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Volume 54, Number 1 Winter 2021
Submitted by Regional Coordinators
Tonya Hall, Chicago State University
Moshood Olanrewaju, National Louis University
An individual’s sense of belonging often established via positive social relationships is essential to human health promotion and survival. Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory posits that a person’s development is influenced by her or his social relationships and interactions with the environment (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). Establishing social relationships can have both positive and negative aspects on one’s health. Cohen (2004) argued “Social networks provide emotional, informational, and material support; regulate behavior; and offer opportunities for social engagement. They also provide modes of contact to spread disease and the opportunity for conflict, exploitation, stress transmission, misguided attempts to help, and feelings of loss and loneliness. These potentially negative aspects of networks can act as psychological stressors resulting in cognitive, affective, and biological responses thought to increase risk for poor health (p. 680).” Strengthening the positive while simultaneously minimizing the negative aspects of social relationship and network building are essential now more than ever during the present age of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, on the contrary, due to the pandemic residents in most if not all States- whether they agree or disagree with public health officials- are currently required to minimize most forms of social interactions with other people as well as their environments. For example, individuals are required to stay home and quarantine, work and attend school and conferences online using various virtual applications and platforms and forego most social and religious activities. This leaves little to no time to build positive social relationships and experience positive social interactions that often serve to reduce one’s stress like playing a game of golf with peers, frequenting a gymnasium, having a cheerful brief conversation and chuckle with a coworker in passing, gathering together with other Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA) members for a backyard barbecue or pizza after an SCRA Eco or MPA conference, or simply eating lunch or grabbing a cup of coffee with one another.
Community psychologists and community psychology researchers are equipped to fulfill a societal need by seizing the moment to pivot and use this challenging period of time for many to serve as catalysts for collectively establishing safe (i.e., free from all forms of racism, hate, discrimination, and microaggressions) and healthy (i.e., acceptance of culturally diverse individuals) communities that support positive social interactions, relationship building and social networking. This may be accomplished by their full participation in existing community psychology communities such as SCRA’s Committees and Councils (https://www.scra27.org/who-we-are/committees-and-interest-groups/), Interest Groups (https://www.scra27.org/who-we-are/interest-groups/), and/or Midwest U.S. Regional activities (https://www.scra27.org/who-we-are/regional-activities/midwest-region/) such as the Midwest Ecological Psychology conference and the APA Midwestern Psychological Association (MPA) SCRA Affiliated conference.
Being an active SCRA member allows you to be a part of a community of people with similar interests. Have you partnered with other SCRA members lately? What type of SCRA-related events have you participated in recently (e.g., a meeting, ECO or other regional conference, formed a new collaboration, posted your opinions on the SCRA Listserv, requested or provided resources on the Listserv)? What was your experience like? Was it positive such as networking that resulted in your forming a new collaboration that advanced your work or negative such as attending a meeting but not feeling welcomed? As a SCRA member your participation can help to establish positive social relationships and social networking for yourself as well as others even during the coronavirus pandemic. If you are not a member, join SCRA today and make a difference (https://www.scra27.org/members1/membership/).
If you are already a SCRA member, we hope you are giving back to your SCRA community? Consider taking on a leadership role such as helping to host the Midwest Regional ECO 2021 conference or serving as a SCRA Midwest Regional Coordinator or SCRA Midwest Student Regional Coordinator. SCRA needs your help with administering one of these three roles! You can make a difference. Contact Dr. Tonya Hall at email@example.com for more details.
Change starts with an individual. Community begins with an individual. Case in point, a couple of years ago the SCRA Midwest Regional Coordinators were attending a SCRA conference, networking and seeking to recruit a host for Midwest ECO. They were referred to Dr. August Hoffman who was sharing his research on the psychological and social benefits of community gardening, natural green space and urban forestry. Dr. Hoffman is an active SCRA member, a Professor of Psychology at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota, a 2020 APA Division 27 Society for Community Research Action (SCRA), and Fellow and recipient of the 2020 Metropolitan State University President’s Civic Engagement Leadership Award. Dr. Hoffman agreed to lead the efforts to host the next Eco conference despite his busy schedule because he has a passion for community psychology. He then recruited and partnered with his colleague, Dr. Stephen Stelzner, a Professor of Psychology at College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University St. Joseph, MN. Together they recruited students, who as is the tradition, volunteered, organized and spearheaded an outstanding, most attended and first ever virtual Eco conference 2020. The students included Autumn Kirkendall, Rick Taylor, Stephanie Lam, Barbara Ovalle, Lucia Rivas, and Moshood Olanrewaju.
Thank you to our unsung heroes who currently volunteer tirelessly as SCRA Regional Coordinators (https://www.scra27.org/who-we-are/regional-activities/). Also, we would like to thank Moshood Olanrewaju, a graduate student in Community Psychology at National Louis University, for his faithful three years of service as the Midwest SRC. We welcome Wendy de los Reyes Moore, a graduate student in Community Psychology at DePaul University who will start as Midwest Student Regional Coordinator in January 2021.
If you do not have time to take on a new leadership role in SCRA currently but are interested in staying connected by attending upcoming community psychology conferences and events held in the Midwest, then prepare to attend the MPA SCRA affiliated virtual conference to be held on April 22-24, 2021 (http://midwesternpsych.org/). Although we are past accepting any new proposals for this conference, we hope you will attend. Many thanks to this year’s team of reviewers. Decisions will be sent and registration available as of January 2021. Contact Dr. Michael Bernstein for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org) about MPA. Also, a SCRA MIDWEST Zoom session will be held in January and all SCRA members are invited to attend to check-in to see what other members are accomplishing. Plan to attend. Have a Happy New Year 2021!
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Harvard university press.
Cohen, S. (2004). Social Relationships and Health. American Psychologist, 59(8), 676-684. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.59.8.676
Rachel Hershberg, University of Washington Tacoma; Erin Rose Ellison, California State University-Sacramento
On December 1-2, The International Surf Therapy Organization (ISTO) will conduct its inaugural virtual conference, MAKING WAVES. According to CEO Kris Primacio, the purpose of the conference is twofold: first, promote inclusion, diversity, and equality in the ocean; second, promote surf therapy as a mental health solution.
Accordingly, MAKING WAVES will host a wide array of transdisciplinary panelists to discuss the mental health benefits of surfing, creating safe spaces for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), protecting Mother Ocean/Earth, restoring the ocean to a place of healing for women, and so much more. Experts running surf therapy programs in Sri Lanka, Somalia, New Zealand, and Sierra Leone will explain how they reinvent the lineup. ISTO's motto, "go far, go together," is lived out by focusing on establishing diversity in the ocean together.
World-renowned surf photographer Aaron Chang a Keynote Speaker at the ISTO 2019 conference, said, "I think this can permeate through the medical world, throughout industries, and this can be the start of a whole new awareness...it feels good to be in the water. We can't explain it...I think these people have the academic training and skillsets to give that feeling a definition and deploy it where it can help a lot of people."
One of ISTO's organizational goals is to gather recognized evidence to advocate for surf therapy as a standard form of healthcare. In April of this year, the Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice published the "Special Issue on Surf Therapy Around the Globe" facilitated by ISTO. The first of its kind academic journal helps establish unshakable proof for surf therapy. Wallace J. Nichols, another Keynote Speaker at their 2019 conference, and author of Blue Mind, stated, "I think in the room you got researchers, organizations, nonprofits, pro surfers…It's all the ingredients you need to take this to the next level. The distinguishing factor is the heart. People who love the ocean because it saved their life are unstoppable. You can build barriers and walls, you can unfund them, you can make it bureaucracy, but you can't stop them. That's what you feel. You don't feel that at every conference."
ISTO’s upcoming symposium, "MAKING WAVES: Through Inclusion, Diversity, and Equality in the Lineups," will focus on challenges related to accessing healthcare services, which continue to reverberate through society in the wake of 2020. As speakers will discuss, surf therapy is a method of intervention using surfing as a structured activity to promote psychological, physical, and psychosocial well-being. Surf therapy organizations exist worldwide to serve vulnerable youth, Veterans, people with disabilities, first-responders, individuals caught in addiction, homelessness, crime, and more. And ISTO works to connect these groups and facilitate a global community of surf therapy organizations. Through the power of partnership, ISTO Contributors increase the recognition and use of surf therapy as a proven health intervention by sharing outcomes and communication tools.
To learn more about this conference please visit this website: https://whova.com/web/istos_202009/
The international Regions include Asia, Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific, Canada, Europe/Middle East/Africa, and Latin America
8th International Conference of Community Psychology: Melbourne Australia
The 8th International Conference of Community Psychology was held from November 11-13th. International delegates from more than 25 countries met virtually on the ONAir platform to hear presentations on the Conference theme of Fostering and sustaining solidarities – communities, activism, knowledges & environment and to strengthen solidarity, create new networks and partnerships and share knowledges. All scheduled sessions were recorded and are now available to participants on the conference platform. Delegates also have access to an additional 80 pre-recorded Open Oral, Ignite and e-poster presentations stored in a Resource Gallery so it was a veritable smorgasbord of inspiration and resources. In line with Community Psychology’s principles of equity, sustainability and wellbeing, it is worth noting that these outcomes were achieved with zero carbon emissions for flights, printouts, conference binders, delegate name tags, food, accommodation and other face-to-face conference costs. Delegates were reminded during the Conference by Indigenous and other leaders that the planet and sustainable ecology of the planet, its peoples and other living beings must be prioritized over narrow agendas. The 8th International Conference of Community Psychology was a living example of how virtual meetings can sustain solidarity, knowledge development and relationality without the luxuries of first world travel.
The conference sub-theme of “knowledges for sustainable futures” invited and attracted participants who engage with critical theories and ways of working that have been produced in various countries and contexts, often referred to as the global south. Participants were privileged to hear stories of wellbeing, resistance from collectives and communities from India, Mexico, Indonesia, New Zealand, Italy, South Africa, Puerto Rico, Australia and the United States. Presentations demonstrated the diversity and similarities of community responses to social, environmental and cultural violence, degradation and exploitation. The similarities of the challenges and diversity of global approaches was a wonderful opportunity to think more about how to advance community research and action towards its goals of liberation, community and wellness. Participants were privileged to hear from many Indigenous activists and theorists whose prescient voices have engaged with these issues for hundreds and thousands of years.
The conference met its promise to be a fantastic opportunity to be invigorated by diverse critical epistemological and methodological tools and critical reflexivity. The conference was sponsored and organized by Victoria University and the APS (Australian Psychological Society). Hosts in partnership were Moondani Balluk Academic Unit and the Melbourne Convention Bureau. For further information please visit the conference website at https://communitypsychologyaustralia.com.au/.
If you are a current SCRA member and would be willing to maintain a collegial support system in your region please forward your name and contact details Katie Thomas at email@example.com. Following the momentum of the conference this is a continuing opportunity to set up support and mentoring networks across the regions for solidarity and support.