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The
Community
Psychologist

Volume 48 Number 1
Winter 2015

From the President

Bret Kloos

University of South Carolina

Expanding how we “Give Away” Community Psychology

Bret Kloos large

As we prepare for another biennial conference, I have been encouraged by the diversity of topics, experiences, and collaborations that have been proposed for presentations this June.  These include sessions on promoting racial equality, community perspectives on healing from trauma, and promoting social inclusion for people with disabilities.  Session proposals include continuing discussions from previous conferences, such as prevention and promotion of resilience across contexts, resources for education, and hands-on skill building in community psychology practice and research.  There are newer topics, such as considerations reproductive justice and sexuality, collaborative program development with homeless youth, or technology-based interventions for engaging under-served populations.  Discussions on our listserv are connecting people with ideas for presentation in different countries, let alone different cities.  Technology infrastructure plays a critical role in facilitating connection and communication between people with similar interests.  

It strikes me that the ways we organize proposals for biennial conferences has changed over the past 25 years.  Use of the internet for communicating has been gradual enough that “old-timers” do not notice that we are making fewer phone calls to organize sessions, or that our sessions have increasingly included people who work in different locations.  The standard presentations that I recall from early conferences were sessions of people from one site and perhaps a discussant for elsewhere.  Now, it is more common that people are collaborating from many different sites, and perhaps did not even know each other before preparing the proposal.  Our listserv regularly includes open invitations for people to “link-up” based upon common interest rather than past working relationship.  The prospects for cross-fertilization of ideas, dissemination of new approaches, and the development and connections have expanded with our technological infrastructure.   For a growing number of community psychologists, use of the internet for planning and proposing biennial sessions has always been part of how people connect in SCRA.   Of course, these observations are not new information, but they give me pause to consider what SCRA can do to facilitate the development of the field through these newer media.

For new generations of community psychologists, social media, video, and other online initiatives are primary resources for acquiring information and connecting with others.  A growing area of scholarship has identified how students use hybrid information-seeking strategies for their daily information needs; these include online resources, social media, conversations with friends and family.  Perhaps not surprisingly, use of online and social media is a main resource for their academic work … and for how they choose colleges, grad programs, and find information about careers.  Of course, our view of the world, conceptions of social justice, and the need for social change are also shaped by participation in these media as well as books, journals, and our relationships.  Following discussion on our listserv leads me to wonder how we want to engage our next generations of community psychologists.  Where do they go to find information?   How do they view current challenges and opportunities to “make a difference”?  How would they view presentations of community psychology in our textbooks, journals, or website?

Consider the Beloit College Mindset List for students entering college.  The list is created annually with observations of changes in popular culture in the U.S. since the birth of the incoming students and from conversations with students.  It presents “a look at the cultural touchstones and experiences that have shaped the worldview of students entering colleges and universities in the fall” (http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/).  The list combines humorous observations with social commentary in promoting dialogue about engaging new students. For example, since the current first-year college students were born, “Everybody has always Loved Raymond” (#47) and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has always been the only news program that really “gets it right” (#7).  This year’s list notes examples of social change that might be taken for granted:  Women have always attended the Virginia Military Institute and the Citadel (#13), Courts have always been overturning bans on same-sex marriages (#17).  Alternatively, there are likely many events that experienced at critical periods of their development that  shape how they view community life, social justice, and what is considered “normal”:  During their initial weeks of kindergarten, they were upset by endlessly repeated images of planes blasting into the World Trade Center (#1), Affirmative Action has always been outlawed in California (#50). The Mindset List is often used to prepare older generations of college staff to reflect on the perspectives of incoming students and consider ways to engage them in discussions of contemporary social issues.

The Mindset List in 2018 also contained a few items that caught my attention when thinking about how incoming students might learn about community psychology and where we choose to invest SCRA resources in promoting the field to new generations: The water cooler is no longer the workplace social center; it’s the place to fill your water bottle (#11; Attending schools outside their neighborhoods, they gather with friends on Skype, not in their local park (#38); “Good feedback” means getting 30 likes on your last Facebook post in a single afternoon (#53).  Where would these students encounter community psychology?   How many will find our textbooks?  How many discover articles of the American Journal of Community Psychology or have copies of The Community Psychologist shared with them?   How many will attend our biennial conference?  Ultimately, these issues lead me to ask how we intend to “give away” community psychology to incoming students, to potential graduate students, to peers in sibling disciplines, and to community members who might use ideas and skills to make changes where they live.

            Many SCRA members have been discussing various versions of these questions for the past couple of years.  However, SCRA as an organization is behind the curve in developing a social media presence and capacity for people to connect online.  We will continue to have a strong public presence through traditional means of presenting the best work of the field, such as AJCP, TCP, the new SCRA book series, and our conferences. We are only beginning to use our social media and online resources to introduce community psychology to potential students, peers, and community members not already participating in SCRA.  For those not familiar with development of our new media efforts of the past two years, below is a brief overview and encourage you to use these media and to send us feedback.

SCRA Website

An extensive amount of work by Gina Cardazone, Jean Hill, Victoria Scott, Lindsey Zimmerman and others went into creating a new website for SCRA that launched this past summer.  The website (http://www.scra27.org/) allows for more interaction and is easier to navigate. SCRA spent a substantial amount of money to develop the website and an even more substantial number of volunteer hours in creating content and working through bugs to increase its functionality.  A primary challenge for us is how to update the website and use it as a tool for presenting the field.  To meet this challenge, we need more SCRA members who are willing to provide content, to work on the group who manages the web, and to provide feedback.  I strongly encourage members with interests or people who identify a need, to contact the website manager web@scra27.org.

SCRA Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/SCRA27)

Over 400 people have “liked” the SCRA Facebook page, representing about a 33% increase since August 2014.  Our Facebook page provides a forum to share information about articles, conferences, videos, and new developments.  Last year as we began to organize our social media presence, there were more than six Facebook accounts for SCRA.  It was hard to coordinate message and update information.  We hired a social media consultant to help us develop a strategy for social media updates and promoting SCRA.  This strategy is being refined and will be presented at sessions in the upcoming biennial.  In October 2014, the student organized and led Southeast and Midwest ECO conferences created our highest levels of Facebook activity for the year with over 300 posts, re-posts, likes, check-ins for each conference.  If you have ideas of initiatives or want to assist in our development, please contact us at socialmedia@scra27.org.

SCRA Social Media Initiatives: socialmedia@scra27.org

With the assistance of our social media committee, our consultant also helped to advance our presence on Twitter and LinkedIn.   Although some of us were familiar with these media, the consultant shared strategies for increasing the number of followers and for identifying influential Twitter users (i.e. persons who have a large following on Twitter and post regularly).  Over seven months, our Twitter followers grew by 64% to 732 followers, a substantial number of whom had not heard of community psychology or SCRA before and our influential followers doubled to 48.  To maintain these gains, we need to continue posting content and information to build SCRA’s presence in social media.  One idea that we are considering is to develop a social media learning community for SCRA members to can help us think about how to extend our social reach and link those who are not currently involved with SCRA to our various initiatives. 

SCRA Webinar Series: webinar@scra27.org

This past year we launched a pilot webinar series with four sessions running from August to November.  Our social media consultants, Susan Tenby and Willie Kuo, led two sessions focused on how we might use social media.  Lenny Jason and Ken Maton led a session on public policy and social change and Tom Wolff led a session on collaboration and coalition building.  We had 50-70 participants in the sessions and evaluations of the sessions were generally positive.  To facilitate the pilot series, SCRA needed to purchase a telecommunications plan that allowed for video sharing and multiple users as part of our phone plan.  We needed to develop capacity to “staff” the initiatives.  Fortunately, Lindsey Zimmerman invested a large amount of time to lead the planning and implementation of the series.  We discovered that the capacity to have a series will require a substantial investment of time to train speakers in the technology and presentation format and to advertise the series.  To expand this capacity, we will likely need to commit more resources in person power and finances. 

SCRA Member Videosvideo@scra27.org

We have continued the highly successful SCRA video series with 11 new submissions for 2014.  This has been a great outlet for sharing information about the work of our members and a challenge to us to find ways to share our work through social media (e.g., a twitter post of nominated videos).  This will be an ongoing initiative.  Again, if you are interested in promoting its development, please contact the address above.

We have been developing SCRA’s capacity to extend our reach through social media.  These efforts are only a modest start.  The creativity and person power of our members helped to create these initiatives.  SCRA as an organization now has to find effective ways to extend these initiatives to “give away” community psychology in more arenas.  If you are interested in helping to plan and host webinars, build a social media learning community, or maintain and expand our web presence, WE NEED YOU.  Please contact: web@scra27.org, socialmedia@scra27.org, webinar@scra27.org, or video@scra27.org

SCRA SUMMER INSTITUTE AND BIENNIAL CONFERENCE

We have two immediate opportunities to use our social media to generate interest and attendance.  The Inaugural SCRA Summer Institute in Community Psychology will be held on Wednesday, June 24 and Sunday, June 28.   The Summer Institute will be held in conjunction with our biennial conference in Lowell, MA.

The 15th SCRA Biennial Conference will be held at the University of Massachusetts  Lowell  from June 25-28“Celebrating 50 Years of Community Psychology: Bridging Past and Future.”  Encourage colleagues to register for both now.  In the spirit of giving psychology away, you can direct them to our website where they can read more about both initiatives and other activities of SCRA: http://www.scra27.org/event/.

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