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Peace promotion among ethnically diverse youth: Reflection on an agency’s vision

Peace promotion among ethnically diverse youth: Reflection on an agency’s vision by  Monika Allen, Janelle Kwee, Marvin McDonald

Author(s): Monika Allen, Janelle Kwee, Marvin McDonald


Ulrich’s (1983) Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH) is a viable tool for program development and community-based consultation, exemplified in the present reflection based on a consulting project with a youth camp program within a not for profit organization. The goal of the youth camp is to improve intergroup relationships in a Canadian inner city community that has a significant newcomer population.  This critique employs CSH as a framework for facilitating professional engagement and dialogue among stakeholders. The analysis highlights factors relevant to the youth camp and more broadly discusses the role of utilizing CSH in community psychology practice.


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    "Reflection is an important human activity in which people recapture their experience, think about it, mull it over and evaluate it. It is this working with experience that is important in learning” (Boud, Keogh, & Walker, 1985, p.19). This paper comprises a critical reflection from the first author’s position as a research consultant for the program referred to here as the Youth Camp (YC), an initiative of a provincial institute for community peacebuilding. Social scientist Werner Ulrich’s Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH) (Ulrich, 1983) approach is applied to the YC as a social system. As a philosophical methodology, CSH directs professional development in applied disciplines, including, social planning and evaluation research (Ulrich, 2010). Using the YC as an example, this article highlights the benefit of using CSH in the practice of community psychology.

    The CSH paradigm provides methodological guidance, consistent with a transformative perspective, for researchers and evaluators working in culturally complex communities to challenge the status quo and further social justice (Mertens, 2009).  From this position, stakeholders are prompted to question their roles in uncovering implicit assumptions within the organization’s community. This paper and the application of CSH is one such response. Additionally, core to transformative research is a focus on individuals who are marginalized from mainstream society, which is true for the majority of participants in the YC (Mertens, 2005). The YC initiative further corresponds with the transformative approach in that the program seeks to examine the differences correlated with power differential for these marginalized members of society. On another level, this critique addresses equality issues between those working within the agency. The transformative paradigm represents those working together for personal and social transformation; a fitting description of the members committed to realizing the vision of the YC (Mertens, 2009).

    The decision to use CSH was made while in a volunteer position with the YC following an observation that how researchers can most effectively work together with non for profitnonprofit groups needs greater understanding. This reflection, therefore,  contributes to professional development for researchers and activists alike. The fundamental questions guiding this reflection are: 1) what is the YC’s ‘vision,’ and 2) how can the YC realize this more fully?  Other community researchers and program consultants can also benefit from the CSH framework in promoting dialogue and reflective practice in community based organizations for social change.

    The discussion below briefly describes some background, including relevant terms, for the context of this CSH analysis. Specifically, the review includes global immigration trends affecting the demographics of inner city communities, the YC program itself, and the CSH framework. Finally, the paper presents the authors’ reflections employing CSH and discusses implications for practice, affirming the relevance of programs such as the YC and the value of employing CSH in program consultation.  


The Context: Youth in Diverse Inner City Communities

    Global trends are lending to increasingly multicultural communities. In recent decades, approximately 20 million children have become refugees as a result of international war related conflicts (United Nations International Children’s Education Fund, 2009). Many families flee areas of armed conflict and gain refugee status in countries foreign to them. Newcomer experiences involve multiple stressors, such as social isolation, racial discrimination, language problems, and the stress of cultural adaptation (Ehntholt & Yule, 2006; Kaplan, 2009), which are further intensified in the wake of traumatic experiences often endured by refugees (Draguns, 1996). 

    In this paper, the definition of newcomer includes immigrants and refugees who are new to the country within the last decade. Furthermore, youth or adolescent refers to anyone between 12 to 18 years of age. In the psychosocial stage focused on establishing self-identity (Steinberg, 2005), youth often experiment with various roles (Guinee, 1998). Being  newcomer youth, often combined with identification as ethnic minorities, places this population in an increasingly vulnerable state.  These youth may also experience added struggles in the process of formulating a consolidated ethnic identity.

Ethnic identity development

    Ethnic identity is "an enduring fundamental aspect of the self that includes a sense of membership in an ethnic group and the attitudes and feelings associated with that membership" (Phinney, 1996, p. 922). Ethnicity refers to meaningful groupings of people who share a race and/or a culture of origin. Tajfel (as cited by Molix & Bettencourt, 2010) noted that, “social identity is a part of one’s self-concept that originates from the knowledge that one is a member of a social group” (p. 513). Molix and Bettencourt observe that this type of group identity is beneficial for members of groups who are devalued in society, like ethnic minorities. Ethnicity has been identified as an important factor in determining daily activities (Frideres, 2009). Though groups have unique histories and traditions, belonging to a group is universal (Phinney, 1992). 

    Some tensions associated with minority youth are conceptualized using ethnic group identity theories. For example, unique problems, such as conflict between groups, arise when two different cultures, both with separate standards of acceptable behaviour, come into contact (Klineberg, 1966). Klineberg noted that some cases of delinquency can be attributed to cultural conflict. As will be explored, situating young people in an inner-cityinner city environment with ethnic tensions exacerbates their developmental challenges. 

Newcomer youth in Canada

    Research on factors affecting newcomer youth highlights that this demographic is often overlooked (Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement, 2000), and there is a paucity of Canadian literature on issues relating to newcomer youth (Shakya, Khanlou, & Gonsalves, 2010). According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (2012), immigrants and refugees between the ages of 15-24 constituted approximately 15% of the permanent residents to Canada, over the age of 14, that year. Canada’s demographic is transforming with rising numbers of newcomers. While gang involvement is not characteristic of most newcomer youth, perceived discrimination and racism are not uncommon experiences for them. As noted in Kanu’s (2009) study, newcomers faced academic, economic, and psychosocial challenges including acculturation stress, lack of access to counselling, loneliness, and poverty. 


    Developmentally, youth are working to define their identities, including ethnicity. The inner city community where the YC takes place hosts an increasing number of newcomers, leading to a need for peacebuilding, a term adopted by the camp to denote healthy relationship building between ethnic groups. The term peacebuilding entered United Nations (UN) language in 1992 when then UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali published An Agenda for Peace (1992).  In this report, assisting in peacebuilding means, “rebuilding the institutions and infrastructures of nations torn by civil war and strife; and building bonds of peaceful mutual benefit among nations formerly at war; and in the largest sense, to address the deepest causes of conflict” (para. 15). Lederach (1997), defined peacebuilding as: “A comprehensive concept that encompasses, generates, and sustains the full array of processes, approaches, and stages needed to transform conflict toward more sustainable, peaceful relationships” (p. 20).

The Youth Camp

    The Youth Camp (YC) is a week-long summer camp program, which is an initiative of a community peacebuilding institute. The YC was implemented to address growing tensions, including violence, among inner-city youth comprised of various cultural groups including African, Asian, Métis, Aboriginal, and European communities, many of whom are newcomers (Institute for Community Peacebuilding Youth Peacebuilding, 2009b). In addition to offering a host of activities including sports, art, and music options, the YC carries out dialogue sessions to facilitate positive interaction amongst participants. The YC is organized by the director of the community peacebuilding institute and the YC’s project coordinator, funded by local non for profit organizations. Activities and supervision are carried out by community volunteers from these organizations as well as former participants of the YC. Given increased tension and violence between youth of different backgrounds, and a lack of trusting relationships, the groups are meant to be safe places where participants can explore and discuss identity issues. 


Critical Systems Heuristics and the Youth Camp

    Grove and Zwi (2008) suggested that those involved in peacebuilding often lack appropriate tools for screening, monitoring, and evaluating their work, and that these tools should move toward examining processes and relationships within programs. Denskus (2012) recommended the need for a qualitative methodology that exposes hidden assumptions and unexplored challenges within peacebuilding evaluation. Much of the program evaluation literature makes minimal mention of incorporating critical reflections into related programs. The CSH framework used in the ensuing systemic evaluation of the YC addresses this gap.

    In the framework of CSH, the words critique or critical are not pejorative (Ulrich & Reynolds, 2010). Rather, it is recommended that boundary critique be practiced as a reflective attitude, with the intention of facilitating understanding (Ulrich, 2005/2012).  The systemic aspect manifests by considering all those affected by the system in question. The main construct of this framework is that all problems, decisions, and actions rely on preexisting assumptions about the system.  Thus, organizational improvement should take into consideration the larger system (Ulrich, 2005). Heuristics means the art or practice of discovery (Ulrich, 2002). In professional practice, this translates to identifying and exploring pertinent problem areas, assumptions, or questions. Beckford (2010) suggested that the most beneficial aspects of CSH include encouraging decision makers to self-reflect and promoting equality and dialogue among stakeholders, instilling critical reflection skills in each party.

    In summary, as a result of global migration trends, there are increased numbers of refugees and adolescent newcomers in Canada. Communities need to respond to interethnic tension and violence among youth. There are relatively few interventions to facilitate peacebuilding between different ethnic groups, underscoring the need to support initiatives such as the YC.  The CSH provides a framework for engaging such initiatives in community-based consultation. 


CSH as a Method of Reflective Practice for Program Consultation

The method for this consultation with the YC follows Ulrich’s (1983, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2012) CSH. Put simply, Ulrich’s framework is a suggestion for  how to point out the underlying assumptions people hold in making everyday decisions. One of the core ideas in CSH is that a system is defined by its boundary or environment and by its relationship with that boundary. Ramage and Shipp (2009) distill Ulrich’s theory into simple language. Ulrich (2005) used the term boundary critique to describe the process of systematically categorizing issues related to defining a system’s environment. This categorization is developed into twelve boundary categories (see Table 1) that are grouped into four sources of influence: motivation, power, knowledge, and legitimacy. The categories correspond to twelve boundary questions.


Table 1
CSH Boundary Categories and Questions

Sources of influence Social roles Role-specific concerns Key problems
Motivation 1. Beneficiary
Who ought to be/is do we (want to) see the intended client or beneficiary of S?
2. Purpose
What ought to be/is the purpose of S?
3. Measure of improvement
What ought to be/is our measure of improvement?
Power 4. Decision Maker
Who ought to be/is in control of S?
5. Resources
What resources ought to be/are controlled by the decision maker?
6. Decision environment
What conditions of success should rightly be/are controlled by third parties?
Knowledge 7. Expert
Who ought to be /is contributing their experience and expertise?
8. Expertise
What kind of expertise ought to be/is consulted?
9. Guarantor
What ought to be/is regarded as assurance of successful implementation?
Legitimacy 10. Witness
Who ought to be/is contributing their experience and expertise?
11. Emancipation
What ought to be/are the opportunities for
interests of those
negatively affected to have expression and freedom from the worldview of S?
12. Worldview
What worldview ought to be/is relied upon?

Note: S = system of concern. In this case it is the institute’s YC project and those involved and affected by the project. Adapted from “Critical Systems Heuristics,” by W. Ulrich, and M. Reynolds, 2010, In Systems Approaches to Managing Change: A Practical Guide, by M.Reynolds and S. Sue (Eds.)., p. 244. Copyright 2010 by Springer.


    Questions for CSH are asked in two modes, asking what is actually the case in a situation and what ought to be the case. The is form requires determining the facts of actual situations: any observable result or consequence of an action or a possible side effect of a proposed action. The ought mode refers to the values of the system. The latter identifies the assumptions that influence stakeholder actions. The critique is developed by comparing responses, and this complete process is defined as the systemic boundary critique

Data Collection

    The data referenced in this paper is derived from the first author’s role as a research consultant with the community peacebuilding institute. The data includes YC documents, namely two annual reports, local media articles (see references), and a personal research journal, including record of in-person consultation and email correspondence. This consultation was carried out in over a period of one year, beginning in 2010, with the majority of the consultation occurring regularly a few months prior to the 2010 YC, and at least weekly closer to the start of the camp. Consultation included meetings and interviews with YC staff and partners from the funding organizations as well as a review of one focus group involving YC volunteers. The data used in this analysis is an experiential record of a research consultant, which lends appropriately to a CSH reflection. 

Data Analysis

    This analysis is conducted as a post hoc reflection. Any differences between what is and what ought to be, for the YC, serve as general examples of the areas that could be presented for discussion in other organizations. The analysis is particularly advantageous for community psychologists who are currently working with agencies and are in ongoing relationships with the organization because they are in positions to discuss these themes directly with the appropriate individuals. In the case of the current analysis, researchers did share observations with key stakeholders of YC. However, given that the authors conducted the present reflection after having completed their time with the agency, there was ultimately limited dialogue between the authors and the agency. The purpose of sharing the analysis with others is to demonstrate a process that is ideally implemented during times of active working periods with organizations.

    The data, including the first author’s interactions with the organization, serve as a reference for answers to the boundary questions. Four boundary issues, motivation, power, knowledge, and legitimacy, are explored by asking, or unfolding, a narrative via a set of 12 questions. Refer to Table 1 for a summary of the questions applied to the CSH analysis. The aim of unfolding is to expose the selectivity of individuals’ reference systems (Ulrich & Reynolds, 2010): Posing the questions exposes the assumptions that determine the stakeholders’ environment and ultimately their decisions. The questions are posed in the aforementioned is and ought modes.

    The analysis process entails systematically applying the CSH questions to the various types of data, reflecting on key themes and including apparent inconsistencies, in order to formulate observations pertaining to the 12 question areas. For this reflection, each CSH question was considered in turn by the principle investigator, who conducted an extensive review of each source of data, outlined above. It is important to note that each data source was examined for its relevance to each question. Thus, discrepancies between interviews with staff, program materials, and program participant opinions, are considered together as they speak to a particular question. Moreover, this analysis process was conducted in the context of ongoing and regular consultation with the second author. A comparison of the respective answers helps to promote an increased awareness and clarity of the agency’s vision. 

    The analysis process is not intended to yield purely objective answers, and is shaped inherently by the persons conducting the reflection. In the present reflection, the authors assert judgments, based on the available data, including any apparent tensions between stakeholder perspectives, and inextricably connected with the authors’ own values and assumptions, about what should be considered.  Identifying what is aims to be much more objective; however, it is limited to the scope of data available. Consistent with the aim of CSH to illuminate assumptions which may ultimately influence an agency’s capacity to realize its vision, researchers and consultants employing the CSH are compelled to reflect on their own assumptions and biases which may influence their work.  Methodological rigour is enhanced by involving two or more consultants to be in dialogue while applying the 12 CSH questions.


Results and Discussion

    Prior to unfolding the boundary questions, it is important to convey the system of reference for this evaluation (Ulrich & Reynolds, 2010). The intent has been to enhance the YC through program development to decrease adolescent identity conflict and to facilitate peacebuilding among inner city youth in the community.  In relation to the analysis, Ulrich and Reynolds (2010) remind readers that “the point is not that we should claim we have the answers but rather, that we should uncover the inevitable selectivity of all our claims” (p. 254). Through the process, one is made aware of and reflects upon assumptions.

    Boundary questions are intended for a specific system of interest, in this case, the YC. Stakeholders are those who are involved in and affected by the system, and identifying them helps to specify the scope and dynamics at work in the system at large.  While stakeholders were outlined in an initial project report, the intention in the present manuscript is to present a reflection with relevance to other peacebuilding initiatives; therefore, names of stakeholders are omitted. 

    Referring to Table 1 for the generically phrased questions, this section applies the questions specifically in relation to the YC. Wording for the prompts was adapted from Larsen (2011). Researchers used the information available to them; as a result, some of the questions have brief responses. These responses are still included in the analysis as examples of what to consider and how to use the information available to address the questions. As the process of boundary questioning progresses, the paper outlines the rationale for and the natural flow from one question to another, as suggested by Ulrich and Reynolds (2010). Thus, the numerical sequence in this presentation does not match the order in their presentation. The discussion integrated within the presentation of the results encompasses a comparison of both modes of analysis, yielding the critique aspect of the process. Comparing the answers to both sets of questions provides a platform on which to recognize possible discrepancies between the real (is mode) and the ideal (ought mode) actions of the YC. It is necessary to consider all four sources of influence, which together, constitute the overall assumed reference system (Ulrich & Reynolds, 2010). The numbers represent the CSH questions 1 to 12 as seen in Table 1. The results begin with the boundary category that most directly relates to the vision for the system.

1. What ought to be and what is the stated purpose or vision of the YC? 

    The stated objective of the camp is to “bring together three groups of youth (Aboriginal, newcomer, and established) to provide a context and process that would give them the opportunity to build bridges of understanding and peace between them as individuals and as identity groups” (Burns, Williams, & Pankratz, 2009, p. 4). The camp coordinator and director shared the additional goal of promoting intergroup relations so that the youth will promote change. Desirable outcomes are further defined in the organization’s partnership agreement (Institute for Community Peacebuilding Youth Peacebuilding, 2009a). In exploring responses to this question, a theme of desiring peaceful relationships between communities and individuals is clear. The stated purposes and objectives of the camp are consistent with what the vision ought to be, given their motivation for implementing the program. The response to this question leads to an inquiry of who ought to be the intended beneficiaries.

2. Who ought to be and who are the YC’s beneficiaries or clients?  

    That is, whose interests should be foremost considered? In relation to the camp’s vision, the camp participants, including Aboriginal, newcomer, and established groups, and the inner-cityinner city community, ought to be considered of highest priority in implementing the YC.  This is the community in question and ought to be treated as the main beneficiary. Overall, the camp participants are prioritized. There are also instances when funding agency requirements may compete with this priority. For example, funding agencies may request quantitative results, to determine whether or not funding will be secured for the future.  According to some staff, these measures, including a survey, have been interpreted as discriminatory by some of the participants. Upon determining the intended beneficiary, one can more easily determine the appropriate measure of success and improvement in the system.

3. What measures ought to be taken to assess whether the camp objectives are being met? 

    Or, expressed differently, how might the underlying values be given formal expression, quantitatively or qualitatively, through evaluation, to gauge improvement? In keeping with the stated goals of the program, the main beneficiary should be considered in determining the measure of success for the YC. Feedback from campers through evaluations gauged in accordance with the YC’s vision and objectives, and observed changes in the community, would identify whether or not the purpose of the project is being met. Further, the measures of improvement ought to correlate with the organization’s theoretical underpinnings.  There are a host of theories stated to influence the YC. This theoretical foundation can serve a benefit to the camp and would be more meaningful if it is clearly incorporated into the evaluation.

    To date, the YC evaluation includes annual reports integrating survey responses and anecdotes from the participants. Institute leaders are confident that the outcomes and impact are long-term and positive. This belief is based on observations made by the staff, comments from the youth, and the surveys. Note that the team is appropriately focusing on the actions and the expressed experiences of the campers. These first three questions increase the transparency of the value basis of the system.

    The following is a brief discussion of critique and recommendations based on the answers to these first three questions. The YC documents include multiple statements of objectives, purpose, and vision. In comparing what the YC’s vision is and ought to be, there is a correlation; however, it may be beneficial to refine this with an explicit alignment with their theoretical foundations and means of evaluation. A coherent narrative of this evolution of theories would be valuable.  For example, the vision statement could be distilled to bridging communities, building peace. The mission could be uniting ethnically diverse youth to build healthy relationships and lasting change

    It is advantageous to be explicit about goals and purpose, so that those involved can support a shared vision. The institute could hold an annual meeting to review the program’s mandate and to maintain open communication about any changes.  Having staff sign an agreement to the YC’s goals and vision would provide more unity among stakeholders as well. This lends to questions about the necessary resources for success.

4. Who is and who ought to be in a position to make change for the YC’s program and resources? 

    Reporting and evaluation design is identified as the director’s responsibility. The YC coordinator is to be involved in decisions about evaluation methods as they pertain to camp logistics. In meetings and correspondence with the YC staff, researchers perceived a lack of clarity in defining roles; members voiced uncertainty about who is responsible for program evaluation. However, researchers also witnessed efforts to clarify responsibilities by individuals beginning to document roles and responsibilities. Additionally, a partnership agreement, including clear decision making processes, has been created. It was also brought to the researchers’ attention that some of those in positions of power on occasion felt unable to make executive decisions. The one who ought to make the decisions ought to be the individual who is most competent in the area of interest and also who is ultimately held responsible for the program’s results.

5. What resources or conditions of success ought to be and what resources are controlled by the decision makers? 

    The stated ultimate decision maker, in this case the director, ought to be responsible for financial capital, ensuring location for camp, accountability for camp volunteers and staff, and for general management. Some staff appear to be responsible for aspects of the program that are outside of their area of expertise. For instance, staff have been involved in implementing research and program evaluation measures without understanding the details, allowing biases to influence these program elements. It is most valuable for the roles to be clear among staff and volunteers, and elicits questions with regard to areas outside of the decision maker’s control. This is posed to ensure levels of accountability and division of resources so that the responsibility does not all lie with one person to maintain a healthy decision making environment.

6. What conditions of success should be and what conditions of success are outside of the control of the decision makers? 

    Areas wherein the decision maker is not qualified or trained should require the involvement of additional expertise. The researchers were not exposed to this aspect of the decision-making environment. However, the director ought to have additional supports and access to program evaluation experts and design in order to fulfill his responsibility for the project’s evaluation. These questions regarding power basis lead to other areas of knowledge within the system. According to Ulrich and Reynolds (2010), “in an ideal setting, human ‘capital’ (embodying expertise) ought not to be under the sole control of the decision maker” (p. 261).  The YC has stated roles and decision making guidelines, and tThe partnership agreement document is an example of what can be done for the other staff. It could be amended for use when new employees and volunteers become involved with the YC. The staff would benefit from developing a clear hiring process for new staff, and establishing this process would increase communication and collaboration among the staff, clarifying roles and responsibilities.

7. What information and skills ought the experts contribute and what do the experts contribute? 

    On what expertise does the YC rely? The skills that experts ought to contribute include program evaluation skills, and skills to facilitate effective communication between staff. At present, the YC relies on consultants and volunteers for these things. It may also be true that immediate assumptions are made about volunteer and consultant credentials. The YC uses the partner organizations’ connections to community programs to gain participants, but relies on volunteer research assistants and students for their research and for the evaluation portion of the project.

8. Who should be and who is involved as an expert? 

    Trained professionals, who are competent in the areas that the YC requires support, ought to provide the expertise. This competence could be determined by demonstrating a history of previous success in the area of expertise, as well as recognizing the YC’s needs and having the resources to complete the task. In actuality, it appears that most are permitted to become involved in the program without screening. According to the institute’s website, expertise will be provided by funding agencies. This includes a combination of faculty, staff, and volunteers (Institute for Community Peacebuilding Youth Peacebuilding, 2009b). Researchers who specialize in challenges facing war-affected adolescents may be beneficial resources in developing a camp experience that meets the organization’s goals.  Additionally, the staff at the participants’ schools may provide expertise.

9. Where ought those involved and where do those involved seek guarantees that their efforts lead to success for the YC? 

    Participant responses from camp experiences as well as observations from YC staff are used to assess success. The pre- and post-camp surveys are used to support the claim that the youth experience positive shifts in attitude (Burns, Williams & Pankratz, 2009). Although there is merit to these impressions, this does not address whether or not desired change is occurring within the larger inner-cityinner city community. Skilled evaluators ought to be responsible for exploring success. These questions facilitate transparency in the knowledge-basis of the system.

    Reflecting on the agency’s sources of knowledge, it is evident that efforts are being made to secure specialized skill sets and effective guarantees of success for the camp. As is common with nonprofit organizations, funding may not always exist to hire experts or specialists. Nevertheless, when assistants join the YC team there should be sufficient resources and stability to provide the needed support for these individuals. This may be, in part, why the initial program evaluation did not manifest as intended. It may be advantageous for the decisions makers to reference a project readiness checklist (Government of Ontario, 2006), to use as a guide in preparation for desired changes in the agency.  For instance, some requirements include having clear goals in place, and perhaps more importantly, receiving support and commitment for the project, prior to beginning new projects within the organization.

    This final set of questions are is intended to explore the legitimacy of the system considering wider spheres of human interests. 

10. Where ought and where does legitimacy lie? 

    In other words, are those who are affected by the system given the opportunity to be agents of change? The legitimacy ought to lie with participants. The participants ought to have an influence on the camp’s design and speak up about their camp experiences. The degree of involvement for participants has been unclear with regard to how extensively their feedback is taken into account when considering future changes to the camp structure and implementation. Efforts are being made to involve previous participants in program planning and YC leadership roles.

11. Who ought to be and who is represented to voice the concerns of those affected by but not directly involved in the YC project? 

    Another way to pose the question is to ask who may consider themselves capable of making representations on those who may be negatively affected, and what justifies them to do so. As previously outlined, those involved include campers, the Youth Peacebuilding Project, and the partner groups. Some of the affected include the participants’ school communities and other community centres in which the youth are involved. This also includes families of the youth and possible faith groups to which the participants belong. They would make this claim on the basis of having regular interaction with the camp participants and on the premise that they have an experienced understanding of the daily struggles facing the youth.  Future generations of youth and families yet to arrive in Winnipeg’s inner-cityinner city could also be a voice for those who will be affected by the changes in the neighbourhood and changes among the youth.

12. What worldview ought to be and what worldview is relied upon?  

    The worldview that ought to be represented is one that views all humans as equals and does not treat others differently based upon country of origin or ethnic identity. The surveys categorize youth according to ethnic and racial groups; this may be unintentionally marginalizing, contradicting the desired worldview for the camp. The YC’s actual underlying worldview is that increasing violence in this particular inner-cityinner city is rooted in lack of trusting relationships between identity groups of youth. Since being inspired by a similar program in the United States, many theories, such as Redekop’s (2002) identity group theory, have come to influence the camp’s worldview. Additional economic factors and multi-system factors that influence inner-cityinner city resident challenges also ought to be included in the worldview. This last set of questions clarifies the system’s basis of legitimacy, specificlyspecifically addressing worldview.


Summary and Concluding Comments

    In one-on-one clinical and counselling settings, it is often said that the person of the therapist is the primary tool for engendering the therapeutic change process.  Psychotherapeutic techniques, while not without importance, are secondary. The CSH framework addresses a parallel assumption for organizations, which are agents of systemic change. It is not only the programs and activities corresponding to the formal organizational mandate, that matter, but the implicit assumptions determining the basic essence of the organization. Exposing these assumptions through CSH, with the aim of refining and improving an organization’s capacity for positive change, offers a particular contribution to community psychology practice. 

    CSH is clearly limited in the scope of what it offers.  While it does not provide a specific roadmap of how to reach certain goals and objectives, illuminating key questions and assumptions through the CSH process provides a foundation for dialogue between stakeholders in order to subsequently make strategic plans within an organization. The steps of applying the CSH questions to relevant data within an organization can be applied more or less formally, extensively, or systematically depending on the mandate of the reflective process. A consultant who becomes familiar with the questions of the CSH boundary critique can incorporate relevant insights into other activities of program development.  Conversely, a CSH boundary critique may be the sole focus of a particular program consultation.  

    This integrated overview of the YC combines multiple data sources to organize observations around program priorities and values, formulating clarifying questions for stakeholders. The various recommendations for the YC, are the most relevant and practical, based on the organization’s current capacity and preparedness for change. The main purpose of this reflection is not to solve problems; rather, using CSH raises relevant questions (Beckford, 2010).  Ulrich (2001) noted, “competence depends more on the questions we ask than the answers we find” (p. 6). The significance of the analysis is the usefulness of the emerging questions to help stakeholders clarify and prioritize. Overall, the YC holds ambitious objectives and has been successful in implementing a camp experience for the system’s beneficiaries. The previous analysis highlights specific areas wherein they could focus for future program development. A possible longer lasting benefit of this work could derive from sharing the process of CSH with stakeholders who may find the critique formulation useful in becoming more aware of assumptions and in reflecting on how these beliefs influence their decisions. 

    This reflection serves as a helpful example of a practice that organizational stakeholders can engage, in their own reflections as professionals, within peacebuilding endeavours and other areas of community psychology practice. CSH provides a set of tools to analyze experiences, and to unify implicit and explicit observations. For those working in community psychology and community development initiatives, reflecting on how an agency functions is a valuable tool for evaluation and program development. This process embodies counselling psychology’s value of advocacy by joining with these activist groups to collaborate, support, and sustain social justice initiatives. This reflection can serve as a guide that others can apply and integrate as they cultivate professional competence and work toward healthy relations in their communities.



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Table 1: CSH Boundary Categories and Questions


Monika Allen, Janelle Kwee, Marvin McDonald Monika Allen, Janelle Kwee, Marvin McDonald

Monika Allen, MA is a registered provisional psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Calgary. She graduated with a Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology from Trinity Western University. Her general clinical and research interests include community psychology and adolescent mental health.


Janelle Kwee, PsyD is a clinical psychologist and core faculty member in the Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology program at Trinity Western University.  Her clinical and research interests are in broadly in the areas of community and existential psychology, qualitative psychotherapy outcome research, maternal health, and gender and multicultural topics.


Marvin McDonald, PhD is a faculty member in the MA program in Counselling Psychology at Trinity Western University. His recent research focuses on collaborations for investigating close personal relationships, bicultural identity, traumatic stress, compassion satisfaction, and spiritual health. He is also involved in shared projects to adapt assessment protocols and collaborative paradigms for research, practice, and international settings.

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Keywords: peacebuilding, evaluation, reflective practice, critical systems heuristics, program consultation