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The
Community
Psychologist

Volume 47 Number 4 
Fall 2014

Public Policy

Edited by Ken Maton (maton@umbc.edu), Doug Perkins (d.perkins@vanderbilt.edu), and Melissa Strompolis (mstrompolis@gmail.com)

The Public Policy Section for this Fall edition of TCP begins with an article by three graduate students, Laura Kurzban, Sara Buckingham, and Tahira Mahdi, describing their experience at the recent Advocacy Day sponsored by SCRA, SPSSI and APA Public Interest. Next, Doug Perkins and Rebecca Rodrigues present the new policy call-to-action listserv Wiggio.com, the rationale for its development, and how you can subscribe to it.  Doug Perkins then provides a brief overview of the policy-focused symposium session organized for the Fifth International Community Psychology Conference in Fortaleza, Brazil, and plans for a future special issue on public policy in global context.  Finally, incoming Chair of the Policy Committee Melissa Strompolis, describes several key goals for the upcoming year, and encourages applications to the Policy Committee small grants program (description included). 

Advocacy Training Day 2014: Participant Perspectives and Advocacy Tips

Laura Kurzban, University of South Carolina (laura.kurzban@gmail.com, Sara Buckingham (sara.l.buckingham@umbc.edu) and Tahira Mahdi, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (tahira1@umbc.edu) 

On August 6, 2014 SCRA joined with SPSSI and the Public Interest Directorate of APA to host Advocacy Day in Washington, DC.  Advocacy Day provided training in the morning on how to lobby for legislation and an opportunity to practice these skills during afternoon Capitol Hill visits. Advocacy Day focused on The FAMILY Act. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (The FAMILY Act) is paid family medical leave legislation that would provide workers up to 12 weeks of partial income (66% of monthly wages) when an employee takes time off following the birth or adoption of a new baby or because of a personal or familial serious medical condition. More information on this legislation can be found here: http://psychologybenefits.org/2014/03/05/paid-family-medical-leave/

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August 6, 2014 Advocacy Day training. Participants are preparing for the meeting

 

 

 

 

Our experience at Advocacy Day was enlightening, educative, fun, invigorating, productive, and empowering.  The first hour of the day was truly enlightening as leaders of our field discussed their roles as advocates, how often data surprisingly minimally influences policy, and how powerful personal stories can be.  The training was then educative, as Dr. Roberta Downing (APA) provided information about The Family Act and its numerous benefits, Christopher Kush (Soapbox Consulting) informed us about the intricacies of advocating and holding meetings with legislative offices and others led role-plays to provide preparation for possible opposition to the legislation. The training emphasized that it is possible to have fun while advocating for a good cause – and it was fun.  As we left the training to head to our respective meetings, we were invigorated by the numerous psychologists, students, and affiliates who work to see that our research strengthens our society and directly benefits our people.  The meetings with legislative offices were productive – many of our Senators and Representatives’ offices were unaware of the legislation, though they supported its principles, and several others were elated to have a positive meeting in which we could thank each other for our support of this legislation, and establish strong relationships through which we can continue to advocate for beneficial social policies.  Finally, the day was empowering, as we found a network of passionate, informed colleagues who are working to make our research positively impact our country.  As Daniel Levinson suitably contends, “No one person can accomplish much if they don't work with others.”  Many thanks go to SCRA, SPSSI, and APA for providing the knowledge, tools, skills, and network to help us grow as effective advocates.

Here are some specific suggestions shared at the training which may be useful to anyone interested in advocating for legislation: 

  • Social media are incredibly important to spreading your message! Using Twitter – and incorporating the hashtag symbol (#), re-Tweeting messages, using @reply to respond to others on Twitter – as well as posting pictures and status updating on Facebook are the norm in advocating and gathering support for legislation.  Social media allowed us to demonstrate the potential of our field by simultaneously showing our presence at the Capitol, raising awareness on an important policy issue, and advocating for policy change. Due to social media, our fellow students, families, and friends experienced our advocacy work.  As a result, Advocacy Day exploded with meaning that resonated beyond the borders of APA and relevant professional networks. 
  • Use the Hook, Line, & Sinker format to briefly and effectively lobby for your legislation. Hook – state where you are from and the district where you vote by giving your local address. Line – provide information on the legislation and why you support it. Sinker – clearly ask your Senator or Representative to co-sponsor the legislation.
  • Personal or anecdotal information on the need for the proposed legislation and its potential impact on others combined with data that support your stance are powerful methods of persuasion. It is important to find personally authentic ways to advocate.  Either data-based or personally-driven information will work well when they are delivered in ways that naturally support your style of oral communication.
  • It is important to view any concerns voiced about your legislation as interest, rather than defeat, and an opportunity to advocate. The morning training provided a chance to role-play responses to varied concerns that might be voiced during a visit. Recognizing and responding to “pushback” gracefully means listening, understanding concerns and directly addressing them, and then re-iterating your support for the legislation.
  • If the congressional representative supports the legislation or has already co-sponsored it – that’s great!  Still meet with them and thank them for their support, as it provides them positive feedback that they are doing what you believe is in the district’s best interests.
  • Follow-up is important! Within ten days after visiting your local district representative or senators send a personalized letter or email thanking them, reiterate your support for the legislation, and remind them to co-sponsor it if they agreed to do so. If you met with a legislative assistant or someone else in the office, directly ask whether they have spoken to the representative or senator about the bill and to let you know the outcome.

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August 6, 2014 Advocacy Day training. Hook, Line, and Sinker: parts of a Congressional meeting.  Use this format to advocate briefly and effectively for legislation during your visit with Congressional representatives and staff. 

 

 

 

The APA Public Interest Directorate Government Relations Office is happy to provide information to psychologists who are interested in using their knowledge to advocate for federal policy (http://www.apa.org/about/gr/pi/index.aspx). They also host opportunities for current students interested in policy work such as the Public Interest Policy Internship for graduate students as well as a Congressional Fellowship Program. Further information about these opportunities can be found at www.apa.org/about/gr/fellows.  To find more information on the training, view #PsychontheHill #FamilyAct, or see a “storified” version of Advocacy Day at http://storify.com/APAPublicInt/psychonthehill-50-psychologists-and-students-push.

Policy in Global Context: Symposium Session and Future Special Issue

Written by Doug Perkins, Vanderbilt University

A symposium was organized by Doug Perkins, representing the SCRA Public Policy Committee, for the Fifth International Community Psychology Conference in Fortaleza, Brazil, September 3-6, 2014. The symposium was titled "Public Policy and Community Psychology: Methods of Training, Research and Practice in Different Global Regions.” The other two presenters are Irma Serrano-García (University of Puerto Rico) and Manuel García-Ramírez (University of Seville, Spain).  The symposium explores how community psychology in Caribbean Latin America, Spain, and the United States can address the specific challenges of increasing both the frequency and the impact of our policy work. Each presenter will focus on graduate or professional training for policy work, theory and/or research on policy issues or policy engagement, and examples of advocacy practice or interventions for policy change. They will each discuss some of their own work and also that of other community psychologists or students in their respective countries.  Policy targets may vary from local to provincial to national to international.  The symposium follows up on a similar one held at the last International Conference on Community Psychology in Barcelona in 2012 (with different presenters than the current one), which led to a special issue of the Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice on international policy work (edited by Ken Maton). The 2014 symposium may lead to a similar special issue that would be open not only to the three presenters but other authors from other countries as well.  If interested in contributing to a future issue on policy work in community psychology around the world, please contact d.perkins@vanderbilt.edu

2014 - 2015 Policy Committee Goals

Written by Melissa Strompolis, UNC-Charlotte

The SCRA Policy Committee has made great strides in the past several years including advocacy campaigns, policy statements, rapid response proposals, coordination with interest groups, and policy and advocacy mini-grants (see below to apply!).  This progress was not without meaningful leadership, especially from the Policy Committees co-chairs, Doug Perkins (Vanderbilt University), and Ken Maton (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), and prior chair Judah Viola (National Louis University).   For the past year, Doug and Ken sustained the interest and momentum of the Policy Committee and attracted many new members to the committee. Doug and Ken also supported the creation of the mass incarceration task force lead by Brad Olson (National Louis University). Additionally, for the first time, Doug and Ken supervised two Policy Committee Practicum students, J’Vonnah Maryman (Wichita State University) and Taylor Bishop Scott (UNC-Charlotte).  On behalf of the SCRA Policy Committee and membership, I would like to thank Doug and Ken for their leadership, progress, and continued support of policy and advocacy activities within SCRA.

In the coming year, the Policy Committee has several goals for improving SCRA’s ability to engage in policy and advocacy:

  • Increase visibility among the SCRA community: The SCRA Practice Committee has successfully attracted and maintained active membership on the committee and the Policy Committee has the ability to model that success.  This includes simple steps such as monthly conference call reminders, updates on policy and advocacy activities, and communicating the Policy Committee’s goals for the coming year on the SCRA listserv.
  • Sustaining and creating meaningful opportunities for students:  The Policy Committee practicum provided two outstanding graduate students with direct policy and advocacy experience, to be continued this year with two new students, Lynn Liao (DePaul University) and Rebecca Rodriguez (Georgia State University).  Both students will be assisting the Policy Committee with general activities and the mass incarceration task force.  In addition to the practicum experience, the Policy Committee will create other opportunities for students to learn about policy and advocacy.  Outgoing practicum student J’Vonnah Maryman collected important information from SCRA students regarding policy and advocacy needs and interests.  This information underscored the need to provide students with policy and advocacy learning and engagement opportunities.  Currently, the Policy Committee is working with APA to sponsor policy and advocacy webinars for students, and SCRA has a policy webinar planned for September 19. 
  • Hiring a full-time SCRA Policy Director: In Fabricio Balcazar’s Winter 2014 TCP column, he stated “I argue that we can no longer afford to be passive observers in the current political climate” (pg. 2).  The Policy Committee agrees with Fabricio, and knows that when it comes to policy and advocacy, we can do better.  But as the old adage goes, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth paying for.  Policy and advocacy, done effectively, require the time and energy that comes from a full-time, paid policy staff position.  To increase SCRAs engagement with policy and advocacy, collaborate with other divisions and organizations, and have a real and lasting effect in the policy and advocacy realm, SCRA needs to hire a Policy Director.  In this year’s budget, the Policy Committee will include a full-time, paid Policy Director position and will advocate to the Executive Committee about the great need for this position. 

Call for Grant Proposals: SCRA Public Policy Initiative

To encourage, promote and support public policy work by its members to benefit communities, the Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA) has initiated a small grants program.  Proposals may address a wide variety of public policy issues, affecting communities at the local, state, national or international levels.  Projects may take many forms but preference will be given to collaborative projects and those that increase the capacity of SCRA and its members to engage in effective and innovative policy work.  All applications will be subject to blind review.

Who may apply?

Anyone may apply, though the lead applicant on the proposal must be a SCRA member.  Collaborative projects and partnerships with community organizations are strongly encouraged.

What is the maximum grant?

The maximum request is $5,000 each with a minimum of 3 awards expected to be granted during a funding cycle.  The Review Committee will determine the number and amount of the awards.

What is the deadline for proposals and timeframe for completion?

All grant requests must be received by NOVEMBER 21.  The Review Committee expects to notify all applicants of final decisions by DECEMBER 19.  The expectation is that all projects will be completed within two years of funding approval. Recipients must complete and submit brief (1-2 pages) status reports to the Review Committee on January 1 and June 1 of each year until the project is completed. The status report form can be accessed from the policy section of the SCRA website or requested from mstrompolis@gmail.com.

Recipients must also submit a final project summary report within one month of project completion.  Project summaries should be narrative reports that include a brief overview of the project and the related policy issue, project partners, policy impact, results, a description of how funds were used and suggestions for further SCRA or community engagement around the issue. 

What are the specific standards and criteria upon which Proposals will be evaluated?

No activities may result in a violation of SCRA’s 501(C)(3) status or its by-laws.  Proposals will be evaluated based on how well they:

  • address a current public policy issue of importance to the community of interest
  • connect to community psychology (CP)
  • address a policy area where CP has a  contribution to make
  • demonstrate the potential to establish or build upon relationships with other organizations and their resources
  • demonstrate potential to have a successful impact
  • increase capacity of communities/groups, to influence public policy
  • increase capacity of SCRA, to influence public policy
  • articulate an appropriate budget that effectively supports the proposed activities and ensures accountability of expenditures
  • includes a plan for dissemination of results or outcome, such as including, but not limited to, publication in AJCP or TCP, Biennial and/or APA Conference presentations or dissemination to other relevant publications and stakeholders

How will the grant funding be disbursed?

Generally, recipients will be awarded 25% upon the start of the project, with the balance spread over the duration of the grant, after receipt of the status reports due January 1, June 1 each year.  All applicants shall include a timetable with deliverables, as appropriate, and may propose other timing with justification.

Filing Process

Requests shall include a cover letter and a Grant Proposal (5-10 pages) with all identifying information removed for blind review, in Word document format, sent to: mstrompolis@gmail.com by NOVEMBER 21. 

How  can further information be obtained?

See the SCRA Policy Connection webpage at http://www.scra27.org/policy and look in the section titled SCRA Policy Grants for basic info and examples of last years’ successful grant awardees. Finally, any questions may be directed to mstrompolis@gmail.com


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