Occupy Community Psychology

By Practice Council Admin – October 24, 2011
OfflinePractice Council Admin

           Occupy Wall Street has gained everyone's attention. But how about Occupy Community Psychology?

Readers, is this a fair question? I wonder, largely because I'm not (yet) seeing the connection between this major local then national and now global event and anything we ourselves are doing. Consider: one lonely note on our list-serv to date; nothing on our Facebook page. However, a blog post earlier this month. ("What happened in the 60's") opened the door to this discussion; so let's walk on through it.
Community psychology still stirs my heart. But we have never been strong - we have hardly been visible - on issues of equity, on issues of class, on issues of institutional power, on issues of corporate (as vs. child, or domestic, or substance) abuse. All the more striking, since we are not the 1%, as far as I know.
           Certainly, the issues we do deal with are challenging; and surely, we have made genuine contributions both to knowledge and to human welfare. Nor did anyone ever tell us when we signed up that we should be leading the charge, or camping out on concrete.
Still, here's the stated vision of our field, from the SCRA web site:
"Promoting social justice for all people by fostering . . . empowerment where there is oppression."
And a stated SCRA goal:
"To influence the formation and institutionalization of economic and social policy consistent with community psychology principles and with the social justice values that are at the core of our discipline."
Is SCRA - are we - living up to those ideals? Given that my campus this week was papered with "Occupy UMass/Lowell" flyers, it seems reasonable to ask how we could step up our own contribution.
As community practitioners, for example, we should know what it takes to generate citizen participation. And we should know something about principles of effective community organization, including effective social protest. Granted, we have much to learn from our more social-media-savvy colleagues and students. But the Occupy movement, and whatever succeeds it, should give us plenty of opportunity to advise, support, study, discuss, instruct, consult, and provide moral leadership - to be actors, and practitioners, not only spectators.
Just raising the issues here. What do you think, blog readers?

Bill Berkowitz, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of Massachusetts Lowell

Footnote: Just after the above was written, Brad Olson, a community psychologist and member of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) posted a note on the SCRA list-serv, and also on the community psychology Facebook page, indicating PsySR's support of the Occupy movement. See the October 22-23 list-serv, and also
Worth a look.  ~~BB 

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Practice Council Admin

1 Comment

OfflineAllen Ratcliffe Allen Ratcliffe said 2 years ago

For the past few months, I have been serving as Chairperson of the Pierce County (WA) Homeless Continuum of Care Work Group, a body mandated by HUD.  Recently, I have been advocating that our county should start contingency planning for a potential flood of homeless persons and families, as they lose financial support because of budget cuts, foreclosures, exhaustion of time-limited benefits, etc.

As part of tht contingency planning, we are trying to determine when and how temporary homeless encampments might be established and operated by theirr residents.

Today, I happened to pass the Occupy Tacoma encampment downtown and decided to stop.  As I entered the campsite, I observed a supply tent, well stocked.  I introduced myself and explained my need for information about operating encampments.  I spoke with a couple of residents, asking them about logistics:  How had they gained City cooperation that enabled them to remain in their prominent downtown location?  They provided very helpful information and invited me to come to one of their community-wide weekly meetings.  They said I might have ideas that would behelpful to them.  I will take them up on that, because they taught me a lot in a short time - fair exchange.  They are proud of their participant-run community and how it has evolved, and they have much to offer community psychologists interested in social issues.

Al Ratcliffe

Tacoma, WA



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October 24, 2011
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