Friday, October 24, 2014

Addressing HIV in India through a Community Life Competence Approach

THEory into ACTion

A Bulletin of New Developments in Community Psychology Practice 
September, 2014

Bobby Zachariah, Coach, The Constellation for Community Life Competence  
Nabesh Bohidar, Care India
Rituu B. Nanda, The Constellation


     HIV is a significant issue impacting India, especially among its migrant populations. In this short article, we describe a strength-based facilitative intervention designed to reduce HIV vulnerabilities among those groups.  This action, applying a participatory Community Life Competence approach, was developed and carried out by researchers from India Competence, a branch of the international organization The Constellation for Community Life Competence, together with a supporting NGO and the migrant communities themselves as co-researchers. 

     Our project aimed to strengthen the community-led HIV response in three cross-border migrant communities in Mumbai, India with the following objectives:
  • Increase community participation in the program 
  • Facilitate formation of the community’s dreams for a healthy future and action plans to achieve them 
  • Understand the capacities and mechanisms in place that indicate sustainability of response after project closure.
     Through previous work, the project had established cross-border programming, and had increased awareness of HIV and treatment among Nepali and Bangladeshi migrants in India. The initial actions undertaken here by the India Competence Team were to identify inherent strengths in the project, the local NGO team, and the community.  The India Competence Team used SALT (Stimulate, Share, Support / Appreciate / Learn, Listen / Transfer)  as a framework to develop mutual caring in protecting populations from HIV.

The Process

  Over a period of 11 months, the India Competence Team had 3 distinct interactions with the NGO team to introduce the concepts, help form a dream, mentor the approach, and facilitate measurement of change. In the following paragraphs, we highlight some aspects of the process.

     Community life competence. After the training, the program staff used SALT by asking appreciative questions to the migrant community such as “What are you proud of?” The community felt valued and appreciated, and was inspired to reflect on its strengths, thus increasing its self-belief.“Our strength as a Nepali community is in our unity. We come together and care for each other.” 

     Dream-building exercise. A dream-building exercise was then conducted with members of the Bangla-speaking community and Nepali migrants.  This helped the communities to dream about 2014, when the project would no longer exist.  Community dreams included projecting a future where HIV prevalence was much less, where those who were sick were cared for without stigma, and where the community members themselves took initiatives on HIV prevention. The community then reflected on its present situation in terms of its dreams.“As women, we have acknowledged the risk of HIV; however, our adolescents and men have not.”  


     From teaching to facilitation. The local NGO team changed its approach from teaching to facilitating community actions against HIV.  This indicated a belief in community strengths rather than relying only on staff capacities and provision of services.  Community action plans to achieve their dreams guided the facilitation process.“We will help the community to reflect on its current status and encourage them to work towards its dreams.  If it needs training, we would provide it.  If there are challenges, we will work to overcome them.”

The Changes

     The participatory action research conducted at the end of the process revealed the following changes:

     Empowerment of women. Women feel empowered: “When I go outside, if someone teases me, I respond. My confidence has grown.” 

  Women understand risks better: “We used to cover ourselves using headscarves, were fearful to speak up, and suffered in silence when things went wrong (e.g., when husbands used to drink and abuse). Now we speak up and engage in outside issues.” 

  Women are openly talking to husbands about HIV. They are no longer shy, but rather encourage others to go for HIV testing. Women have also begun to negotiate condom use with their husbands:  “I have told my husband that he has to use a condom when he visits sex workers. I never dreamed that I could tell him that. He has begun to listen to me.” 

     Women discussed how they are protecting others from contracting HIV: “Earlier when homeowners used to harass the domestic workers for sex, women used to get angry and walk out.  Instead, we are now educating our employers that HIV can be transmitted via unprotected sexual contact.”

     Care of people living with HIV (PLHIV). The community attitude towards PLHIV has changed from stigma to compassion. Community members now take the patients to hospitals and care for them: “We have to take care, so that he or she does not feel discrimination related to HIV. Henceforth, we will not discriminate on the basis of HIV.”

     Access and adherence to treatment (for HIV, TB, pregnancy, and STDs).  Now several men in the community are providing information to other men regarding where treatment is available for HIV and TB: “Very few men are engaged, and if no NGO will come we will have to do something ourselves.”

  Identifying, recognizing, and addressing vulnerabilities (alcohol abuse, sex work, sexual harassment at the workplace, and domestic violence):“We are concerned about HIV risk, for the sake of our children.  Therefore we have done HIV testing.” (Three out of four men have had HIV tests.) 

     What Will Happen After the Project Ends?
     Communities have expressed a strong desire to keep the HIV program alive even after the project comes to an end: “It’s our duty after the project to take action on HIV in the community. Two out of three men in the community are volunteers providing information on HIV; we hold monthly meetings on HIV; alcohol consumption has decreased.  After the project, we would continue to work on this.  We will set up a committee that can check on issues such as alcohol abuse, domestic violence, etc.”

     Transfer of vision, actions, and strategies. Communities said that they have begun to share their experiences at their workplaces, and with friends, relatives, and other communities, because they are excited about their response to HIV: “Now we can speak openly, and we are no longer shy; we have realized that HIV is a disease. If we keep quiet now, we leave others around us at risk.”

Communities drew maps to indicate where they had transferred their experiences and visions around HIV:  



Conclusions

     Research on public health programs, particularly HIV, has shown that providing services and information alone will not work. Behavior change can come about if communities recognize that an issue is of concern to them. Our project demonstrated a way to do this.  

     Traditional “deficit” approaches focus on the problems and weaknesses in a community. They design services to fill gaps and fix problems. As a result, the community can feel disempowered and dependent; people can become passive recipients of services rather than co-participants. Therefore, community life competence, a strength-based approach, particularly for engagement of migrants who often helpless and ignored, can help community members realize their strengths. As one of the project coordinators reflected: “It is all about power, letting go, the belief in the potential of the community. It is the NGO that has to change.”

     The local NGO team was quick to acknowledge the capacity of the communities to own a vision and respond to their challenges.  This helped the staff initiate appropriate actions to facilitate a community response.  The communities responded by vision formation and action planning for a future beyond this project.

     All the elements of the Community Life Competence Project as planned could not be implemented in one year.   In summary, however, the visible changes we have seen point toward the effectiveness of this approach, one which mobilizes community ownership and adapts to local conditions. 

_______________
Community Life Competence is an approach based on the belief of the capacity of the community to respond to its concerns, measure changes, and transfer strengths to others. More information can be found at www.communitylifecompetence.org, where it is also possible to join their online community. Care India invited the Constellation team based in India to engage with the migrant community for the EMPHASIS Project (Enhancing Mobile Populations’ Access to HIV & AIDS Information and Services).


This is one of a series of bulletins highlighting the use of community psychology in practice. Comments, suggestions, and inquiries are welcome. Please direct them to Bill Berkowitz at Bill_Berkowitz@uml.edu


Friday, October 17, 2014

SCRA Webinar #3: Building Your Online Community for Social Change


Would you like to learn more about using social media to raise your profile and connect with your community?  Do you wonder if you're talking to the right people? Or how you can best present yourself in social media channels?

Through the dedicated efforts from your fellow SCRA members, and funding allocated from the SCRA Executive Committee the Webinar series continue! Get ready for our 3rd Webinar: Building Your Online Community for Social Change to be held next Friday, October 24th, at 3 p.m. EST. Go to Eventbrite now to register!

Community psychologists partner with communities and organize for social change. Increasingly many of our community building efforts incorporate social media to accomplish collaborative aims.  In the third SCRA online learning opportunity, SCRA social media consultants, Susan Tenby and Willie Kuo, will focus on examples and case studies of effective social media use for community-building by nonprofits and communities.

This session will provide opportunities for you to consult with experts about any challenges you have encountered when trying to identify and interact with others via social media.  The presenters will describe using social network analysis tools to find leaders and identify communities online.  Practical skills of using consistent language and effective hashtags to encourage action in line with your message will also be discussed.  And, finally, you will learn more about how to present yourself and what to post when working to promote community events or policy change actions.

Do you have a question or example from your work that you would like Susan and Willie to discuss? Tweet your question to @SCRA and use #SCRASocial.

Learning Objectives:
  1. You will learn how to target the right people and discover communities through follower network.
  2. You will learn how to manage your personal and professional "brand." 
  3. You will learn how to extend the audience of an event via social media backchannel strategies.

Register via Eventbrite by Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 5PM Eastern. You will receive an invitation via email from GlobalMeet to log-in at 3PM Eastern on Friday, October 24 at 3PMEastern at https://scra.pgimeet.com/SCRA. Log-in as a guest.

Be sure to tweet about this event mentioning @scra and using Hashtag #SCRAsocial

Introducing Our Presenters: Susan Tenby

Susan Tenby


Susan Tenby(@suzboophas worked in online community management for 14 years and has been active in social media since 2006.
As the original Online Community Manager TechSoup, Susan was responsible for launching the organization’s active community and social media presence. In her current position as Director of Community and Partnerships for Caravan Studios, she uses her community management skills and social media listening expertise to analyze social networks, build community and generate leads. Susan also assists many small to medium sized organizations with social media and online community-building strategy and implementation, as a private consultant. She is the founder of the largest Online Community Meetup in the Bay Area. Susan is also a frequent public speaker on social media best practices and online community strategy. In her spare time, she runs the social media channels for the iconic all-women rock band, The Go-Go's.

Introducing Our Presenters: Willie Kuo

Willie Kuo

Willie Kuo is the Assistant Director at the Los Angeles Art Association, where she works in development, marketing and communications. Prior to her current role, she served at EMERGENCY USA as part of an Americorps fellowship through New Sector's Residency in Social Enterprise (RISE), a program that develops future leaders in the social sector. Her capacity building projects at EMERGENCY USA improved the use of technology for outreach, which included database implementation and community building through social media. She has pursued her passion for creating social impact through internships at several social sector organizations, including the Clinton Global Initiative in NY, ThinkImpact in South Africa and AIDS Research Alliance in LA. Because of her interest in how social enterprises can use online community building to further their mission, organization and drive social change, Willie assists with online community and social media as a volunteer at Caravan Studios, a division of TechSoup.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

SCRA Webinar #2: Social Change through Social Policy


Are you interested in learning more about how community psychologists work to create social change by influencing policy?

Through the dedicated efforts from your fellow SCRA members, and funding allocated from the SCRA Executive Committee, the new SCRA webinar series present  SCRA Webinar #2: Social Change through Social Policy on Friday, September 19, 2014 from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM (EDT)

In our second online learning session, Lenny Jason, PhD and Ken Maton, PhD will illustrate how to bring about social change through social policy, drawing on their respective areas of expertise. The presentation will provide an in depth look into principles of social change, an overview of the social policy process, and a description of methods and skills community psychologists employ to influence policy. A number of successful social policy interventions undertaken by community psychologists will be highlighted.

Webinar Learning Objectives

1. Principles of Social Change

2. Social Policy Actors, Phases and Contextual Factors

3. Social Policy Influence Methods and Skills

Introducing Our Presenters: Leonard Jason



Leonard A. Jason (@CenterRes)  received his PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Rochester in 1975. He is currently a Professor of Psychology at DePaul University and the Director of the Center for Community Research. This fall will be Jason’s 40th year as a faculty member at DePaul University. He is a past Director of Clinical Training for the Clinical Psychology Doctoral program, past faculty sponsor of Psi Chi, and was one of the faculty members responsible for the creation of the human services concentration and community concentration within the psychology undergraduate program. He also was one of the faculty members that helped create the doctoral program in Community Psychology. Jason has served on 83 Thesis Committees (of which he chaired 57), and 70 Dissertation Committees (of which he chaired 36).

Jason is a former president of the Division of Community Psychology of the American Psychological Association (APA) and a past editor ofThe Community Psychologist. Jason has served as the Vice President of the International American Association of CFS/ME. He also served as the Chairperson of the Research Subcommittee of the U.S. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Jason has edited or written 23 books, and he has published over 600 articles and 75 book chapters on chronic fatigue syndrome; Oxford House recovery homes; the prevention of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse; media interventions; and program evaluation. He has served on the editorial boards of ten psychological journals. Jason has served on review committees of the National Institutes of Health, and he has received over $34,000,000 in federal research grants. He has received three media awards from the APA, and is frequently asked to comment on policy issues for numerous media outlets.


Introducing Our Presenters: Kenneth Maton

Ken Maton is Professor of Psychology and Affiliate Professor, Department of Public Policy, at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). This past year he co-chaired (with Doug Perkins) the SCRA Policy Committee. Ken is currently writing a book, Influencing Social Policy, based on interviews with 80 psychologists actively involved in the policy arena. He recently prepared (with Keith Humphreys, Leonard Jason, and Beth Shinn), “Community psychology in the policy arena”, the policy chapter for the forthcoming Handbook of Community Psychology. In 2004 he co-edited (with Bonnie Leadbeater, Cynthia Schellenbach and Andrea Solarz), Investing in children, youth, families and communities: Strengths-based research and policy. Primary areas of research include minority student achievement, empowering community settings, and the community psychology of religion.

Be sure to tweet about this event mentioning @scra and using Hashtag #SCRAsocial

Friday, August 22, 2014

Girl Power! Lessons Learned from Active Engagement with a Primary Prevention Program Focused on Girls

THEory into ACTion

A Bulletin of New Developments in Community Psychology Practice 
August 2014


Suzette Fromm Reed and Wytress Richardson
National Louis University


     Community psychology has a wealth of theories, guiding principles, and tenets that apply to mentoring young girls. Translating those theories into action comes with some anticipated hurdles as well as some unforeseen obstacles.  In this article, lessons learned from our work as evaluation consultants with a “Girl Power!” program will be explored.
     Our work involved collaborating with a community health coalition comprised, in part, of the local school boards, the park district, and a hospital. We provided evaluation consultations for two consecutive summers for a program consisting of 121 mostly Black and Latino girls between ages 8-10 who participated in a summer camp program.  The socioeconomic status of the community was lower middle class to low-income. The program consisted of activities five days a week from 9am-12 noon; the sessions encompassed daily subject matter, for example: leadership, trust, and self-worth as fundamental themes.
     The central focus of the project was to educate girls on healthy nutritional choices and increase daily movement; but the communal significance of the camp went far beyond nutrition and uncovered the need for an all-inclusive investment in girls. There can be a push to get girls moving and eating healthy food, but they also have to understand how that will impact them in other life areas such as how eating fruits and veggies can help their skin stay clear, their hair grow and shine, and even impact their moods. The obesity epidemic does not solely rest upon people becoming overweight, but also on the fact that some lack healthy self-esteem, self-worth, or even general support from others to make beneficial choices in any area of their lives. For that reason, despite our role as evaluators we saw a need to be an active part of the programming, specifically to encourage consideration of a strengths-based focus on the whole child, including their individual strengths and power-base.  Multiple levels of influence were also considered, specifically how their personal decisions, choices, and abilities intersected with family, community, and society.
     Based on our active engagement with program staff and the girls, we learned some core lessons revolving around the needs to create a safe and empowering environment and the power of collective affirmation on self-efficacy (and perhaps collective efficacy as well).

Creating a Safe and Empowering Environment

     Creating a safe and empowering environment is a principal factor in establishing trust. When the girls came to the camp, most of them had never had any interaction with one another. With the exception of a handful of girls coming in pairs, the majority came alone. Our intention was to create a safe and supportive environment where the girls would feel comfortable enough to participate in the planned activities.  While we were deliberate in creating exercises that would build teamwork, we also emphasized each girl’s uniqueness and intentionally created exercises around individuality. One of the individual activities we had the girls do was share their feelings about participating in the camp -- sharing if they wanted to be there or not, and letting them know that it was not a problem if they did not want to be there. This created individualism and empowered the girls to be honest without consequence. We then paired them and had them share something about themselves with their partner. They then had to share with the entire group what they learned of their partner. A sense of appreciation appeared to form in the eyes of the girls when they recognized that they had similarities with their partner. This icebreaker led to building community amongst the members.
     Setting the tone for a healthy and safe atmosphere provided a framework to empower the girls and give them voice. Creating a safe zone of trust included the ability to create a climate that was inclusive, engaging, and structured. It was incredible to see the girls open up and begin to communicate their inner feelings. It appeared that the environment was supportive and non-judgmental, thus creating an aura of security, camaraderie, and trust.

The Power of Collective Affirmation on Self- and Collective Efficacy

     One way to create positive groupthink, which helped to build collective efficacy, was having girls recite a pledge on the strength of being a girl. The girls were able to identify a sense of self-worth through the power of the pledge and saying it out loud on a daily basis. The pledge engendered a sense of self-worth by giving power to the participant’s voice as they spoke the words out loud daily. The pledge was thought-provoking, inspiring, and filled with empowering affirmations that touched their inner being and gave a sense of permission to be empowered. While reciting the pledge, the girls expressed their authority and screamed the affirming words of being a girl: this seemed to strengthen them as individuals and even as a group. They hugged, smiled, and laughed while reciting the pledge. Each day’s recitation was louder, stronger, and more robust. Their sense of self-efficacy was energized from within, thus causing a chain reaction and a collective affirming group of 8-10 year-old girls from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Although we believe the pledge was a critical component, it appears the intentional creation of community/togetherness was necessary. Our approach, which appears to be effective, was to pair the girls into groups of two, then into small groups, and finally back into the collective cluster where even the more introverted girls were able to bond and create a community of togetherness. They appeared to have gained power from being together and getting to know one another. There seemed to be an awareness, appreciation, and consciousness from each other during some of the activities (i.e. the shoe game and the getting-to know you game). This collective thought process was a contributing factor in reinforcing groupthink in a positive way. The power of community brings about solidarity and may play a critical role in fostering the improvement of a healthy lifestyle for the girls. We acknowledge the role of health and diet in relation to obesity, but we suggest that the power of the group is a critical component to any long-lasting change at both the individual and community level.
As individuals, in the beginning of the program, the girls were frightened and timid. As a group, they became strong and powerful. They memorized the Girl Pledge and were screaming “Girl Power!” within one day. They were 8-10 year-old girls realizing that they had internal and external strength that was powerful beyond measure. They only needed the structure and guidance of a safe, healthy, and positive atmosphere to learn, grow and change – and this gave them the individual and collective voice, control, tools, and opportunity to feel Girl Power! 
The lessons learned from Girl Power! can be applied to many forms of mentoring programs including, but not limited to, healthy lifestyles and obesity prevention programs. One such example includes work at the Girls of Grace Youth Organization founded by Wytress Richardson (co-author) in 2007, designed to encourage holistic development of girls between the ages of 8-18. Over the past seven years Girls of Grace has helped over 100 girls throughout the Chicagoland area find value in themselves, build their confidence and provide leadership development through mentoring.
     The lessons learned from Girl Power can be extended directly to Girls of Grace and other after-school and week-end programs that provide structured community and age-appropriate activities.

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 Bill Berkowitz at Bill_Berkowitz@uml.edu


Monday, August 4, 2014

SCRA Webinar #1: Building Community via Social Media

Are you interested in learning how to build responsive, meaningful relationships among all members of your community via social media?

     Through the dedicated efforts from your fellow SCRA members, and funding allocated from the SCRA Executive Committee, this new SCRA webinar series will occur monthly in August, September, October and November. Our first webinar will be hosted by our social media consultants Susan Tenby and Willie Kuo on August 15th, from 3 to 4 p.m. EDT.
     Our first session will cover the basics of social media engagement. Susan Tenby will cover how to create a community of followers from the ground-up, including how to identify evangelists, and how to publish and engage on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin in just a few minutes each day or week.
     Susan and Willie will bring their extensive expertise to teach tools that will be useful for a variety of levels experience with social media. The presentation will provide an in depth look into publishing and listening on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin. The techniques introduced to SCRA members are a high-engagement approach to community-building across social media channels that will be excellent training for community psychologists.

Webinar Learning Objectives
1. The basics of Tweeting, Retweeting and Following
2. Engagement on Facebook and Linkedin
3. Effectively use one of these three channels in 15 minutes or less

RSVP by Wednesday, August 14, 2014 to receive access information for the webinar.
Mark your calendar for August 15, 2014 and forward to a friend
Be sure to tweet about this event mentioning @scra and using Hashtag #SCRAsocial

Introducing Our Presenters: Susan Tenby
Susan Tenby(@suzboophas worked in online community management for 14 years and has been active in social media since 2006.
As the original Online Community Manager TechSoup, Susan was responsible for launching the organization’s active community and social media presence. In her current position as Director of Community and Partnerships for Caravan Studios, she uses her community management skills and social media listening expertise to analyze social networks, build community and generate leads. Susan also assists many small to medium sized organizations with social media and online community-building strategy and implementation, as a private consultant. She is the founder of the largest Online Community Meetup in the Bay Area. Susan is also a frequent public speaker on social media best practices and online community strategy. In her spare time, she runs the social media channels for the iconic all-women rock band, The Go-Go's.

Introducing Our Presenters: Willie Kuo
Willie Kuo is the Assistant Director at the Los Angeles Art Association, where she works in development, marketing and communications. Prior to her current role, she served at EMERGENCY USA as part of an Americorps fellowship through New Sector's Residency in Social Enterprise (RISE), a program that develops future leaders in the social sector. Her capacity building projects at EMERGENCY USA improved the use of technology for outreach, which included database implementation and community building through social media. She has pursued her passion for creating social impact through internships at several social sector organizations, including the Clinton Global Initiative in NY, ThinkImpact in South Africa and AIDS Research Alliance in LA. Because of her interest in how social enterprises can use online community building to further their mission, organization and drive social change, Willie assists with online community and social media as a volunteer at Caravan Studios, a division of TechSoup


The webinar will be hosted on the Global Meet Platform. To receive details about it, please register at this link

Friday, July 18, 2014

Basing a Leadership Academy’s Curriculum on Ecological Systems

THEory into ACTion

A Bulletin of New Developments in Community Psychology Practice 
July, 2014 

Basing a Leadership Academy’s Curriculum on Ecological Systems

Hana Shahin 


     Four years ago, the Lazord Academy for Civic Leadership was created as part of the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo. The main purpose of the Academy was to provide potential civic leaders in all fields with the necessary skills and tools for leading change across many sectors. Some of the civic leaders who participate in our programs work or are interested in the economic development field, human rights, women’s issues, street children, and other social affairs. 

     The Academy has evolved throughout the years as new tracks are added, such as the Civic Professionals program for Lazord Fellows and employees from partner nonprofit organizations, and also as existing tracks get solidified, such as the track of Advocates for Civic Engagement for undergraduate students. All these programs are united with the vision of graduating a generation of civically responsible and skilled leaders that play an active and engaged role across various sectors.

     Lazord’s mission is to empower select AUC students and young civil society leaders by offering them guided opportunities to expand their skills in ethical leadership, civic engagement, and strategic philanthropy. The Academy aims to provide its civic leaders with exposure to the inner workings of civil society through practical experience, workshops, and mentorship. Accordingly, the participants’ academic excellence and personal growth are facilitated in a structured environment that helps them build the bridge between theory and practice. 

     The Academy has been engaged in continuous development this year, with an emphasis on its methodology. When planning for the 2013-2014 academic year, the team  gathered to unify the methodology across all tracks. This process was composed of three main stages: the development of a curriculum map, creation of a methodology based on ecological systems theory, and development of the phases and topics for each ecological system.


     During the first stage, program coordinators developed a curriculum map based on the values and learning outcomes of the Academy. The values of the Academy are proactive citizenship, respect for diversity, participatory practices, reciprocity of learning and service, integrity in learning, knowledge sharing, critical reflection, self-awareness, innovation, and creative problem solving. The desired learning outcomes are for participants to gain exposure to the inner workings of civil society through extensive exposure, practical experience, and mentorship; develop civic leadership skills; empower the community by acting as a catalyst for strategic philanthropy and capacity building; gain professional competencies through numerous opportunities at the professional and self-development levels; and build a professional network and portfolio.

     The step of creating a curriculum map led to the creation of competencies,  inspired by and derived from the community psychology practice competencies (2012), as well as the Gerhart Center’s own standards, and local Arab expertise engaged in the last years of the program. The curriculum map inspired the topics for the curriculum and helped visualize the different phases that students would move through. The phases included Exploration, Discovery/Rationalize, Plan, and Act, all of these derivable from the community psychology practice competencies.

     In stage two, ecological systems surrounding the participants were developed. These systems were inspired by Bronfenbrenner (1977) and Prilleltensky, Nelson and Peirson (2001), who suggest that a person is a part of a community and society – to understand or change the person or the community, one needs to look at all the ecological systems and levels that the community is constructed of: individual, micro, meso, exo, and macro-system levels. 

     Accordingly, for each track, an adaptation of the systems theory was formulated for each training program. For example, the systems for one track were Me, My Cause, and My Community. For the other track, the systems were Me, My Community, Egypt, and the World. Hence the curriculum is constructed of ecological systems surrounding the individual; the core being the discovery of personal potentials surrounded by a micro system, which is nested within community-related systems and workforce practices. Each system division includes sessions that directly affect these ecological systems. For example, the Lazord Civic Professional, a track for young leaders working in non-profit organizations, is composed of Me, My Work, the Cause, and Community/Egypt.

     Following the creation of ecological models for both training programs, stage three involved arranging topics in each ecological system in a way to match the four phases – namely, the progression of Explore, Discover/Rationalize, Plan, and Act, in each of the systems.  Each topic aligned itself to a previous training needs assessment and previous training topics that received high satisfaction rates; topics were also selected based on their alignment with the competencies that the participants should gain. The core of the training program is the skill of critical thinking; accordingly, critical thinking was addressed in all systems.

     After the plan and curriculum were put together, the different tracks were implemented throughout the year. Some difficulties in implementation included the current instability in political structure of Egypt, and the commitment of the trainers and speakers. In addition, it was sometimes difficult for the coordinators of the programs to maintain the new structure, and sometimes challenging for participants to understand the program’s progression.


     Evaluation came after implementation. Formative and summative evaluations of the Academy were conducted in three ways: session evaluations, collective evaluations, and pre/post competencies self-evaluations. Session evaluations were gathered after each session, while collective evaluations were conducted both midway through and at the end of the program.  These evaluations mainly evaluated the trainer, the logistics, and the program as a whole. 

     The pre/post competencies self-evaluations were conducted before and after the program by the participants. These evaluations may have been the most important, because they gave us an idea of the gaps and further needs of the programs, while emphasizing the development of the participants. Although the evaluations provided us with data about the progress of the program and the development of the participants, they have clearly highlighted room for improving the methodology, the curriculum, and most of all the evaluation process for the coming year. Through self-evaluation, the participants indicated progress on some of their competencies while some other competencies stayed the same or deteriorated. Such results indicate a deficiency in our evaluation system. Accordingly, for the next cohort we are compiling all the evaluations to develop the program further, in addition to planning new evaluation methods that will better assess the program’s structure and content. 

     In planning the Academy’s future for the upcoming year, one of the major lessons learned throughout the process is that we need to continue building on the program that we have rather than simply changing our methodology. We concluded that by sticking to our methodology and only using the evaluations of the participants and stakeholders’ views to improve it, we will be able to strengthen our methodology and impact in the long run.

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 Bill Berkowitz at Bill_Berkowitz@uml.edu.

References
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American     
Psychologist, 32(7), 513-531.

Competencies for Community Psychology Practice.  (2012). Draft paper.  Society for Community   Research And Action, Council on Education Programs and Community Psychology Practice Council, Task Group on Defining Practice Competencies.

Prilleltensky, I., Nelson, G., & Peirson, L. (2001).  Promoting family wellness and preventing child maltreatment: Fundamentals for thinking and action. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.