Volume 52   Number 2 Spring 2019

The Community Practitioner

Edited by Nicole Freund, Wichita State University Community Engagement Institute Center for Applied Research and Evaluation

Getting Ready for the Year Ahead: A Year in Review

Written by Olya Glantsman, Depaul University and Nicole Freund, Wichita State University

Olya_Glantsman.jpgNicole Freund

One of the aims of the Community Psychology Practice Council (CPPC) is to support community psychology practice in settings outside academic institutions and increase the visibility of this work. In 2018, the CPPC continued to expand the visibility, reach, and impact of community psychology practice through opportunities for connection, support, and professional development across SCRA and other professional organizations and committees. We did that by helping to:

  • Continue conversations about defining practice,
  • Demonstrate the effectiveness of community work,
  • Increase opportunities to be seen as legitimate and acknowledged,
  • Increase the visibility of Community Psychology practice, and
  • Provide individual and institutional support.

This column will highlight some of the work done in 2018 and the plans forming for the coming year.

Activity: Community Mini-Grants

The CPPC Community Mini-Grants were designed to offer community-based members and programs actively practicing community psychology a small amount of funding to support that work. Practitioners recognize that when working directly with communities, often large sums of money are not required to catalyze meaningful change. In this way, mini-grants could support the important work within communities, provide a mechanism for SCRA members to build local relationships, and strengthen membership by offering SCRA members the benefit of access to these grants. The activity of mini-grant awards supports both membership and visibility (since grantees promote SCRA as a funder and the applicant is required to have an active membership).

Last year, the CPPC continued to provide starter funds for larger community interventions that engaged local community members via the SCRA Community Mini-Grants program. In its 8th year, the Community Mini-Grants program funded a total of 11 impactful, community-based grants. Initiatives included assessing the substance abuse needs of an underserved community, using participatory research for empowerment in a community outside the US, investigating homelessness in college students, and promoting civic responsibility among university students. The diverse communities and needs attended to in these projects speak to broad application of community psychology in practice.

Additionally, students are an important segment that CPPC activities hope to support. Many of the mini-grant applicants this past year, and over the last eight years, have been students seeking to engage in community-based work. Successfully completed grants help to model what community work looks like and build skills that may not be directly taught in either undergraduate or graduate classes.

Activity: Peer Consultation Calls

Monthly Peer Consultation Calls offer CPPC members the opportunity to connect and learn from other practitioners. These calls continued in 2018 and were recently revamped into Conversations that Raise Your Practice Game to revitalize the call and attract new participants. Six Peer Consultation Calls occurred prior to the new format and three Conversations occurred in 2018. On average 3-5 participants attended the Peer Consultation Calls and the three Conversations have yielded 10-12 participants, implying the new format is more successful and does a better job of convening and connecting practitioners. This initiative supports most directly the membership strategic priority by increasing member growth and engagement, while providing theoretical and practical support to the members of the group (e.g., increases sense of community, prepares participants for the work in communities, increases their practical knowledge base, increases their marketability, etc.). All practitioners and members who participate in the calls develop professionally either through direct advice on a current project or by building network connections. Practitioners and several academics who teach practitioners have benefitted from the calls as exemplars for what community psychology work looks like outside a university setting.

Activity: Ask an Advisor

The Community Toolbox, a service of the Center for Community Health and Development at University of Kansas, provides the Ask an Advisor service to answer questions about community work from community workers across the U.S. and the globe. CPPC members continue to serve as volunteer advisors who work a “shift” for the Ask an Advisor service. Ask an Advisor has been supported by CPPC members since its beginning nearly a decade ago and supports visibility by establishing professional presence in a place of direct service to thousands of community workers. 

2019 Plans

Changing the format of the “Peer Consultation Calls” to the conversation format is one new way the council is working to address the needs of its members. The calls have been gaining traction and, guided by the interest of the members, successfully continue into 2019. Additional short-term plans include revitalizing the leadership with new elections, and outreach to members to determine the most salient new priorities that should be undertaken in the coming year. This includes revisiting the Community Action Bulletin and the Community Practice Blog and looking for other ways to fulfill the CPPC mission beyond current activities.

Several CPPC-sponsored programs were submitted for the 2019 Biennial, and the Council hopes to continue the “Community Mini-Grants” program should funding become available. The CPPC also plans to explore sustainable ways to brand and promote its activities.

The council welcomes diverse voices and hopes those voices feel included and safe. Much of the work highlighted through CPPC activities seeks to serve traditionally underserved populations, but more could be done to seek diverse leadership and representation within SCRA. For more information or to get involved, contact the CPPC at similar to that described here.