it didn’t happen.

I like the way my yoga teacher herself put it: “It’s so nice and peaceful there and I start to really feel like myself again, in the natural state of peace, and then I come home, and the kitchen’s a mess, nothing’s taken care of, and I’m back in the stress of the real world all over again!”

While we would do well to accept we cannot change other people or much of our surroundings, community psychology points to some solutions – as well as an explanation for why that sense of peace doesn’t last after experiencing a peaceful environment.

It is no secret that we are influenced by our environments. Social contexts change people’s behaviors and basic aspects of a person, particularly group norms. You may have also heard the famous quote by Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Just as your social groups influence you, you also have an influence on that social group (Moos, 2003). So, the peaceful parent can be a positive influence in a hectic home without having to change anybody directly.

Three characteristics of social contexts community psychologists have noted for being particularly powerful are the directions of personal growth, the quality of relationships, and the level of clarity, structure, and openness to change (Moos, 2003). Try balancing these three aspects in the main environments in your life in a positive way as best you can. Having positive and consistent relationships, being clear and flexible, and intentionally promote independence and self-discovery for yourself and those around you will make your social environments very powerful. These characteristics are especially important for parents interested in the well-being of their children, as family life typically has a long-term effect on people (Moos, 2003).

Research has shown that mutual help groups which provide long-lasting relationships, goal direction, and structure often produce powerful results, with or without intervention (Moos, 2003). My yoga teacher and I both felt stressed coming home because the retreat could be compared to an intervention, which lacked the capacity to become an integral part of our lives. When we leave a setting, no matter how powerful, the effect lessens over time – for better or for worse (Moos, 2003). That’s why it’s important to have long-term relationships with peaceful and happy people if we want those qualities for ourselves.

Through a process called the Transcending Process, we can create an entirely new social context. To be happy and peaceful takes putting in the effort to offset the stressful lifestyle around us with alternative environments that mirror our goals (Moos, 2003). Maybe we can directly work with our families to make home more peaceful, or create a group with like-minded people to work towards our happiness goals.

Finally, we need to be accountable to ourselves for the stressors in our lives, which can have a cumulative effect and make it difficult to be truly happy.

According to the LISRES Adult Form (Life Stressors and Social Resources Subscales), stressors include physical health, the physical conditions of our home and neighborhood, financial problems, negative events, our work environment, issues with our friends, romantic partner, our children, and extended family can all bring us down (Moos, 2003). To be happy, then, we should be sure to care for our physical health to prevent injury and sickness, make the special effort to make our home feel attractive and comfortable, get our finances in order as best we can, make and embrace positive events in our lives, and maximize positivity in our interpersonal relationships.

Life is not a fairy tale and there is no need to put our happiness up to chance. This blog is meant to detail what research demonstrates we can do to alleviate our stress and build happiness. In doing so, the world truly becomes a better place. Life is difficult and stressful enough as it is, and this research shows us that there are tangible ways to prevail. Social contexts are interconnected, and it within our power to make our mark. In the interest of creating a more peaceful and happy world, we can make the choice to stop being part of the problem, and finally become part of the solution – no yoga retreat center required.

#UML #commpsych

 

References

Moos, R. H. (2003). Social Contexts: Transcending Their Power and Their Fragility. American Journal of Community Psychology, 31(1-2), 1-13. doi:10.1023/a:1023041101850

Gaining and Losing

by Rachael Otto

Who wants a baconator?!

It is loaded with cheese and lots of bacon! Get a combo with a large coca cola and large fries!

Whenever I watch TV, there is always a commercial by McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc. The advertisements are designed to appeal to the people to purchase from either one of these fast food restaurants. I personally, have had moments when I had craved Burger King fries. I would eat it, and be consumed with guilt afterwards, since I strive to eat healthy.

Community social psychology concentrates on the progress and wellness of a community. A community that concentrates on its members’ wellbeing enables the community to thrive, collectively. The progress of a community essentially depends on the values within the community. Every member of the community can promote their personal wellness.

The fast food restaurants earn billions of dollars each year. The owners of the restaurants are wealthy individuals whose personal growth can arguably relate to gaining successful fast food restaurants, and enormous wealth. However, their personal growth, in relation to the money they earn comes at the expense of another group, in the community. There are members in the community that are unable to purchase healthy foods due to the cost, and based on their socioeconomic status. Fast food restaurants are inexpensive and easily accessible.  Arguably, impoverished members within a community are likely to purchase fast food due to the inexpensive cost.  Purchasing fresh and healthy food can be expensive that members of an impoverished communities are not able to purchase.

The influence on an individual within a group also impacts the whole group. Personal, collective and relational wellness are endorsed by values such as health, self-determination, personal growth, etc. (Prilleltensky, 2001). He asserts that these values not only profit the individual but all members of the community, proving that individual wellness impacts the community wellness. The fast food restaurants in the U.S and in other countries as well, have become a billion-dollar food industry. Per data of food chain revenues in 2014, McDonalds gained $35.4 billion, Starbucks with $12.7 billion, Subway with $11.9 billion and Burger King with $8.6 billion (Roach & Schlossberg, 2015).

A community that business owners of fast food restaurants benefit high sums of revenue, does not consider the health needs of members within the community of lower income. Fast food might contain unhealthy ingredients that can lead to diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases and cancer. Many children suffer from obesity due to the fast food they are fed, like burgers. The values relating to the personal and collective wellness of a community resonates with this issue. The personal wellness connects to the community collective wellness. If fast food companies continue to thrive selling unhealthy foods, then the health of members within the community diminishes, as diseases spread and people lose their lives. People of lower socioeconomic status, when faced with diseases, struggle to handle medical cost, and possibly lead to their deaths within the community. Due to the billion-dollar revenues, the likelihood of fast food restaurants closing may not be feasible. People dying within the community would impact the business, decreasing revenues. The community would not be a healthy community.

The wealth of the individuals that own the restaurants could afford healthy and nutritious meals, and flourish in wealth, but at the expense of the health of lower income members within the community. This evidently proves that individual cannot achieve wellness without the community wellness as well. People of higher socioeconomic status, need to comprehend that the health of all members in the community need to be prioritized.

 

#uml #commpsych

 

References

Hah, K. (2016). Fast Foodies May Be Exposed To Highly ‘Toxic,’ Potentially ‘Cancer-Causing’ Chemicals, New Fast Food Study Reveals. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from http://www.inquisitr.com/2993541/fast-foodies-may-be-exposed-to-highly-toxic-potentially-cancer-causing-chemicals-new-fast-food-study-reveals/

Prilleltensky. I. (2001). Value-Based Praxis in Community Psychology: Moving Toward Social Justice and Social Action, 29, 747-778.

Roach, D. R., & Schlossberg, M. (2015). The 20 fast food chains that rake in the most money. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/the-20-fast-food-chains-that-rake-in-the-most-money-2015-8

Family Feud, Election Edition

by Rianna Grissom

Advocating for justice within public policy is a fundamental way in which community psychologists seek social change. Often the goal is to empower community members to get involved in the political process so that they can have their voices heard. This election season, citizen involvement does not seem to be an issue. In fact, the passionate discourse around our two presidential candidates has created a different problem entirely. Arguments between family, friends, and colleagues have reached a fever pitch, while attacks between strangers have gotten more vicious as well.

Political disagreements are to be expected during an election year, but typical debates over party membership, policies, and the like have turned into questions of character. This political season has weakened the foundation of “community” at multiple levels by creating distrust. Partisanship has led to a rift that is wreaking havoc on all types of relationships. In particular, there has been a lot of commentary on how differing opinions have impacted families and friendships, which is the most basic form of community. On a larger scale, the entire country is divided from liberals and conservatives fiercely defending their camps, while moderates side-eye us all.

In 2016, much of the political discourse is taking place on social media – and many have joked about the number of loved ones they have had to unfollow or unfriend. It has become such a source of contention that Saturday Night Live created a skit about how to avoid confrontation during Thanksgiving. So, what is so special about these candidates or this election to cause such uproar? Well, I could name many things… but what I think it comes down is the different perspectives on the social injustices that have been happening around the country, and the proposed solutions (assuming such events are even framed as injustice).

The past year has been filled with stories about immigration and refugees, LGBTQ rights, gender equality, police brutality, the wage gap, etc. Frequently, these stories are about people from the marginalized populations that we as community psychologists so often serve. People are drawing lines in the sand because these events prey on our moral beliefs, and those who diverge from our own moral code are offensive.

So, what do we do once the dust has settled and either Clinton or Trump is elected to office? How can we mend broken homes and form a bipartisanship that will unite our divided country? Is there something that can be put in motion before Election Day and be used to prevent this type of dissension in the future?

Perhaps we should take something out of the ecological systems theory playbook and consider are “adversaries” in context. What in their experience and environment has shaped their views and, ultimately, their decision to vote for a certain candidate? Is someone’s political affiliation necessarily a salient part of his or her identity? Is it for you? We could also take a community needs approach and consider the talents, strengths, skills, and abilities of each candidate rather than using a deficit-based assessment to determine their fitness for office.

Regardless of how we choose to vote, or whether we vote at all, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will become the next president of the United States of America. Unfortunately, no one can determine how successful his or her term in office will be until it is in motion. So, we must live with the choice and acknowledge success or failure as it comes and for what it is. Communities, no matter how they are defined, are only as strong as the relationships within them. We make advances as a community through alliances, trust, and respect for both our diversity and similarities.

 

#commpsych #UML

 

Rianna Grissom is a graduate student in the Applied Psychology and Prevention Science program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Participatory Action Research: The No-Brainer Method

by Tara Desmarais

What’s the point of community research? Is it to understand the deficits of a community, or the reason why one community is thriving more so than others? Or are we trying to understand a major health or economic issue?

For all these reasons and more, community research has continued to be a growing subject within psychology. Researchers focused on community issues have developed into their own group called, community psychologists. Rather than standard research, community psychologists are focused on using their research as a plan to create change and resolve issues within a community.

Throughout history, researchers obtained a bad reputation by walking into underserved communities claiming to be there to help, and leave creating more questions than answers. When a group of scientists, scholars, and funders walk into such communities it creates hope among the people that positive change will occur. People believe that researchers are there to better their community and get extremely let down and distrustful when that fails to happen. The method of research that caused such failures and distrust with communities was most likely from conventional or traditional research. Conventional research involves conducting interviews, case studies, surveys, focus groups and more. Once data is collected these researchers return to their peers discuss, analyze, and write up their findings. The data is then usually presented among other scholars, funders, or professionals acknowledging that an issue is or isn’t present and changes possibly need to be made. In most conventional methods it isn’t required to have a plan of action in which to solve the issue being researched. So the study concludes with the researcher gaining clinical experience, possibly a published article, and a community with the confirmation they have an issue.

How exactly did the community benefit from the research? You’re right, it didn’t. However, using other methods of research can prohibit occurrences like this from happening in community psychology.

When conducting research on communities’ participatory action research (PAR) should be the method of choice. By using PAR, community psychologists involve the people they are studying in on the research. Community members aren’t just being interviewed, surveyed, or put into groups. They actually assist researchers with the development of questions for these interviews, surveys, and have a say in how to divide groups. PAR allows stakeholders to be involved in every step of the process to decrease bias, gain different perspectives, and varied levels of knowledge.  Who better to create community questions needing answers, than someone that lives within the community? With the help of scholars, researchers, and professionals community members get the chance to gain new skills, knowledge, and competencies useful in all aspects of their lives. As community psychologists, we need to remember that our overall goal is to help the community in which we are researching and empower them. By including community members in on research and teaching them new techniques that can help them continue to solve problems even after the research is over, we are doing just that.  From collecting data, to analyzing, interpreting, and disseminating the results, the community is involved every step of the way. Included in the PAR technique is the plan used to take action in resolving the issue. Researchers and the community share responsibility in taking steps to make sure their findings produce positive results. In conventional research, taking action only happens when interested outside entities get involved.

Using participatory action research can result in an empowered community, with new sets of skills, and confidence that they can create change. Rather than feeling like a bunch of lab rats, the community can rest assure that they took part in creating change and bettering their peers. After learning about participatory action research, it seems like the no brainer method when working with communities.

 

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Tara Desmarais is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.