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Special Sessions

Developing New Community Ideas to Meet National and Global Challenges

Developing New Community Ideas to Meet National and Global Challenges

Bill Berkowitz, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Gina Cardazone, University of Hawai’i
Victoria Chien, University of South Carolina
Dyana Valentine, Santa Monica, California
Tom Wolff, Tom Wolff and Associates

Following the success of the 2009 World Café at the SCRA biennial in New Jersey (Berkowitz et al., 2010), where community psychologists gathered to discuss ways to tackle the unprecedented challenges of our times, members of the community psychology practice group decided to host a similar innovative session at the 2011 biennial in Chicago. Like the World Café, this event was aimed at finding ways to apply the wealth of skills and knowledge in the community psychology community to tackle important social issues.

However, where the World Café brought people together for broad discussion, this next effort was aimed at unearthing promising ideas and taking concrete steps toward implementing them. The two-part session, titled “Developing New Community Ideas” took place over two consecutive mornings in June, but really began well before the conference and continues beyond it. Prior to the conference, solicitations were put out for members of SCRA to submit innovative community ideas to the facilitators in 100 words or less. Over two dozen ideas were submitted, spanning from an idea centered on revitalizing rites of passage for adolescents to one proposing the use of YouTube to publicize myth-busting stories about persons that are marginalized. These ideas were summarized and presented during the first session, which provided a forum for discussion, brainstorming, and further sharing of promising ideas. All ideas were listed on butcher paper, and at the end of the first day breakfast session, participants were given priority dots  to mark those ideas that they felt were the most promising. The idea with the most support was labeled the Neighborhood Skills Exchange. This idea centered on facilitating community-based sharing of simple and specialized skills, such as yard work, cooking, and child sitting, in order to transform social dynamics and foster sense of community.

In the second session, a mix of new and returning participants came to decide on next steps for implementing the Neighborhood Skills Exchange. A broad outline for implementation was rapidly created, including the following steps:

  • Step 1: Find someone in community who cares – spearhead/champion.
  • Step 2: Do background research. Look at previous models. Look at literature.
  • Step 3: Get the word out and gain further support.
  • Step 4: Work with existing systems - get buy-in.
  • Step 5: Set up infrastructure (sustainability).
  • Step 6: Create step-by-step instructions so it can be replicated.

Since the purpose of the session was not only to advance a single idea but also to examine the process by which promising ideas are shared and propelled through SCRA, some time in this brief session was also allotted to discussion of this process and brainstorming around how SCRA can foster the generation, sharing, and implementation of future ideas.   Session facilitators and participants then volunteered to take on two tasks to ensure that the energy behind these ideas and discussions were not lost, with one team committed to creating an action plan for the Neighborhood Skills Exchange, and another team dedicated to creating a proposal for an annual SCRA initiative that would identify and reward innovative ideas.

Resources were also shared, and the SCRA Community Mini-Grant (http://www.scra27.org/practice/communityminigrantpreapplication) was suggested as a potential mechanism for supporting new ideas . Notes on the sessions were shared on the Community Psychology Practice Blog (http://communitypsychologypractice.blogspot.com/search/label/new ideas), and participants were emailed with a compilation of all of the original ideas as well as resources for finding additional ideas. Moving forward, there are many decisions yet to be made, and we welcome community feedback on how community psychologists believe we can harness our collective power to identify, share, and implement new ideas that have the potential to transform our communities and effect global change.

Download the PDF below to read the entire presentation.

References
Berkowitz, B., Brunson, L., Cardazone, G., Chien, V., Cook, J., Francisco, V., Neigher, B., & Valentine, D.  (2010). Responding to the Challenges of Our Times:  Report of an Innovative Session held at the 2009 SCRA Biennial.  The Community Psychologist, 43(1), p.  22-24.


Author

Bill Berkowitz, Gina Cardazone, Victoria Chien, Dyana Valentine, & Tom Wolff

Bill Berkowitz, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Gina Cardazone, University of Hawai’i
Victoria Chien, University of South Carolina
Dyana Valentine, Santa Monica, California
Tom Wolff, Tom Wolff and Associates


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