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Transformative Participatory Action Research in Community Psychology

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1 Transformative Participatory Action Research in Community Psychology
Isaac Prilleltensky

2 Outline Community psychology: Where we are and where we are going
Well-Being, Oppression, and Liberation Psychopolitical Validity Epistemic Transformational Transformative Participatory Action Research Examples of TPAR Discussion

3 Community Psychology: Where We Are and Where We’re Going
Dimension Where We Are Where We’re Going Explanatory framework Ecological (person, micro, meso, macro, but macro is in the background), focus on risk/protective factors, contextualized but depoliticized Oppression, liberation, well-being (multi-level, ecological  analysis), contextualized and politicized

4 Community Psychology: Where We Are and Where We’re Going
Dimension Where We Are Where We’re Going Place of values and ethics Value-laden (the influence of multiple values is noted), increased attention to ethics at the community level Value-driven, social ethics (primacy of value of social justice)

5 Community Psychology: Where We Are and Where We’re Going
Dimension Where We Are Where We’re Going Research Community-based, primarily positivist, relatively minor emphasis on constructivism Critical constructivist and post-positivist, participatory, action-oriented, and community-based

6 Community Psychology: Where We Are and Where We’re Going
Dimension Where We Are Where We’re Going Focus of intervention Focus on competence and strengths, prevention of problems in living for populations Focus on liberation and well-being for individuals, organizations, and societies

7 Community Psychology: Where We Are and Where We’re Going
Dimension Where We Are Where We’re Going Relationship between disadvantaged community members and CP professional Collaborative model with multiple community stakeholders Accompaniment, solidarity between professionals and disadvantaged community members in their struggle for liberation and well-being through praxis

8 Critical Community Psychology
Carolyn Kagan and Mark Burton’s definition of community psychology captures well what we mean by critical community psychology:  Community psychology offers a framework for working with those marginalized by the social system that leads to self-aware social change with an emphasis on value-based participatory work and the forging of alliances. It is a way of working that is pragmatic and reflexive, whilst not wedded to any particular orthodoxy of method. As such community psychology is one alternative to the dominant individualistic psychology typically taught and practiced in the higher income countries. It is community psychology because it emphasizes a level of analysis and intervention other than the individual and their immediate interpersonal context. It is community psychology because it is nevertheless concerned with how people feel, think, experience, and act as they work together, resisting oppression and struggling to create a better world. (Burton et al., 2007; 219)  

9 Critical Community Psychology
For us, critical community psychology is: Ecological in nature, recognizing the need to concentrate simultaneously on individuals, relationships, and communities Value-driven Guided by the central value of social justice Praxis-oriented in its efforts to overcome social injustice through social action in partnership with disadvantaged people

10 Critical Community Psychology
Ecological Spheres Well being Values Oppression and Social Justice Praxis Individual Absence of disorder Positive subjective well being Health Unequal distribution of health problems and exposure to risk Health promotion and prevention Voice, choice and control Perceptions of control, self efficacy and mastery Citizen participation Self-determination and participation Empowerment Disempowerment and internalized oppression Consciousness raising Transformation of settings

11 Critical Community Psychology
Ecological Spheres Well being Values Oppression and Social Justice Praxis Relational Positive social relations Caring and compassion Social exclusion Informal supports Positive identity Pride Transformation of settings Elimination of stigma Diversity Racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, and classism Celebration of strengths and diversity Confronting racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism and classism

12 Critical Community Psychology
Ecological Spheres Well being Values Oppression and Social Justice Praxis Collective Accessible social programs Social capital and sense of community Support for community structures Barriers to resources Low social capital Advocacy for universal services Community capacity building Elimination of poverty Distributive justice Extreme economic inequality Social change Investment in human and community economic development

13 Psychopolitical Validity
Psychopolitical validity derives from the consideration of power dynamics in psychological and political domains of health. The main objective of psychopolitical validity is to infuse in critical health psychology an awareness of the role of power in wellness, oppression, and liberation at the personal, relational, and collective domains.

14 Psychopolitical validity
In order to attain psychopolitical validity, investigations and interventions would have to meet certain criteria. These criteria have to do with the extent to which research and action incorporate lessons about psychological and political power.

15 Psychopolitical Validity I: Epistemic
This type of validity is achieved by the systematic account of the role of power in political and psychological dynamics affecting phenomena of interest Such account needs to consider the role of power in the psychology and politics of wellness, oppression and liberation, at the personal, relational, and collective domains.

16 Psychopolitical Validity I: Epistemic
Guidelines for epistemic psychopolitical validity are presented in Table 1.

17 Table 1 Guidelines for Epistemic Psychopolitical Validity in Critical Community Psychology Concerns Domains Collective Relational Personal Wellness Accounts for role of political and economic power in economic prosperity and in creation of institutions that promote equality and public health Studies the role of power in creating and sustaining egalitarian relationships, social cohesion, social support, respect for diversity and democratic participation in communities, groups, and families Studies role of psychological and political power in achieving self-determination, empowerment, health, personal growth, meaning and spirituality Oppression Explores role of globalization, colonization and exploitation in illness and suffering of nations and communities Examines the role of political and psychological power in exclusion and discrimination based on class, gender, age, race, education and ability. Studies conditions leading to lack of support, horizontal violence and fragmentation within oppressed groups Studies role of powerlessness in learned helplessness, hopelessness, self-deprecation, internalized oppression, shame, physical and mental health problems and addictions Liberation Deconstructs ideological norms that lead to acquiescence and studies effective psychopolitical factors in resistance to norms that cause illness Studies acts of solidarity and compassion with others who suffer from oppression and illness Examines sources of health, strength, resilience, solidarity and development of activism and leadership

18 Psychopolitical Validity II: Transformational
Transformational validity derives from the potential of our actions to promote personal, relational, and collective wellness by reducing power inequalities and increasing political action

19 Guidelines for Transformational Psychopolitical Validity
Table 2 Guidelines for Transformational Psychopolitical Validity Concerns Domains Collective Relational Personal Well-being Contributes to institutions that support health, emancipation, human development, peace, protection of environment, and social justice Contributes to power equalization in relationships and communities. Enriches awareness of subjective and psychological forces preventing solidarity. Builds trust, connection and participation in groups that support social cohesion, health and social justice Supports personal empowerment, health, sociopolitical development, leadership training and solidarity. Contributes to personal and social responsibility and awareness of subjective forces preventing commitment to justice and personal depowerment when in position of privilege Oppression Opposes economic colonialism and denial of cultural rights. Decries and resists role of own reference group or nation in oppression of others and deterioration of health in other groups Contributes to struggle against in-group and out-group domination and discrimination, sexism and norms of violence. Builds awareness of own prejudice and participation in horizontal violence Helps to prevent acting out of own oppression on others. Builds awareness of internalized oppression and role of dominant ideology in victim-blaming. Contributes to personal depowerment of people in position of privilege Liberation Supports networks of resistance and social change movements that pursue health and wellness. Contributes to structural depowerment of privileged people Supports resistance against objectification of others. Develops processes of mutual accountability Helps to resists complacency and collusion with exploitative and illness producing system. Contributes to struggle to recover personal health and political identity

20 Transformative Research Paradigm
Focus of Research Transformative Research Paradigm Analytic Quantitative and/or qualitative methods are used to analyze problems in participatory research process Main concern is epistemic psychopolitical validity Activist/ Interventionist Quantitative and/or qualitative methods used to generate action and intervention in participatory way Main concern is transformative psychopolitical validity

21 Roots of Transformative Research Paradigm
Participatory Research Action Research Feminist Research Anti-racist Research

22 Values and principles of transformative research
1. Self-determination and participation (empowerment) ■ Research should be attuned to issues of power and promote the power of disadvantaged people ■ Research begins with the experiences and concerns of disadvantaged people ■ Research process is democratized so as to maximize the participation of disadvantaged people in all aspects of the research ■ Research uses qualitative methods that give voice to disadvantaged people 2. Community and inclusion ■ Research strives to develop authentic and supportive relationships among researchers, disadvantaged people and other stakeholders ■ Research should be directed towards the goal of building solidarity for social change

23 Values and principles of transformative research
3. Social justice and accountability to oppressed groups ■ Research money should be distributed in a way that provides job and training opportunities as co-researchers for members of disadvantaged groups ■ Research findings should be used for education and/or advocacy to create social change 4. Reflexivity ■ Research should use emergent (or flexible) research designs ■ Research should provide an educational component ■ Research should be demystified so that knowledge is accessible to all, not just researchers ■ Research should involve all stakeholders in the interpretation of findings and recommendations for change

24 Roles for Transformative Action Researchers
I VALUE IT Inclusive Host Visionary Asset Seeker Listener Unique Solution Finder Evaluator Implementer Trendsetter

25 University of Miami SPEC Team
Example 1: Miami SPEC project Organizational conditions leading to transformative practice: Findings from a multi-case study, action research investigation University of Miami SPEC Team Isaac Prilleltensky Ora Prilleltensky Scot Evans Adrine McKenzie Debbie Nogueras Randy Penfield Corinne Huggins Nick Mescia

26 What is transformative practice?
In the context of community, educational, health, and human service organizations, we define transformative practice as consisting of four principles Strengths Prevention Empowerment Community change

Drain Approach Deficits-based Reactive Alienating Individualistic Problems Too little Too late Too costly Too unrealistic SPEC Approach Strengths-based Primary Prevention Empowerment Community change Opportunity Built to last Starts early and saves $$$ Creates civic engagement Builds social movement 4/14/2017 Prilleltensky Prilleltensky

28 Time and place of interventions
THIS IS WHERE WE NEED TO BE Collective Quadrant IV Examples: Food banks, shelters for homeless people, charities, prison industrial complex Quadrant I Examples: Community development, affordable housing policy, recreational opportunities, high quality schools and accessible health services Reactive Proactive Quadrant II Examples: Skill building, emotional literacy, fitness programs, personal improvement plans, resistance to peer pressure in drug and alcohol use Quadrant III Examples: Crisis work, therapy, medications, symptom containment, case management Individual THIS IS WHERE WE ARE

29 Focus and engagement in interventions
THIS IS WHERE WE NEED TO BE Strength Quadrant I Examples: Voice and choice in celebrating and building competencies, recognition of personal and collective resilience Quadrant IV Examples: Just say no! You can do it! Cheerleading approaches, Make nice approaches Detachment Empowerment Quadrant II Examples: Voice and choice in deficit reduction approaches, participation in decisions how to treat affective disorders or physical disorders Quadrant III Examples: Labeling and diagnosis, “patienthood” and clienthood,” citizens in passive role Deficit THIS IS WHERE WE ARE

30 Context of Investigation
Action research with 5 community based organizations (CBOs) to promote Strengths, Prevention, Empowerment, Community Change Three year study consisting of Training Team work Consultation Professional development Action research

31 Context of Investigation
Organizations selected on basis of “readiness” Organizations consist of Major local funder (MF) Major provider of health services for poor (HS) Organization that promotes early interventions (EI) Local civic coalition (LC) Local human service (HS) Budgets range from $ 1 million to over $ 100 million Personnel ranges from 15 to 700

32 Context of Investigation
Intervention components Training Each organization sends reps to 18 person class 3 hours biweekly Lecture, discussion, application Team work Transformation teams meet biweekly Consultation A researcher assigned to each organization Weekly or biweekly consultations Professional development Action research

33 Research Design Action Goal of overall project: Promote SPEC practices in organizations to improve community well-being Research Goals of overall project: Assess whether organizations become more aligned with SPEC principles as a result of interventions If so, how Data collection Quantitative and qualitative methods at baseline, year one, and end of project Goal of present study: Examine organizational conditions leading to SPEC based on qualitative data gathered through interviews, focus groups, and field notes with about 80 different participants in the five organizations

34 Simple logic model Organizational history Organizational mission
Organizational strategic plan

35 Simple logic model Focus of current study

36 Emerging findings

37 Findings: Organizational Conditions for Transformative Practice

38 Organizational Conditions for Transformative Practice

39 Climate Effective Enabling structures; good communication; timely completion of tasks; efficiency; accountability and follow-through, etc. Most of the organizations noted at least some deficiency in this domain, including duplication of efforts; inconsistent policies; and bureaucracy Reflective Learning opportunities; organizational learning; asking “big questions”; challenging old notions; evaluating practice, etc. Organizations vary on this dimension, with some presenting as highly reflective and others describing an environment where there is insufficient trust to challenge old notions and practices. (“you ain’t gonna rock the boat.”) Affirmative Climate of acceptance and appreciation; employee strengths are highlighted and utilized; voice and choice; sense of control; team work and conviviality Distinction made between voice and choice in a number of organizations where empowerment is espoused as an organizational value, but not always practiced well. In other organizations, staff empowerment is not even part of the organizational radar.

40 Resources Human Financial Organizational
Adequate number of workers to meet demands; high skill level; capacity; dedication; motivation; initiative Largely described workers as caring, conscientious and committed to meeting the needs of their constituents Variable level of skill across organizations Concern in some organizations that people are spread too thin due to a broad, overly ambitious mission Financial Adequate financial resources to support positions; programs; etc. A major barrier for most organizations in the current economic climate Cuts in positions and lack of job security are a source of strain For funding organizations, ongoing concern to make sure investments provide good return Organizational Appropriate organizational structures to meet vision and mission; adequate time, space, etc. Most organizations described as committed to vision and mission Some noted that rapid and poorly communicated policy changes lead to inconsistent practices and poor PR with other agencies In one case, solicitation of input from “boots on the ground” was seen as a necessary condition for improved buy-in to vision and mission

41 Support and Legitimacy
Leadership for SPEC Leadership provides legitimacy and support to SPEC principles and practices; leader(s)“walk the talk” in their support of the vision and mission of the organization Organizations whose leaders are involved in all aspects of the SPEC training (class, T-Team, etc.) experience greater legitimacy and support for SPEC practices and principles Lower level of leaders involvement is associated with fewer SPEC practices Board support and legitimacy for SPEC Board of Directors provides legitimacy and support to SPEC principles and practices ; board members“ walk the talk” in their support of the vision and mission of the organization Some describe difficulties in dealing with board members who come from a corporate background and unfamiliar with nonprofit Some board members advocate for special interest groups Funder support for SPEC Funders provide legitimacy and support to SPEC principles and practices; funders “walk the talk” in their support of the vision and mission of the organization Some indication that funders may not always walk the talk, despite the theoretical support of SPEC; some feel micromanaged by funders

42 Consciousness Justice Power Ecology
Organization espouses a justice orientation; considers issues of fairness and justice in understanding community problems and devising solutions Large variation between organizations. For some, themes of “economic justice” and “social justice” are espoused and central to the organizational mission. For others, justice is described as enabling access to services, regardless of client background, legal status, etc. Power Organization is highly aware of power issues in the community; sensitive to how differences in power affect voice, choice and wellbeing; considers power issues when understanding problems and devising solutions Awareness and sensitivity to power issues in the community are at times inconsistent with internal practices with employees. Ecology Organization espouses an ecological orientation; considers personal, organization, and systemic factors in understanding problems and devising solutions A shared understanding that social and economic conditions are at the root of people’s struggles does not always translate to more systemic organizational practices

43 Discussion Study begins to identify necessary and sufficient conditions for transformative practice Contribution to community psychology approaches to system change: not just generic, but also specific conditions are necessary to promote justice and social change (see special issue AJCP on systems change June 2007, v. 39 ¾) Contribution to organizational development: literature focuses mainly on for profit and ameliorative not for profits. This study aims to foster transformative practice in not for profits and identifies consciousness as key condition (Chetkovich & Kunreuther, 2006; Crutchfield & McLeod Grant, 2007)

44 Limitations, possibilities, and next steps
Great variation across organizations More qualitative and quantitative data needed Develop tool that can assess organizational profile Refine methodology, initial pilot of conceptual framework resonates with participants

45 Example 2: SPEC-YE PAR with Youth
- SPEC for youth engagement in African American Neighborhood in Miami - Youth participate in running after school leadership program following SPEC principles - Youth engage in civic projects

46 Example 3: New SPECs Three-year action research project in South East mid-size City
Island Center John Snow Foundation Nazaret Center MLK Center Healthy City

47 New SPECs Project Center for Community Studies Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt New SPECs Team Kimberly Bess, Patricia Conway Scot Evans, Carrie Hanlin, Diana McCown, Bob Newbrough, Doug Perkins, Isaac Prilleltensky

48 Goals of New SPECs Apply community psychology principles to organizational change for community well-being Generate new practical knowledge for organizations and the field Develop practices in line with SPEC Develop policies in line with SPEC Institutionalize SPEC in the life of the organization and the community

49 Principles of New SPECs
Ownership by workers and community members Participation of workers and community members Power sharing Home grown solutions Practice and reflection Action research

50 Structure of New SPECs Structures within organizations
T-Team Councils Affiliation groups Forums Workshops Task Forces Structures across the project Coordinating Committee Structures within our own Team Business meetings Reflection meetings Retreats

Child and Family Organizations Community Strengths Prevention Empowerment Community Change EXTERNAL INTERNAL EXTERNAL

52 Summary of Outcomes for Nashville New SPECs Project
New mission statements Research publications Tools to measure SPEC New policies at United Way New outreach programs More youth and client involvement Assessment of projects in light of SPEC More prevention efforts in organizations Empowered counselors Blending of therapy with social change

53 In every act, in every interaction, in every social action,
In every act, in every interaction, in every social action, we hold each other accountable to promote People’s dignity, safety, hope and growth Relationships based on caring, compassion and respect Societies based on justice, communion and equality We are all better when these values are in balance  To put these values into action, we will: Share our power Be proactive and not just reactive Transform the conditions that create problems for youth Encourage youth and families to promote a caring community Nurture visions that make the impossible, possible We commit to uphold these values with Youth and their Families Our Employees Our Organization Our Community This is a living document. We invite you to discuss it, to critique it, to live it

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