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Volume 48 Number 4
Pacific Lutheran University
The attraction of community psychology was for me its stated principles of openness to and appreciation of diversity, understanding of behaviors from a contextual perspective, and the empowerment of communities to realize their potentials as a medium for health and growth. These continue to be foundational to the community psychology of the 21st century. In my first presidential column, what I have to report are the successes and continuing challenges within our society at realizing these aspirations. This is a report on the work of others, who have brought us to this place. They have worked hard and long over many years to help us to define who we are and how we work.
From the data we have at present, our membership has not only been maintained but it has also grown over the last two years. In a time where nationally, organizations report problems in membership, we are doing well, not just in numbers but in the vibrancy of that membership, with students, and early career members making up significant numbers within that membership and in our governance.
We also come off of a biennial meeting that saw more participants than ever. My understanding is that over 700 people attended. At that biennial, I observed many round table sessions that grew beyond their limits, requiring ever growing circles to hold all their participants. In the ones that I attended, there was excitement over the topic and many desiring to make connections and future plans to work together. Among the meetings were discussions of the violence against and within our communities, the importance of spirituality within our work, and discussions of the “community toolbox” as a resource for community capacity building. There was consideration of the need for dialogue between liberal and conservative viewpoints within the field, and talk of social justice. The opening session was both broad and deep in content, acknowledging the fiftieth year since Swampscott. And there was significant comment from the audience, challenging us all to think of theory, of real life application, of diversity of research methodologies and ways of knowing, and of international perspectives on developments in the field. At least to my estimation, the original Swampscott attendees would have enjoyed the spirit, and at the same time, not recognized the increasing diversity of their original thoughts and applications. I would like to think that they might say, “This is as it should be.”
In other venues within psychology, I note that at the American Psychological Association meetings, one of our members received a Distinguished Achievement Award for his work in Applied Research. This is the second year in which our members have been recognized for their work and achievements. Two of our members received Distinguished Achievement Awards last year. Congratulations go to all these individuals, who come from research, theory and applications in community psychology. This could be seen as recognition of community psychology from the broader field of psychology.
The American Journal of Community Psychology continues to grow and strengthen. There is a new contract with a new publisher, which will provide stability and will support our goal of a significant presence in the scientific literature within psychology and beyond to allied scientific and application fields.
There was a remarkable passage of legislation in the APA that directed the cessation of psychologist’s presence in intelligence interrogations (http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/08/07/430361597/psychology-group-votes-to-ban-members-from-taking-part-in-interrogations). As well, there were mechanisms put into place, which would establish processes to aid in future deliberations in regards to ethical issues. Our members have been actively involved in this process and among its strongest advocates.
By these measures and others, the division is active and well on a number of levels, and given a number of indices. Yet as a dynamic organization, there continue to be issues and concerns, which will draw our attention. The evolution of the administration of the division continues apace. There are the concerns of effectiveness and efficiency for a division which has an active and growing membership at the council, committee, task force, and working group levels. From a meeting of the chairs of committees and task forces at the biennial arose a recommendation for regular meetings throughout the year. We continue to look for opportunities for our members to be actively involved and represented in the society’s work. Toward these ends, a strategic planning process is ongoing as we speak.
The society is engaged in the world, the discipline and the profession and it continues to evolve and change. The search for balance continues to challenge us: between taking advantage of opportunity and not being overwhelmed with tasks, between establishing our identity and our openness to others, between the wide variety of professionals and the students who make up our membership. Fifty years after Swampscott, and forty-nine years after the application to create a division of Community Psychology, within the APA, we are vital and active, we are facing the new challenges of continuing change and growth. If we were to measure SCRA’s status in terms of membership numbers, its biennial conference attendance, the growing recognition of our members at the national level, its journal, the activities of its members in the important social issues of our times, we would say that things are going well. But as Robert Frost might nudge us, there are “miles to go before we sleep.” It is my honor and privilege to come into the presidency at this time and to report on the successes of a very active and engaged membership and look to ways to encourage the positive trends that have been established and to be open to the new issues and opportunities which will unfold before us in these most interesting of times.