Monday, November 30, 2015

SCRA Webinar # 5: Culture, Context, and Community Intervention

The SCRA online learning working group is excited to bring you another presentation in the SCRA webinar series, Dr. Edison Trickett!

Dr. Edison Trickett
Thursday, December 3, 2015 from 12-1PM (Eastern), 11-12noon (Central), 10AM (Mountain), 9AM (Pacific), 7AM (Hawaii-Aleutian)

Register at this link:

Culture, Context, and Community Intervention: An Ecological Perspective and Example 
This interactive webinar will provide an ecological perspective on the processes and goals of community intervention and exemplify the fundamental role of culture and context through an example from work conducted with Alaska Native villages around suicide prevention through cultural renewal. An opportunity will be given for webinar participants to offer comments or questions and speak directly with the presenter.

3 main learning objectives
1. Understand components of an ecological framework (not Bronfenbrenner).
2. How an ecological perspective differs from evidence-based practice.
3. Developing community resources as the primary community intervention goal.

Edison J. Trickett, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and Dean’s Scholar at the University of Miami, School of Education. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the Ohio State University, was a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University, and held faculty positions at Yale University, the University of Maryland, and University of Illinois at Chicago before joining the faculty at the University of Miami. Throughout his career, his research has focused on the development of an ecological perspective within his field of community psychology for conducting community research and intervention. His writings have emphasized the role of culture, social context, and collaboration in conducting respectful community-based research and intervention. He has written extensively about community interventions designed to affect community development. In addition, during the past 20 years he has focused on the role of public schools in the acculturation and adaptation of immigrant and refugee adolescents and families. He has published over 150 books, book chapters, and scholarly papers, has served as President of Division 27 of the American Psychological Association, received its award for Distinguished Contribution to Theory and Research in Community Psychology, the Seymour Sarason award, and served as Editor of that field’s primary journal, The American Journal of Community Psychology.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

When You Say "NO," It Means NO

by Selin Tekin, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Sexual assault and rape are two of the vital issues on college campuses and many of them are unreported. It is reported that the annual rate of completed rapes is about 35 in every 1,000 female students. That means with 10,000 female students, as many as 350 rapes may occur during the academic year (Boche & Dincesen, 2014).

To prevent the assault, the first step is to understand the issue. 

What is Sexual Violence? 

Sexual violence takes many forms. Domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, even sexist jokes or harassment are all considered to be sexual violence. Sexual assault and rape are sometimes used as interchangeable terms for forced sex and they are also defined as sexual violence (Boche & Dincesen, 2014). 

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN, 2009) define sexual assault and rape as follows:

Sexual Assault: “Unwelcome sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape.” 

Rape: “Forced or non-consensual sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object.”

Ecological theories recognize that human behavior is shaped by factors at multiple levels, including peer and community environments. Sexual violence researchers and interventionists can capitalize on the successes in these fields by applying ecological prevention strategies to the existing multilevel concepts of sexual violence etiology (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009). 

Components of Ecological Prevention

There are six components of its application in the sexual violence field. The first component is comprehensiveness. This component can be conceptualized as implementing change strategies at two or more levels simultaneously such as, educational presentations, media campaigns, and small-group psycho-educational programming. For example, prevention programming is often delivered in many of ways on college campuses (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009). 

The second component is community engagement. This component is centered on the participation of community members in the implementation of intervention strategies. It is defined as partnering with community members in the process of identifying targets for designing accompanying change strategies. In the state of Washington, for example, sexual assault programs that receive federal rape prevention and education funds are required to incorporate community engagement activities. Examples of community engagement strategies include: facility policy changes, staff education, and sexual violence educational programming for agency clients (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009). 

The third component is contextualized programming. This component is defined as designing intervention strategies that are consistent with the broader social, economic and political context of communities. Contextualized prevention cannot occur without engaging community members to identify their beliefs about the contributors to and likely solutions for sexual violence. The prevention efforts created for communities, such as colleges, would allow greater adaptation to the concerns, and will eventually facilitate the engagement of trusted, credible community members as deliverers of interventions (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009). 

The fourth component is theory based.For example, the program designed by Heppner and colleagues (1999) is a method of intervention that combines social-psychological theory and attitude formation with the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), which aims to focus attention on the core message of the intervention. The ELM suggests that attention is increased by several factors: personal linkages with the intervention content, opportunities to evaluate the content, and motivation to get involved. The evaluation results indicate that rape supportive attitudes targeted by the program decreased at 5-month follow-up. Heppner and colleagues linked the expected attitude change with a theory, which offers a mechanism for that change. In so doing, they provided a testable, replicable intervention, which could be disseminated and tailored for other groups (as cited in Casey & Lindhorst, 2009). 

The fifth component is health and strengths promotion. This component consists of simultaneous efforts to enhance community resources and strengths together with addressing risk factors. Banyard and colleagues (2007) developed a bystander approach for sexual violence prevention. This program trains college students to recognize potentially problematic situations and intervene in sexually coercive interactions. After two months, the trained students reported decreasing rape-supportive attitudes and beliefs, and significant increases in positive bystander behavior when compared with the students in the control group (Banyard et al., 2007).

The sixth component is to address structural factors. This component is described as targeting structural and underlying causes of social problems for change rather than individual behavior or symptoms of larger problems. Addressing structural contributors to rape may work best when done in partnership with community members who can identify the underlying factors that support aggressive behavior is their specific environment (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009).  


Selin Tekin is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She is currently enrolled in Dr. Christopher Allen's Introduction to Community Social Psychology course.


Banyard, V. L., Moynihan, M. M., & Plante, E. G. (2007). Sexual violence prevention through bystander education: An experimental evaluation. Journal of Community Psychology, 35(4), 463-481.

Boche, R. & Dincesen, A. (2014). Sexual Assault [Required Prevention Education]. Retrieved from:

Casey, E. A., & Lindhorst, T. P. (2009). Toward a multi-level, ecological approach to the primary prevention of sexual assault prevention in peer and community contexts. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 10(2), 91-114.

RAINN. (2009). Retrieved from:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Force-feeding in Mauritania

by Rogers Muyanja, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Force-feeding is a cultural practice in Mauritania where young girls are forced to consume large quantities of food to become fat, and fit for marriage. In this West African nation that lies between the Western Sahara and Senegal, women are encouraged-- and those who rebel are forced-- to gain as much weight as possible, to be considered attractive since having a well-fed wife is seen as desirable and a sign of wealth and prestige. In their quest to find a husband, many women are being pushed to dangerous lengths to gain weight. It is a cultural practice deeply rooted in the culture of the Mauritanian people -- making it one of the African countries where, on average, girls are served more shares of food than boys (Hater, 2004). Here click to watch a video from the Canadian Broadcasting Company about this issue.

When a U.S. journalist recently traveled to Mauritania to observe this practice, he learned that girls are fattened by their families, starting when they are as young as eight years old. The Mauritanian people referred to this practice as “gavage,” derived from a French word that describes force-feeding. The UNICEF Country Programme report of 2011 on Mauritania for the years, 2012 – 2016, has highlighted the urgency of the need to address the issue, stating that 43 per cent of women marry before the age of 18 and 19 per cent marry before the age of 15 while 20 percent of the girls are at risk or are victims of force-feeding (Mauritania Country Programme Document, 2011). Given the health consequences of such practices, some women have started advocating for its end, suggesting that the tradition brings them shame. Mariam Mint Ahmed, a 25 year old Mauritanian woman, wants it to become history and recounts that girls have traditionally suffered through the practice with many becoming sick, and acquiring secondary illnesses including hypertension and heart disease (Wedoud, 2010).

Developing momentum for abolishing this practice is a challenge. Just when young women in cities like Nouakchott (the capital) were beginning to slim down, a military coup in August of 2008 removed the democratic government and installed a junta that favored a return to the tradition. Relevant community psychology approaches that could be used to address this problem reflect he fourth of eighteen competencies for community psychology practice developed by SCRA; Community and Social Change. This competency highlights community practitioner skill in collaboration, community advocacy, public policy analysis and advocacy, information dissemination, and building public awareness -- all of which are relevant to helping change the attitudes of these communities to attain the necessary social change. For example, the dissemination of information on the dangers of this practice to women, which seems to be ignored, could help counter the social acceptance of this custom. Alternatively, the use of community engagement strategies could be used to generate culturally-appropriate and respected alternatives to the practice.


Rogers Muyanja is a graduate student in the Peace & Conflict Studies Master's program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He is currently enrolled in Dr. Christopher Allen's Introduction to Community Social Psychology course.


Harter, P. (2004, January, 26th). Mauritania’s “wife-fattening” farm. Retrieved October 5, 2015, from:

Mauritania Country Programme Document. (2011, June 20). Retrieved October 5, 2015, from

Wedoud, M. (2010, October 12). Women fight Mauritania's fattening tradition. Retrieved October 5, 2015, from

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Is it Exploitation or Responsibility?

by Nicholas Bull, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Image Credit: Nicholas Bull

During one of my trips to Liberia, a country in West Africa, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of children, some as young as seven years old, engaging in activities that were meant for adults.  They were going to the market places to purchase food for the household, taking care of other children, fetching water in very big buckets, cooking, cleaning, etc.  I was amazed to see how gracefully they went about their daily activities.  The attitude of the adults was the most shocking to me.  They seemed to not care about children performing or engaging in activities and roles, which are meant for adults.  I found myself wondering what was running through the minds of these children, "Am I growing up too fast?" "Is this what life intended for me?" "Am I going to enjoy my childhood?"

In today's society, children should be allowed to enjoy their childhood -- you only get one. Children shouldn’t be expected to function as adults at young such ages. While working with the children of Liberia through SHED (Support Humanity and Educational Development), I was able to help create opportunities for kids to be kids. SHED provided toys, games, books and resources for other activities that encourage greater recreational time for children.  I fondly remember a day a child took a break from playing to run over and tell me that,  “[she] wished this day would never end and this is the best day of my life. I am able to play today without doing any work.” Some parents were not supportive of SHED's initiatives and really wanted  the children to be at home doing chores. However, I saw the relief and joy in the faces of the children as they engaged in different activities.  I couldn’t understand why parents were allowing their children to take on the responsibilities of adults, instead of allowing them to enjoy their youth.

In most cases, people become a products of their environment.   As I continued my work with these children, it became very clear that most of these children will benefit from having organizations like SHED help to shift the narrative around childhood. They were being exploited by their parents and by society.  Liberian parents believed that, in order for their children to mature, they needed to take on the responsibilities of being the “man” or the “woman” of the house.  I had a difficult time explaining to parents it was unfair to approach development in such a manner.  I was appalled by how commonplace this view was among parents. As a society, we should be asking ourselves: are we doing enough to stop the exploitation of children?

Communities like the ones in which I worked while in Liberia can benefit from community psychology practice, particularly through those that support empowerment. SHED is changing the lives of these young children by offering resources and mentoring to support the development developmentally appropriate education and programming in their communities.  Every child should be allowed to experience a healthy and wonderful childhood.



Nicholas Bull is a graduate student in the Family Studies certificate program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He is currently enrolled in Dr. Christopher Allen's Introduction to Community Social Psychology course.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Separating People From Their Behavior: The Power of First Impressions

by Chris Snell, University of Massachusetts Lowell

How can I objectively and effectively work with people diagnosed with developmental disabilities who exhibit challenging behaviors in the community?

I had no idea what to expect as I walked up the driveway for my first 3pm-11pm shift at a group home where individuals diagnosed with developmental disabilities and mental health issues resided. As I introduced myself to staff and the individuals a veteran staff member pulled me aside and gave me some invaluable advice, “Don’t read their confidential files yet. I’ll make sure you’re safe and don’t get caught saying or doing anything problematic.  It’s important that you spend some time with the guys before you read about their issues.”

I didn’t quite understand the rational at that moment but, I figured that he knew what he was doing and I was still feeling real good about the paycheck I would be getting at the end of the week….I was making nine dollars an hour! I’d have Sallie Mae off my back in no time! The next eight hours flew by as five fascinating men introduced themselves to me and provided me with snapshots of who they were. I found myself enjoying the interactions and the people who would become a significant part of my life for the next two years.

That day has become a template I’ve followed through my entire career. It is so important that we connect on a personal and professional level with the people to whom we provide support. I believe this to be even more important when working with people whose behavioral presentation can be hard to address or observe without judgment. After having the opportunity to form a first impression based on face-to-face interactions, I could then process the second impression that resulted from reviewing the confidential case files of each of the men I has spoken with earlier.

Our society ascribes a lot of negative social identities to people living with developmental disabilities and mental health issues. I implore you to give people living with developmental disabilities and mental health issues an opportunity to provide you with the "foreward" first-hand before you delve into the "novel" of their lives.  When training new staff, I have always tried to impress on them the impact of the monumental paper trail that follows people seeking mental health services. Imagine if there was a large book that documented every misstep, mistake, and significant event you have experienced …..EVER! It frightens me to think what the pages of my confidential case file would look like for ages 18-25. Now imagine that this personal history is available to every service provider with whom you interact!

There are occasions when I’m asked how I work with people who are stereotypically assumed to exhibit aggressive, unsafe, or illegal behavior. I make every attempt to reign in the "preachy advocate" in me but, I always mention the fact that there are a growing number of people in our community who are being transitioned into the community as institutional facilities continue closing at a rapid rate (click here to read an article on challenges to providing mental health care in Massachusetts) and these people need empathetic support from nonjudgmental professionals. It has been my experience that many of the people coming out of state facilities struggle with the transition into the community and need strong, passionate professionals to assist in their re-entry into the community.  In the same way that it’s not appropriate, helpful, or ethical to label someone as a “biter” or “spitter,” the labels too often affixed to people diagnosed with developmental disabilities do not have any place in the support we provide them.


Chris Snell is a graduate student in the Autism Studies program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He is currently enrolled in Dr. Christopher Allen's Introduction to Community Social Psychology course.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Diving Into The Unknown: The Story of Community Psychology

by Annisha Susilo, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Image Credit: 

I used to be terrified of change and not knowing what comes next. I like to live by plans and certainty makes me feel safe. I think that’s what psychologist in the 1960’s probably felt like when they first started working in the field of community psychology. That was the image I pictured from reading the first chapter of “Community Psychology: Foundations for Practice” by Scott & Wolfe (2015) and attending my first class on community psychology.

Born to address and alleviate significant social issues (Scott & Wolfe, 2015), the field of community psychology took on huge a responsibility for facilitating social change. Additionally, it championed the importance of conceptualizing social issues from an ecological perspective and using strengths-based prevention strategies to address them. Gaining support for such approaches was not an easy task. Community psychology has had to overcome challenges such as gaining recognition and legitimacy, applying theory to solve problems in the field, and connecting research with field work (Scott & Wolfe, 2015). The discipline's emphasis on looking at problems in context, with all the messiness and multiple factors involved and then apply theory and research findings to solve them, is what most attracted me to this field.

As a recent graduate majoring in psychology, I had a very simple and straightforward vision of what psychologists do. Psychologists have clinical practices where they assess and diagnose patients and then, deliver appropriate treatment. However, the reality is much more complex than that. Through working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) from different socio-economic backgrounds and institutions in Jakarta, I learned that there weren’t standardized methods of assessment and treatment that psychologists in my home country can use for children with ASD. Most of the assessments were translated but not validated for the Indonesian population. In addition, not every therapist working with children with ASD were trained in working with this population. As a result, it very difficult to provide a child with ASD the best assessment, diagnosis and treatment in Indonesia. But the problem does not stop here, since there isn’t any center for ASD and a lot of the clinics have a long waiting list, it is very difficult for parents to get information and resources regarding ASD. There is no government support, no easy access for resources, no funding for research. It’s a nightmare to a lot of parents and extremely difficult situation for those with few economic resources. Ultimately, children bear the brunt of these shortcomings; they can't get properly diagnosed, and as a result, are prevented from accessing appropriate treatment.  This is what drove me to pursue a master’s degree in community psychology.  I know that I’m not going to be able to make a change by working as a psychologist one-on-one with clients; there are too many families that need help and too many issues to take into account. I need to look at the bigger picture and find broader, more, systemic solutions.

The complexities of community psychology are not easy and its bit intimidating to be a part of this field but, I’m glad that the founders of community psychology didn't shy away from the challenges they faced early on. I hope that one day, with enough experience and knowledge, I can go back to my home country of Indonesia and provide much needed help to the ASD community there. This will be the first time I’m diving into the unknown. 


Annisha Susilo is a student in the Navitas program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She is currently enrolled in Dr. Christopher Allen's Introduction to Community Social Psychology course.


Scott, V. C., & Wolfe, S. M. (2015). Community Psychology Foundations for Practice. California: Sage.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Swapping our Stuff for the Sake of Community

THEory into ACTion

A Bulletin of New Developments in Community Psychology Practice
September, 2015

Tabitha Underwood, Ph.D. 
Missouri Campus Compact, Missouri State University

        Among the challenges facing community practitioners are trends to privatization and overdependence on the market economy to solve pressing problems.  Opportunities for impactful practice may then instead lie in the sharing economy.  In such an economy, goods and services are loaned, shared, cooperatively owned, or exchanged. One example of the sharing economy is the free store, a place where goods are exchanged without money changing hands. This Bulletin shares a brief story of a free store on a college campus, to demonstrate the sharing economy’s positive aspects. While this free store was campus-based, the same concepts can be adapted to communities outside campus walls.

        The story goes that free stores began in the 1960’s with the Diggers, a counter culture group dedicated to freeing oneself of property and living outside capitalist markets (see more at Free stores look like any other thrift store with gently used clothing, household goods, furniture, electronics, etc; however, as the name indicates, everything is free and doesn’t require reciprocity. Beyond free stores there are now many stories of the free exchange of goods such as neighborhood free markets, online swaps, neighborhood exchange boxes, and exchanges based on specific goods such as seed exchanges (see for more). It seems that this increase in the utilization of the sharing economy has been a result of the environmental movement and the downturn in the economy (Albinsson & Perera, 2012).  

        Free stores function within the confines of all three pillars of sustainability including environmental, economic, and social. Free stores provide an opportunity to recover some of the tens of millions of tons of furniture, furnishings, clothing, and footwear generated every year (EPA, 2013). They also provide an avenue to address economic needs through the provision of goods such as clothing and household items. Finally, being careful not to overstate their impact, free stores can contribute to sustainable communities by building connections, facilitating neighborliness, and providing a place and excuse for interaction much in the same way that garage sales have done (Herrmann, 2006). Research on free temporary markets has found themes of community building, creation of interactions, sharing of skills, and caring for others during the events (Albinsson & Perera, 2012). 

        Most of all, free stores have the potential to foster inclusion in a community. Anyone can participate. If set up properly, a free store can be for everyone and used by everyone with no stigma attached. They don’t have to be attached to the idea of welfare, social services, or poverty alleviation. It can simply be about reuse. They foster inclusion because they are focused on the well-being of all instead of a few (Albinsson & Perera, 2012).     

A Free Store in Action

        A few years ago, while working for a private women’s college, I had the opportunity to be involved in the development and management of a free store on campus. It was begun by a creative and pioneering sustainability coordinator along with the support of the events office, residence life, the volunteer office, and several faculty members. The free store, located within an empty residence hall room, was designed as a boutique by an interior design course. Beginning from a few of us climbing through dumpsters to save reusable items from the landfill, it morphed into a fully supported program with permanent space, a budget, and a student worker manager who maintained inventory and coordinated marketing and engagement efforts.  

        The store looked very much like any small clothing boutique including a dressing room. Any student was welcome to come through and take from the plethora of household and clothing items. Donations were more than welcomed but not necessary in order to “shop.” Goods were obtained during the residence hall move-out process. Goodwill provided large rolling laundry carts that were placed in each of the residence halls a few weeks before spring graduation and students were encouraged to donate items they didn’t want to take home. Goods were then processed and sorted for the free store, Goodwill, and a local creative reuse center. At the end of move-out, our collective efforts typically produced anywhere between 10 and 14 large laundry carts worth of goods, valued by Goodwill at $2000 per cart. The sheer number of shower caddies alone saved from the dumpster could have filled anyone’s bedroom closet.  

        The free store was a demonstration of the partnership possibilities within a campus environment. Residence Life provided the space and assisted in facilitating the collection of items during move-out. It was incorporated into orientation and move-in day activities to provide goods to help resident students set up their new residence hall rooms. It was also included into alumnae reunions and provided a donation venue for alums. It provided a venue for volunteer opportunities to engage students, and faculty were able to connect to the store through service-learning hours and projects. Eventually, new initiatives grew out of the free store, such as an interview clothing exchange and a campus food pantry and has recently been connected to a new scholarship program as a volunteer site.

Implications for Community Practice

        While the free store experienced many challenges and its fair share of growing pains, it was able to achieve positive outcomes that could be replicated on other campuses and in the community. It provided a common goal to galvanize partnerships across campus, provided goods to fulfill student needs, served as a volunteer opportunity for students, and saved tens of thousands of dollars of goods from the landfill. More importantly, it was an avenue to teach and engage students. Informally, we witnessed a shift in consciousness of the students, demonstrating a sense of pride for the boutique and implementing reuse principles into their events. Overall, it provided an impetus to have a conversation about reuse and engagement and work together in a collaborative partnership to make an impact in the life of the campus. The positive outcomes from this example can also be seen in the various free stores and similar reuse initiatives on other college campuses that have been established both before and since our store (see and  

        As a community practitioner, to me the most important outcome was the inclusive nature of the store. The original purpose was reuse and saving useable items from the landfill. It was not created with the intent of addressing emergency needs of students, although it inadvertently served that purpose. All students could frequent the store without stigma or feeling that they had to hide their patronage. It also allowed us to give the students a volunteer experience outside the realm of traditional servanthood and didn’t have the consequence of setting up an “us and them” scenario or a “savior” orientation. Because it was incorporated into many aspects of the campus, it became a common cause that students could support and rally around. It was a demonstration of inclusion through equality, which is what we would hope to achieve in any community practice. 

        In my experience with the sharing economy as outlined here, I’ve seen that this realm of life has the potential for community practice. Ultimately, a free store allows us to both utilize and undermine the American consumer culture while making friends, sharing goods, and saving the planet one shower caddy at a time. The Diggers would be proud. 


Albinsson, P. A., & Yasanthi Perera, B. (2012). Alternative marketplaces in the 21st century: Building community through sharing events. Journal of consumer Behaviour, 11(4), 303-315.

Environmental Protection Agency. (June 2015). Advancing sustainable materials management: Facts and figures 2013. Retrieved from  

Herrmann, G. M. (2006). Garage sales make good neighbors: Building community through neighborhood sales. Human organization, 65(2), 181-191.

Other Examples of Free Stores and Campus Reuse

University of Louisville: 
Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education: 

This is one of a series of bulletins highlighting the use of community psychology in practice. Comments, suggestions, and questions are welcome. Please direct them to Tabitha Underwood at