What is Community Psychology’s Role in Adapting to Globalization?

by Eric Johnson, University of Masssachusetts Lowell

Globalization can be defined as “a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations,” and has lead to greater diversity within countries, opening more opportunities for both powerful collaboration and conflicts of values and ideas (What is Globalization?, 2015, para. 1).  Forces of globalization contributed to the birth of Community Psychology, whose competencies for practice as outlined by Scott & Wolfe (2015) may play a large role in promoting peaceful and mutually beneficial relationships between countries, cultures, and fellow community members.  Specifically, one of the foundational principles of Community Psychology emphasizes the necessity for community practitioners to develop strong cross-cultural competency to improve their ability to work with diverse groups of people (Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p. 44).  Greater cross-cultural competency is a strength every person should work to develop in order to be successful in today’s increasingly multicultural societies.

Scott and Wolfe (2015) define cross-cultural competency as the “ability to interact, function, and work effectively among people who may not share your demographic attributes, language, beliefs, history, and experiences” (p. 116).  In order to develop this competency, community practitioners must become familiar with the concepts of culture, social identity, privilege and power (Scott & Wolfe, 2015).  These factors all interact with one another in any community setting, and must be taken into account when working with diverse groups of people in order to ensure the effectiveness of the work being done.

Cross-cultural competency skillsplay an important role on all scales of cross-cultural interaction taking place in today’s world, from the interaction between governments and leaders of different countries, to communication between diverse members living within a single community.  On Monday, September 28th 2015, President Barack Obama delivered a speech to the United Nations General Assembly (the link for this speech can be found at the end of this post) during which he shared his vision for a stronger world through promoting the respect of human rights and dignity (President Obama: Speech at UNGA, 2015).Part of this vision included empowering marginalized groups of people to be able to access resources and markets for commerce to improve their standard of living.  In order to do so, the United States plans to communicate regularly with different countries across the world in order to establish relationships that can promote more peaceful methods for resolving conflicts of values and interests.  These interactions demand a high level of cross-cultural competency on the part of government officials when communicating with ambassadors from diverse countries.

President Obama also referenced the incredible amount of diversity present within America’s major cities, a phenomenon that is occurring in countries all across the world.  Globalization has lead to greater travel and immigration, explaining why populations in any given country today are highly diverse.  In order to build strong communities that act on the behalf of everyone, members must strengthen their own cross-cultural competencies in order to embrace diversity in their neighborhoods, schools, and more.  This would improve the inclusivity of any given community, and allows individual communities to develop adaptive strategies to address issues negatively affecting their members (Scott & Wolfe, 2015).  In the long run, diverse communities provide a wealth of skills and resources that can be accessed through collaboration between diverse community members.  In addition to the necessity for cross-cultural competency on the part of government officials from different countries negotiating, cross-cultural competency plays a crucial role in the development of strong communities through enabling greater collaboration.

Community Psychology will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in enabling communities and countries to adapt to the changes brought on by globalization, as their principles aim to promote the well-being of all humans.  This vision for the field aligns with President Obama’s vision for a stronger world in the future through respecting the dignity and rights of all individuals to recognize their own goals and achieve success.  Cross-cultural competency is one of the many principles of Community Psychology that has the potential to aid in bringing this vision to life, through encouraging respectful and beneficial communication and collaboration between diverse groups of people.

To read the transcript of Obama’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly, se the following link:


To learn more about globalization and its effects on countries, see the following link:



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


Scott, V. C., Wolfe, S. M. (2015). Community Psychology: Foundations for Practice. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Video& Transcript: President Obama: Speech at United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Sept. 28, 2015. (2015, September 28). Retrieved September 28, 2015.

What Is Globalization? | Globalization101. (2015). Retrieved September 28, 2015.