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Volume 53 Number 2 Spring 2020
Notes from the President
Susan Torres-Harding, Roosevelt University
Recently, the SCRA executive committee (EC) held its annual mid-winter meeting in Chicago on January 30th- February 1st. The purpose of the annual mid-winter meeting is to provide a place where the SCRA leadership, the executive committee, get together in person for a 2 ½ day meeting where we discuss and approve budget requests, share reports and accomplishments for the year, and do planning for the coming year around major SCRA initiatives. The executive committee includes the presidential stream (past, current, and president-elect), SCRA officers including the executive director, secretary, and treasurer, representatives from the SCRA councils, representatives from the SCRA publications, student representatives, members-at-large, and others. Several new members to the EC noted that attending this meeting enabled them to learn about so many exciting initiatives that are happening in SCRA of which they were previously unaware, as well as provided a fuller scope of activities in which our members engage. Additionally, some new members of the EC remarked that the executive committee functioning, such as the mid-winter meeting, seemed a bit opaque when they were members, prior to joining the EC. Therefore, in the current column, I will speak a bit more about what we did during this mid-winter meeting and some of the work that is underway in the coming year. This fits with the ongoing challenge for the SCRA leadership to be transparent in our processes and provide more information to the membership how SCRA initiatives and programs meet our values and goals.
When planning for the future, reviewing where we are at as an organization is important so that we can build on our current successes. At our mid-winter meeting, in support of the diversity and inclusion agenda, we reviewed existing diversity-related information as it pertains to our educational programs, our award recipients, and diversity of the leadership itself. We also reviewed member input from a recent membership survey to gauge members’ perceptions, feedback, experiences, challenges, and calls for action to the leadership around diversity and inclusion. Highlighting this diversity-related information more explicitly in the future is important so that this information is more accessible to the membership at large.
Our websites, www.scra27.org and www.communitypsychology.com, already play an important role in documenting and sharing this diversity-related information, including showcasing member contributions, community work, innovative research, and the scope and impact of community research and practice in many settings. The www.communitypsychology.com website in particular has been a wonderful resource for the field of community psychology, for our organization, and to provide more information about community psychology to the general public. It has been instrumental in publicizing the policy briefs and advocacy work that are having a positive impact to address societal injustices such as family separations at the border. As our members continue to add to these pages, this website will be an important medium for our membership and for the public at large to know what we are doing.
At the EC meeting, we also engaged in much discussion and planning to push forward the diversity and inclusion initiative. This work involves not only what SCRA is doing right, but also what challenges remain when promoting diversity, inclusion, and participation for all of our members. This work involves examining our own processes, both within the executive committee and within the organization, among our membership at all levels (undergraduate, graduate students, early career individuals, mid- and late-career individuals), and at our events and conferences. This is difficult to do, but I am pleased that so many of our executive committee members, and, by extension, the council, committee, and interest group members, are energized to do this work and carry forth this agenda. Of primary concern to the EC is to not merely pay lip service to these important values, but to build upon our current successes and to further institutionalize fair and inclusive processes for all of our members. The EC members came up with many ideas in this regard, and a task force was formed to create a theory of change for this diversity and inclusion agenda.
As part of this diversity and inclusion agenda, we also created a task force that will revisit the awards structure and make recommendations for the future. Most awards, as many of you know, were on a moratorium for this past year because the EC had so many concerns about issues of equity, fairness, and inclusivity. Additionally, there were questions about whether the existing award structure is clearly and intentionally aligned with our current goals and mission. Again, the EC members are quite enthused and ready to take on this work, and there were many ideas generated regarding how to revise the existing award structures. Of particulate note, many of the EC members expressed the desire to use our awards to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of people across all level of their careers (student, early career, mid- and late career); to recognize the ‘unsung heroes’ who are working to support the pillars of SCRA in many different areas, sometimes in quiet ways; to recognize those who are pursuing innovative change (i.e., the agitators/disruptors); and to recognize the ‘elephants’ in our field, i.e. more senior members that generously share their experiences and wisdom, who exhibit truly exemplary accomplishments in research, teaching, leadership, practice, and systems change, and who work to support the community psychologists and students who come after them.
Related to this, the EC also agreed to participate in a self-assessment of its structure and roles, to ensure that the EC’s size, member roles, and functioning is optimal so that decision-making processes are themselves fair, inclusive, representative and supportive of all of our members. This might involve some structural changes to the EC itself in the future, and I believe that the EC members were all enthusiastic about the opportunity to make changes to the EC itself in an intentional manner to ensure better functioning in the long-term.
In addition to reading The Community Psychologist, I encourage you to become more involved with the councils and interest groups if you want to get a better sense of what all is occurring in SCRA and to know where opportunities exist to develop connections, receive support, and utilize resources. While it can be challenging to find the time to be part of such a group, attending periodic Zoom or conference group meetings is a wonderful way to get one’s foot in the door to simply learn about what is occurring. From there, one can start to think about whether one might like to get involved in the future. Also, participating in these meetings is a great way to voice your own opinions about where these various groups are heading and what larger agenda SCRA should take up. For example, the diversity and inclusion initiative was started precisely as a result of much feedback through discussions at the biennial, through feedback from councils where dissatisfaction with the status quo around diversity and inclusion have been verbalized, and through feedback and comments from the membership survey. I am excited for the opportunity to take on the challenges made to us by our membership so that we can strengthen our organization and community psychology as a field.