Volume 24 Number 2 
Spring 2014

Public Policy

Edited by Douglas D. Perkins and Kenneth Maton

Advocacy, Collaboration, Capacity Building and Development: A Year in Review from the Policy Committee

Written by J’Vonnah Maryman, Kenneth Maton, and Douglas D. Perkins

Public policy can be understood as a deliberate course of action that affects the people as a whole, now and in the future (Cordray & Morphy, 2007).  The SCRA Public Policy Committee seeks to affect policy through advocacy, collaboration, capacity building and development. In 2013 the committee embarked upon a number of new and challenging endeavors creating avenues to spread the reach of policy work.

Advocacy.  Advocacy is an integral component of the work of the policy committee. Through the creation of policy position statements, the committee is able to communicate SCRA’s perspective on pressing social issues and matters of public health and well-being. These statements provide clear, succinct summaries of scientific research and accumulated knowledge from practice accompanied by recommendations to policy makers and the general public.  In 2013, a policy position statement was generated by Lenny Jason and colleagues on “Recovery Residences for Addiction”. Work is about to begin on three new position statements and/or advocacy campaigns: one through a new SCRA Task Force announced by Pres. Fabricio Balcazar and led by Brad Olson on problems related to Mass Incarceration; another on policies related to Juvenile Justice and spearheaded by Robin Jenkins and Jen Wollard; and the latest one on immigration reform led by Fabricio Balcazar. Anyone wanting to assist in any of those efforts are welcome to contact Brad, Robin or Jen or Fabricio. Information about current policy position statements and the development of new ones can be found on the policy committee’s website.  For position statement proposals that are approved by the Committee, funding up to $500 can be requested to assist in the development of a statement.

The committee also reviewed its established advocacy Rapid Response Procedures. These procedures provide a mechanism for SCRA, as an organization, to evaluate and potentially adopt public stances or action plans on public policy issues of a time sensitive nature. A “Call to membership to contact legislatures and public forums regarding gun legislation” and aCall to membership to Act regarding Sequester Cuts” were the rapid response actions submitted and approved by the SCRA Policy Committee and Executive Committee (EC) over the past year.

The calls for action (i.e., advocacy initiatives) generated by members of the Committee and other subscribers to SCRA-L over the past year drew the attention of APA staff, which led to some constructive ongoing discussions between APA, the SCRA EC and Administrative Director, and Policy Committee Co-Chairs over issue advocacy, and particularly the use of the SCRA-L listserv, which is managed by APA.  It is explicitly clear that APA values the advocacy efforts of SCRA members and is interested in increasing the level of APA-SCRA collaboration around policy issues.  However, SCRA members should know that it is not permissible for members to post political calls for action on APA listservs (including SCRA-L) without prior review and approval of APA (as provided for in the revised SCRA Rapid Response Procedures).  However, SCRA members may post calls to political action using non-APA listservs/forums (such as the Yahoo group for SCRA Policy Committee members).  Such posts on non-APA media should include a disclaimer about not representing APA or SCRA.  Although this restriction on political use of SCRA-L is unfortunate, we were encouraged by APA staff’s interest in collaboration with SCRA and the opportunity to raise the level of awareness about community psychology by working with them.  For example, the APA Directorates could send materials about education or policy opportunities to the APA membership list of 130,000 psychologists!

Collaboration & Capacity Building.  Taken together, collaboration and capacity building have aided the committee in expanding its policy reach. In June, 2013 the committee partnered with the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) to present a two-day “Short Course in Policy Involvement by Psychologists”.  David Chavis and Ken Maton presented one of the sessions. Collaboration with the SPSSI Policy Committee has recently led to a joint working group focusing on climate change (including Manuel Riemer, Holly Angelique, Kati Corlew, and Marci Culley from SCRA), participation of SPSSI experts on the SCRA Task Force on Mass Incarceration, and a cross divisional symposium with SPSSI at the 2014 APA Conference.

The committee continued its collaborative efforts through work with the Prevention Project, a group advocating for the governmental adoption of a “Prevention Model” for use in multiple domains of public policy. This involvement included contributing to a white paper and two Congressional briefings. For the September 2013 briefing, Policy Committee practicum student Taylor Scott helped to record and edit a video of the briefing, and for the January 2014 briefing Taylor served as session moderator (see the Winter 2013, TCP policy column by Taylor Scott on this collaboration).

Capacity is being built through the continued implementation of a Policy Grant Award Program. The policy committee recently completed its third cycle of grant awards. The grants program builds capacity by creating an avenue for funding, research and practice relating to policy.  Sixteen applicants submitted grants during the third, most recent funding cycle. Grant awardees for this cycle were:

  • Neil Boyd: The Affordable Care Act: Policy education, mobilization, & evaluation.  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) Pilot Program aims to increase knowledge, access, and infrastructure regarding the ACA. The project will seek to create an infrastructure to facilitate enrollment in the health insurance market place, provide education about the Affordable Care Act and study individual influencers relative to enrollment. The pilot program will be implemented across a wide area of central Pennsylvania.
  • Melissa Strompolis & Megan Branham: Influencing prevention policy through effective communication with legislators and stakeholders.  Children’s Trust of South Carolina works to prevent child abuse, neglect and unintentional injuries so that every child has the opportunity to thrive in a healthy, nurturing environment. This project will survey members of the South Carolina Legislature as well as the Safe Kids Coalition to measure engagement, community involvement and advocacy capacity. This project emphasizes prevention, wellness and collaboration as a way to benefit children and families in South Carolina.  
  • Dawn Henderson: Alternative spaces: Examining alternative learning centers impact and policy implications on out-of-school suspension.  Over the past ten years, North Carolina has been one of the top 10 states with the highest suspension and expulsion rates in the nation (ranking 5th in 2000 and 3rd in 2006; National Center for Education Statistics, 2012). This project will study alternative learning centers as a means to reduce OSS and keep youth in a regular school environment with the hopes to promote policies that reduce the number of youth, primarily minority and low-income, receiving OSS. Data will be collected for this project over the course of three years.

Training is another way in which the policy committee builds capacity. During the 2013 Biennial Conference preconference workshops, symposium and roundtable sessions were held. The committee created a practicum program for community psychologist students.  The practicum program goals are 1) to provide opportunities for student SCRA members  to gain experience in public policy to advance Core Competency #15: Public Policy Analysis, Development and Advocacy and 2) to develop a template that could be adopted and used by faculty of training programs of CPs to enhance policy experience. The need for such a tool was illustrated by a survey of graduate CP programs that found Public Policy training was infrequently offered in existing CP graduate programs.

Development.  Finally, development of membership and communication efforts is integral to ensuring an active policy committee. Over the past year the policy committee has seen growth in its membership. Currently there are 64 members with approximately 20 members actively participating in policy committee calls or email discussion. Efforts to identify ways to further increase the involvement of student members are underway. Communication efforts are being strengthened through the development of a new policy committee website that will allow the membership to stay up to date with the policy activities of the committee.  The committee is excited about all that was accomplished in 2013 and all that will be accomplished in 2014. Additional members are needed to continue the work planned.  Those interested in joining the committee may do so by contacting either Ken Maton or Doug Perkins.          


Cordray, D. S., & Morphy, P. A. U. L. (2009). Research synthesis and public policy. The handbook of research synthesis and meta-analysis, 473-494.



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