Community Practice Vignette - Joanne Basta
SCRA Community Psychology Practice Council
Learning More about Community Practice Work
Your Name: Joanne Basta
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Name of workplace(s): Private Consultant, home office, JBasta Consulting LLC
Title(s): Independent private consultant for research and evaluation
Website: none, on Linked in
How would you prefer to be contacted? (Please mark all that apply)
[ X ] E-mail
[ X ] Telephone
[ ] Snail Mail
[ ] Other
Please list any professional affiliations that relate to your community psychology practice.
American Evaluation Association
Arizona Evaluation Network
In which of the following formats would you be interested in sharing your account? (Please mark all that apply)
I might be interested in all depending on the time and what it would involve.
Website Book Journal Article in "The Community Psychologist"
Would you be willing to participate in longer interview or answer more questions via e-mail or a longer questionnaire? (Please mark all that apply)
[ X ] Telephone Interview
[ ] Video Interview
[ X ] Longer Questionnaire
[ ] No
Questions about Your Community Psychology Practice
Please describe the work you do, for pay, as a community psychologist, including the setting(s) where you work?
I don't really "identify" myself as a community psychologist in my professional work per se, but I have definitely have used its philosophy, values, and methods in my work. I am an independent program evaluation/research consultant. I design, plan and conduct program evaluations and research in the social sector, primarily for human service and education programs. I have been doing this work now for over 15 years.
What training/education do you have in community psychology?
I have a Ph.D. in Ecological / Community Psychology from Michigan State University.
Please describe how your training/education contributed to your work as a community psychologist. What do you view as the most important skills you learned in your training as a community psychologist.
Community psychology has instilled in me the value of viewing social problems and social conditions within context. It has taught me to understand that social conditions are an interaction between the individual and the environment, and that a community psychologist must be knowledgeable about the political environment and theories of social change. These are powerful constructs that I try to apply in my work and learn about as I apply them. My training provided me with a solid methodological foundation in the experimental/quasi-experimental design and quantitative approaches that has served me well in my career. Don Campbell's concept of an experimenting society and the science of social innovations was a deep current in my training, and I still have an enduring interest in the creation, adoption, and dissemination of social innovations. My training also emphasized a multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach which has been useful to me since I have worked on multi-disciplinary teams where collaboration was required or necessary for success.
What other experiences or training have contributed to or enhanced your ability to work as a community psychologist?
I have worked in both the public and private sectors: for large universities, local governments, and for a for-profit evaluation/research company. More recently, I started my own consulting business that provides program evaluation and research services. I have conducted a wide range of program evaluations and research activities over the years. All of them involved projects or programs that were intended to make the "community" better or to change the social welfare or conditions of people. I guess one of the benefits of getting older is that I have created a large toolbox of experiences and skills that I can draw from which makes me more effective with my current projects. What I could generalize across all of these experiences as a practitioner is the need to be flexible and adaptable to the context and situation while also applying scientific rigor and incisive thought and analysis. Another is to be open to using other methods or approaches that may be outside of one's comfort & knowledge zone. I try to practice humility and not delude myself into thinking I know it all or can do it all. I seek help, build a multi-skilled team (if possible) or refer the client or project to others who can better address a community or organization's needs if I feel that I cannot. Good professional relationships are a priority for practicing in the community since good relationships build trust. Relationships and trust are built on mutual respect, listening and clear communication-AND-- delivering on what you say can do for them. Hard work and preparation is another key thing. While all of these things may seem obvious or cliché they should be taken seriously. In most of the projects or work where I got into trouble, it was because I did not listen carefully, communicated in a sloppy manner, or did not do the necessary preparation, or all of the above!
I have maintained professional connections with program evaluation. I have been a member of the American Evaluation Association for many years and have attended their conferences and professional development offerings. I have also been a long-standing member of the board for the Arizona Evaluation Network (I recently stepped down). It is important to network with like-minded professionals and stay connected with new developments and technologies in the field. I was a member of SCRA27 and then lapsed. Two years ago I felt the need to re-connect with my "roots" for professional and personal reasons. Professionally, I thought it might help with my new consulting business, and personally, I wanted to know what other community psychologists were doing and if I could learn more or enhance my knowledge.
Are there other ways you use your community psychology background and training, either unpaid or in paid roles other than your primary work?
Yes, I have used my applied research skills as a volunteer and board member for two non-profit organizations. Examples are: assisting with their strategic planning process, reviewing grant proposals, designing membership surveys, and providing consultation on developing program logic models.
What advice might you give to students or people considering community psychology as a career?
One - You have to be flexible, adaptive, and like people. In some ways, I feel that a cultural anthropological orientation is helpful, in the sense of having a strong curiosity about what makes people, groups, organizations and communities tick. On the other hand, you should like research and be comfortable with a degree of social isolation that goes with the need to conduct careful research or study. Community psychology is not therapy or direct practice. Also, individuals drawn to this field tend to engage in social advocacy and activism and believe that community psychology is the same thing because it has the goal of creating positive social conditions. It is not the same thing. It is an applied social science. Science values objectivity, careful observation, and replicability. If you do not value or like science then it you should not pursue community psychology.
Second - learn a second or third language and be able to use it in your work. I regret that I don't have this skill. If you want to be a practitioner I think it is essential now due to the global nature of social problems/conditions. If you can, study and/or work in another country. This will broaden and deepen your background and skills and provide opportunities to practice humility and tolerance.
Is there anything else you would like to say about your role as a community psychology practitioner?
I enjoy my work primarily because:
- it bridges research and practice
- attempts to ameliorate social problems
- and can be challenging and rewarding