Saturday, April 11, 2015

5 Ways Black Churches are Engaging in HIV Prevention

In her blog, Terrinieka Williams Powell, Ph.D., talks about 5 ways Black Churches are engaging in HIV prevention. According to the author, despite accounting for less than 15% of the U.S. population, African Americans account for nearly half of all new HIV infections. Dr. Williams Powell points out that because the Black Church has been, and continues to be a place of support, comfort, and inspiration for many people, it has a potential to successfully address the HIV epidemic in the Black community. She reports on studies that show the growing HIV prevention and treatment efforts of Black churches in the United States.  Here is the full blog from the APA's Psychology Benefits Society.

Friday, February 27, 2015

An Introduction to Creative Placemaking

THEory into ACTion

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

by
Elizabeth R. Stone, Pacifica Graduate Institute

        Creative Placemaking can most succinctly be described as an evolving set of practices that involve community members in revitalizing and developing their communities in a way that includes arts and cultural workers and their products to enhance everyone’s quality of life.  It could be argued that projects similar to creative placemaking have been undertaken for decades; however it is only recently that the term has been developed and has been gaining traction as a focus of community development funding and projects. Such projects offer many opportunities to which community psychologists might contribute.

        There is a great diversity in the types of projects that have been funded to date.  Low income or supported housing or live/work sites for artists, mural projects that involve youth in a training component, development of a community arts center, mobile apps that link local artists to potential customers, and a series of art-centric events in an abandoned site exemplify the range of possibilities. This suggests that funding can be available for imaginative larger scale projects where a strong sense of place is integrated with arts and culture to inform project development and final products in a way that brings vitality to a languishing area or community.



        One of the benefits of creative placemaking is that it supports cross- sector partnerships.  Public, non-profit, and private ventures are called upon to work together.  It also invites cross-discipline work, as transportation or housing agency entities may become involved with community or arts and cultural individuals and institutions.  It is seen by many as a way to better leverage an investment because of the many players involved. Some examples follow.


  • Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s (LISC) Institute for Comprehensive Community Development is one of several organizations that have conducted several major creative placemaking projects throughout the US.  One of these was Resilient Communities, Resilient Families, launched in 2011 in Boston.  To engage residents, community organizations, and other stakeholders in the planning process they asked, “What’s next for the neighborhood?”  Artists emerged as key players.  They both articulated the importance of culture in community revitalization and brought creativity to the planning process.  They helped bring to life who lived in the community, what mattered most in terms of quality of life, and why the community was loved through means such as storytelling or creative depictions that went beyond traditional data gathered.  Working to facilitate the success of artists as entrepreneurs, services devised included business plan training, increased access to capital, and expanded venues for arts performance and display.  

        A project highlight was Bartlett Events, a summer-long series of events held at a vacant bus yard slated for redevelopment.  Murals adorned the site as residents came together in new ways.  Another innovation was the development of a social enterprise initiative called New Art Love that created a mobile art application to link local artists to potential buyers for their work.  Descriptions of other projects can be found in their Thinking Out Loud blog about creative placemaking (http://www.instituteccd.org/resources/5010).

  • In Lawrence, Kansas, the Lawrence Arts Center received $500,000 last year from Artplace to implement the “Free State Boulevard: From the Studio to the Streets” project, designed to revitalize and re-engage a six-block stretch that links downtown Lawrence with a warehouse arts area.  Multi-modal paths, upgraded amenities, and new models of urban infrastructure are planned to help integrate and cross-pollinate the two communities.  
  • Fargo, North Dakota received $450,000 from Artplace last year to further develop and implement plans for a World Gardens Commons that would transform an 18-acre storm water detention basin that has historically isolated the Native American and immigrant populations living next to it.  An environmental artist is leading teams of artists in partnership with social service organizations to involve residents in programming and activation.  This builds on the $260,000 awarded in 2013 to the Plains Art Museum for plans for Defiant Gardens in the Fargo-Moorhead communities.
  • The Rebuild Foundation was awarded $125,000 in 2011 by Artplace to convert an abandoned building in the Dorchester neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side into the Black Cinema House Live/Work Space where films, videos, and media works arising from the community will be made, shared, and discussed.  The scope of this project was expanded and additional funding was secured.  The Washington Park Arts Incubator is a joint project of The University of Chicago Arts and Public Life Initiative, the Office of Civic Engagement, and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, which built on the initial impetus of the Rebuild Foundation.  It received $400,000 in 2012 to continue work on this vision.  The three artists-in-residence announced for 2013-2014 were a musician and composer, a poet and visual artist, and an artist, designer, and educator.
        As can be gleaned from the above, a major funder of creative placemaking projects is Artplace (http://www.artplaceamerica.org).  It is a consortium of twelve foundations and two anonymous donors, with six major financial institutions as  partners, and several federal agencies providing  advice and counsel as well.  Artplace has invested a total of $56.8 million in 189 projects in 122 communities across 42 states and the District of Columbia since 2012 in amounts ranging from $50,000-$500,000.

        Many of the foundations that are part of the Artplace consortium also fund projects on their own. One of these is The Kresge Foundation (http://kresge.org).  It also partners with other foundation members of the Artplace consortium such as the Surdna Foundation.  The two recently announced a plan to award $1.3 million to seven community development financial institutions in a two-year effort to integrate arts, culture, and creativity into community revitalization efforts.
     
        The document that set the theoretical foundation for the burgeoning field is Creative Placemaking, a 2010 white paper for The Mayors’ Institute on City Design, itself a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors and the American Architectural Foundation.  In it, the following definition of creative placemaking was offered:

  • In creative placemaking, partners from public, private, non-profit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired.

        Such a broad definition can be good news for folks involved in community psychology and community work, because it means there is room for creatively developing projects that can get some of the generous funding that is starting to be earmarked for creative placemaking.

        One of authors of the 2010 white paper was Ann Markusen, based at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, where she is Director of the Arts Economy Initiative and the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics.  Her co-author was Anne Gadwa Nicodemus, a choreographer and arts administrator before becoming involved with urban planning.  She is the principal at Metris Arts Consulting and is considered one of the leading experts in the field.  Her website (http://metrisarts.com/creative-placemaking/) has links to most of her pioneering work, including the 2010 report.   (See also a special 2014 issue on creative placemaking sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Francisco, at http://www.frbsf.org/community-development/files/cdir-10-02-creative-placemaking.pdf.)

        Nicodemus has noted some challenges within the new field.  Its metrics are still being developed: How are things like return on investments measured and evaluated and by whom?  Key values like agency, equity, and vibrancy can be elusive. One major criticism is that revitalizing blighted or neglected neighborhoods by making them attractive to arts and culture-minded entrepreneurs and their consumers might displace place the current residents.  Is Creative Placemaking another form of gentrification?  Many of the actors in this field seem to be conscious of this possibility and are looking for projects that actively involve and support residents, who would have  a central role in project design and development.

        Local art and culture can be an essential element of community work;  and local artists and cultural workers, as well as community psychologists, can be key participants in it.   The arts can open people to new possibilities and help build bridges across differences. Including them intentionally in one’s projects can have many benefits, including access to increased funding sources and inclusion in the discussion of an evolving new field.  Best of all, working this way can be a lot of fun for all involved.




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 




Thursday, February 12, 2015

10 healthy strategies youth can use to cope with racial discrimination

While working on an evidence-based intervention curriculum GirlPOWER!, for adolescent, African American and Latina female mentees and their adult female mentors at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, Dr. Bernadette Sánchez and Dr. Noni Gaylord-Harden developed a handout for mentees and mentors on how youth can cope with racial discrimination in healthy ways. 

To read the full list of suggested strategies, click here

Bernadette Sánchez is an Associate Professor of Psychology at DePaul University. She is currently a member of and directs the Community Psychology Ph.D. Program.

To learn more about Dr. Sánchez's other work, visit her page

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The 2015 Community Practice Revolution

By JJ Ramirez


The revolution has begun!

        No we aren’t going to overthrow the government or riot, but 2015 will be very crucial year of change, advancement and growth for social workers across the nation and globe. To begin, lets rewind; the first social work class was offered in 1898 at Columbia University.  By 1917, Mary Ellen Richmond, known as the founding mother of social casework, created the first scientific methodology for case work. Her work played a major role in helping make social work an actual profession and by 1929 ten universities were offering a degree in social work.


        Now try and imagine what the first group of people that participated in social work had to endure. Landline phones were slowly being integrated and accessibility of phones to the poor or underprivileged was meniscal to zilch. No Internet. No Social Media. Much like Richmond, the only way social workers knew where or who to help was by networking through word of mouth and hitting the streets.

        Fast forward 117 years and you arrive in 2015. The social work profession has grown into a massive cognitive machine working on all levels. By levels I’m referring to micro (individual and families), mezzo (neighborhoods and institutions), and macro (states and countries). Each is equally important, although true positive community change begins at the mezzo level. So if the system seems to be working, why a revolution?

Improvement

        Much like Richmond improved and revolutionized the social work profession through scientific research, so too will technology have the same effect this year. For those professionals already in social work, you may have already noticed the change. The amount of resources and way’s to connect are abundant to say the least and with technology improving at a rate faster than ever before, it is easy to speculate that the amount of resources will only grow. A few resources at their disposal now are social networking, searching the internet for information on any topic, conducting in-depth research or reviewing the research of colleagues, emailing and calling colleagues and clients, and mobile apps. Apps like iGrade for Social Worker help professionals access client evaluations, notes, statistics, and progress status and many more features.


        This is huge improvement from word of mouth and hitting the streets right? I’d say so! Not only has technology helped improve social work professionals, it has also helped make a social work degree more accessible to students across the globe. How you ask? Online classes! Schools like the University of New England, Case Western Reserve University and Wake Forest University are just a few of the schools taking advantage of this medium.  By providing online classes, students can mold their online classes to fit around their schedules which in turn will help the social work field grow.

Connectivity

        The internet is making the world a smaller place, especially through social media.  It serves as a great tool for quick communication, sharing of information, and research studies among colleagues. By collaborating and sharing of information, social workers are able to keep up with relevant news and information. The collaboration through social media assists community practice campaigns by providing information to the general public of ongoing events or locations of help centers, all for free.
        Since most these resources are free, social workers at universities are taking advantage of social media by running campaigns to alert students about campus counseling centers, extended hours, hotlines and afterhours resources.

Community

        The revolution has begun and with the fast pace of technology, who knows if it will ever truly stop. What is known is that social workers that participate in community practice can utilize any and all tools to help their cause within their community. Whether it provides better resources for the poor, helping the disabled community, creating better programs for children or finding shelter for the homeless, they can save money by using free tools to reach their target audience, raise awareness, gain a gathering and ultimately change the community for the better.



J.J. Ramirez is an avid amateur cook and adventure seeker. He ran a marketing campaign for home automation systems across the U.S. tailored for middle to low income families. Through his travels he grew a passion for helping the community and coincidentally is now working towards obtaining a masters in social work. To contact him you can either email him at nevuram@gmail.com or follow his journey at https://twitter.com/nevuram.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Emerging Non Profit World in Saudi Arabia: A Promising Glimpse

By Tom Wolff


        The email arrived out of the blue in June of this year. The email was titled, “Invitation to speak at top Saudi NPO Conference!” They were inviting me to give a keynote address in early November at the annual non-profit conference at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Khobar in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I was baffled – how did they find me? Why did they want me? What were they asking of me?
     
        The last question was made clear in their email: “Knowing you are an expert, academic and consultant in the field of community development, we would like to invite you to speak at our conference and give a keynote presentation about community development and the role of the non-profit sector in light of the roles of the other two sectors (public, business).”

        So, over the next few weeks and months we talked, emailed and negotiated the topic and content of my talk. Ultimately it was titled: Enhancing Collaboration Across Government, Business and Non Profits: Building Healthy Communities in Saudi Arabia.  Throughout that time I wondered what they really wanted from me, what was awaiting me, and what was happening in Saudi Arabia. I let them know that all my community development work and healthy communities work is based on core principles of democracy and was that going to be okay to discuss in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)? They reassured me that it would be fine. So, I proceeded with their support to acquire a visa and booking flights etc.

        I read a few books on visiting Saudi Arabia and started to learn about the country as best I could from here in the US. I learned about the ‘religious police’ who enforce the wearing on burkas for women. I watched a wonderful Saudi movie, Wajdja, (from a female director) about a girl wanting to ride a bike (not acceptable). I checked out the websites on “women driving in Saudi Arabia” – which states that this is the only country in the world where women can’t drive. I learned that a large percent of the Saudi work force (especially lower level jobs) were performed by foreigners (ie 1.5 million from the Philippines). I read on the visa application that violations of Saudi drug laws were punishable by death. I was fascinated and remained baffled.

        I was told that there are 1400 non-profits in Saudi Arabia, 700 of them being Islamic teaching organizations. That leaves 700 doing the work that non-religious non-profits do here in the US. That’s not many non-profits, I imagine we have 700 non-profits just here in western Massachusetts.

        They later informed me that on top of the keynote they also wanted me to offer a 6 hour workshop on the actual ‘how to’s’ of community development and to consult on some of their projects while I was there --- it was going to be a busy visit.

        Just before leaving,  I learned of the amazing roster of presenters that they had lined up for this two day event:  Bunker Roy and Meagan Carnahan of the Barefoot College in India; Iqbal Quadir from MIT focused on inclusive ventures in low income countries ie. Grameenphone in Bangaladesh; Aaron Hurst on the Purpose Economy and  Pro Bono as a Powerful Solution; Rodrigo Baggio of Brazil Center for Schools on Digital Inclusion in Rio’s favelas; Tony Meloto who  builds sustainable communities in slum areas in the Philippines, Farm Village Universities; Robert Ashcroft from Arizona State University on  Creating and Sustaining Non -profit Workforce; Michael Grogan from Calgary, Canada on Workforce development in non-profit sector;, and Stephen Brien from England on Social Impact Bonds. This was a much more fascinating line up of speakers than I have heard at a US non-profit conference in decades.

        Most of them were much more prominent on the global scene than I was ie. Bunker Roy one of “the 100 most influential people in the world” and Rodrigio “top leader in South American to watch” both by Time Magazine. But as my visit evolved it became clear that my host, Salem Aldini (a professor of mechanical engineering), was planning to  develop a Non Profit Institute at King Fahd University and to launch community development projects across the country starting with a few pilots. This was my area of expertise.

        So I began to understand that I was chosen as someone who could convey specific processes and tools for their hand- picked audience of 150 non- profit and family foundation leaders. I could also expose them to tools in the Community Tool Box (ctb.ku.edu) which is translated into Arabic.



        During my four days I began on day one by working with a small group consultation with the faculty who would be the facilitators in my upcoming six hour workshop, gave the kick off keynote address, followed by an afternoon discussion session.  Then, two days later, a consultation to the teams planning the community development pilot and another team working on youth interventions who were looking for innovative ways of assessing youth needs. Finally I delivered a six hour workshop to a small hand chosen group of 35 non- profit and foundation leaders. It was a workout for them and me.

        The Saudi faculty, foundation and non- profit leaders whom I met with in the small group consultations were very serious about trying to bring community development innovations to the Saudi non- profit and foundation world. They asked lots of questions, took lots of notes. Clearly, they were most curious about this work. This is startling in light of the repression and limited practice of democracy in Saudi Arabia. We often got to the point in a discussion, especially when talking about evaluation and documentation, where they said that although the government collects data it is generally unavailable to those in the university, foundation and the non-profit world.

        In one small group I did learn of people working at the community level bringing the three sectors (business, government, non- profit) together to address crises over the last few years such as: the flooding in Jeddah, the influx of Kuwaiti refugees after the Gulf War, and helping female teachers get transportation to work.

        The second class citizenship of women was always present in our discussion. The keynote audience was all male in the auditorium, while the talk and slides were also shown in a separate conference room to the women. At the buffet breakfast one morning a woman in full burka addresses me; she was a participant in the other room – liked my talk but complained about Bunker’s Barefoot College because it took the Grandmas away from villages to become solar engineers. Why not take the men? She is Secretary General of the International Islamic Women’s Association. I asked if it was alright for me to sit with her for breakfast (I was fascinated). Although, she said ‘yes’, when I sat down she spent all her time of the cell phone – so I assumed it was not really acceptable and I moved.

        A few people attending the conference explained to me that Mohammed both worked and prayed side by side with his wife – so that the precedent for the separation of the women was not really clear.

        Of course, in most cultures, to my knowledge women do the core community building work, often below the radar. That has been true in almost all my community development and coalition building work in the US. But in KSA, it is tricky to build coalitions because men and women have to be separate – we were deep into a conversation about a planned model community development project in a limited geographic area (a city neighborhood) when I asked whether we would be able to mobilize the men and the women together – I was told “no”, that it would be two separate but coordinated efforts – mind boggling to an American community builder.

        But interestingly enough, at 9 PM in my workshop all of a sudden a number of the men left – I was later told that they had promised their wives that they would be home by 9 PM!



        Religious questions often surfaced during my visit. In almost all the question and answer sessions there would be statements about what the Koran said. Often these questions were not really questions but some statement of Islamic teachings that might or might not relate directly to what had just been said. Many of the Saudis were eager for us to leave with a better understanding of Islam. To that end, we were presented with copies of the Koran and a six set DVD set on understanding Islam.

        My workshop was entitled “Enhancing Collaboration with Government Business and Non Profits – A workshop on Tools and Processes for Success.”  It included an overview of collaboration, and the five key principles of collaborative solutions from my book (The Power of Collaborative Solutions). I helped them take a view of non-profit functions beyond individual, remedial work done by professionals and to expand to working with families, tribes, the whole society and going beyond remediation to include prevention, development and empowerment as legitimate non-profit functions. This seemed to be an important expansion of scope for them. We covered planning tools such as: coalition start up and planning, SWOT Analysis, visioning, force field analysis, developing a road map, barriers, tools for engaging the community and finally collaborative leadership. The Community Tool Box was demonstrated. The participants were eager to engage with all the material but it was hard to tell exactly how much they would actually take back with them and use. Doing an English/Arabic bilingual workshop for 35 participants over six hours with two breaks for prayer was a new experience for me. Having all the worksheets translated into Arabic was wonderful but it made it impossible for me to indicate which the appropriate page was. They all seemed to humor me as we proceeded, and I will be anxious to see the evaluations. The informal feedback after the workshop was very positive.

Some startling other learnings: 

  • English is the official language at King Fahd University (and also in the Saudi business world), KSA was described jokingly as the 51st US state.
  • The average size of a Saudi Family Foundations was said to be $10 Billion!
  • The warmth and hospitality of the Saudis was remarkable. People were always offering to help and sincerely interested in our well- being during the stay. One afternoon my very accommodating host, Ahmad, was going to take me to a store where we could buy dates to take back to my family. We went to the nearby mall but it was closed for prayer, so as we were leaving we saw two men having a cup of coffee (or Arabic tea). Ahmad asked them for a recommendation of a store and directions and they had a lengthy chat. We then went to find Ahmad’s car, but just like in the US who can find their car in a Mall’s parking lots? About five minutes later one of the men we had just talked to came running up. He had thought of a better date store for us to go to. Amazing hospitality! 


So what did I bring home?


        I loved the adventure and foreignness of the whole experience in a totally different culture.

        I was excited by the opportunities that Salem Aldini has opened up for a developing non-profit world in KSA.

        I am eager to help in the next phases of their progress. Many participants indicated that they were eager to have me come back – but in all honesty I am not sure that that wasn’t just Arabian hospitality and warmth. On the other hand, Salem informed me that he arranged for my visa to be good for five years (the visa is in Arabic so I have no idea what it says) – so maybe I will return. I would enjoy that.

        Also, I was able to reflect on how my enthusiasm for the future of non-profits in KSA did not match my experience of the non- profit world in the US in 2014. Here, I see the non- profit world becoming increasing conservative, become averse to risk, and to sticking their neck out and naming the issues that stare us in the face (racism, economic inequality, etc.). Maybe we in the US can re-capture that sense of adventure that comes from an emerging non-profit sector – but I am not sure what will make that happen.


Tom Wolff

Friday, January 2, 2015

Community Tool Box: 2015 Out of the Box Prize



The Community Tool Box is celebrating its 20th anniversary by hosting an Out of the Box Prize to honor innovative and promising approaches to promoting community health and development happening in communities worldwide. The Grand Prize winner will receive $5,000 USD. We hope you will submit your own application and video, and share the contest information with others.


ELIGIBILITY AND SELECTION CRITERIA

Groups engaged in building healthier and more just communities during the last three years can apply. This may include efforts to improve community health, education, urban or rural development; or to address poverty, the environment, or promote social justice. Applicants must be willing to have their group’s efforts shared via the Community Tool Box.

We are seeking to honor “out of the box”—innovative and high impact — approaches to bringing about change and improvement in communities. “Innovation” may include a unique or effective way of bringing about change, generating or using existing resources, or generating participation and advocacy for change. We seek clear descriptions of how applicants took action in the community; including Assessment, Planning, Taking Action, Evaluation, and Sustainability of the group’s efforts.

Download the application


AWARDS AND SELECTION PROCESS


  • Grand Prize: $5,000 cash award (USD)
  • Second Prize: $3,000 cash award (USD)
  • Award Finalists: Applicant stories will be shared via the Community Tool Box. Judges will select approximately 10 Finalists, whose stories will be posted on the Tool Box home page. Site visitors will vote on the Finalists to receive the top two prizes.

KEY CONTEST DATES


  • April 30, 2015: Deadline for submission of applications
  • August 1, 2015: Award Finalists posted on the homepage of the Community Tool Box; public voting begins
  • October 1, 2015: Public voting on Award Finalists closes
  • October 15, 2015: Grand Prize and Second Prize announced and awards given


View community stories from Out of the Box 2010.

To receive Out of the Box Prize updates and for other news and information from the Community Tool Box, please subscribe to our eNewsletter or follow us on Facebook.



The Community Tool Box Team

Friday, December 19, 2014

Community at the Heart of Safe Routes to School and Feet First

THEory into ACTion 

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

Mary C. Benton, Seattle

        Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Lisa Quinn, the Executive Director of Feet First, about the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) grant program under the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). The objective is to enable and support active commuting (walking and biking) by school children and families. The program is multi-faceted and involves a wide range of community partners in health, public safety, education, and transportation.

        Developing safe routes for children to commute to and from school is obviously important from a public safety perspective. However, the implications extend beyond just issues of safety and accessibility. Active commuting can play an important role in student health and readiness to learn. For example, children who actively commuted to school showed lower levels of body fat and obesity (Mendoza et al., 2011). Additional research has demonstrated better academic performance and better attendance (Letsmoveschools.org, 2014) among those who actively commute.





        From the beginning, community involvement is at the heart of the SRTS grant program. Indeed, inclusion into the program requires that the members of the school apply for the grant. Once accepted, the school community remains an active participant throughout the process, partnering with key government and community organizations to help make active commutes safer and more enjoyable. This is where Feet First comes in.


        Feet First, Washington’s only pedestrian advocacy nonprofit organization, works to ensure that all communities across Washington are walkable (Feet First, 2014). And one of the most unique things they do is something called a walking audit” – an assessment of the municipal geography, the routes pedestrians take, and the obstacles they face in walking and biking. For the SRTS grant, Feet First organized a walking audit for each school and surrounding neighborhoods. Participants were given clipboards and maps of commute routes; children were given digital camera: and all were instructed to record their observations on a worksheet. Members of the community who were unable to participate in the walking audit were given worksheets electronically so they could submit their observations.


        According to Quinn, the key to a successful audit is involving the local residents – people who know the area, who live or work there, and know what it’s like to walk or bike around the neighborhood. In the case of the SRTS program, community members, parents, teachers and students were encouraged to join in and share their observations and feedback during the walking audit. Says Quinn, “It makes a big difference having the school principal on the walk. Experiencing the walk first hand has greater impact than simply receiving a copy of the walking audit”. Participating in the walking audit engenders more buy-in and ownership of the program for all who participate.





        At the end of the audit, Feet First compiled a report based on the feedback provided; the report is used to identify and prioritize commute improvements. Improvements are subject to community input and span a wide range of solutions and project partners. Solutions included engineering improvements such as sidewalks and curb bulbs from the Seattle Department of Transporation (SDOT), increased enforcement of speed limits in school zones from the Seattle Police Department (SPD), and encouraging local residents to trim vegetation to improve vehicle and pedestrian sightlines. 


        Approaches and solutions are individualized for each school community depending on the strengths, needs and challenges. For example, one of the schools is located at the top of a steep hill with a 70-foot elevation change. Obviously, walking and biking to this school presents unique challenges requiring innovative solutions. The result is Hike and Bike Fridays where student bike trains are led by the school physical education teacher and volunteers from the Cascade Bicycle Club (another community partner) from the local coffee shop (this is Seattle) up the hill and to school. 
        
        At another school, barriers to a safe route to school were transformed into a community strength. One of the main routes to school was through a park where there were crime concerns. Instead of simply avoiding the park, the local community center, White Center Community Development Association (WCCDA), whose goals include helping parents get involved in their children’s education and helping them understand how to work within the school to effect change, established a parent-led Walking School Bus through the park. A Walking School Bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. The Walking School Bus had many benefits including empowerment of multilingual, multicultural families and the attainment of greater community connections in addition to creating a safer route to school. 

        Regardless of the school, the one constant in the SRTS Program is community involvement in all steps of the process: from grant application, to walking audit, and to approaches and solutions. The community IS the client. Which makes sense because they are the ones experiencing the environment well beyond the school day.



Works Cited:

Feet First. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.feetfirst.org/about-us/people

Let’s Move Schools. (2014) Retrieved from http://www.letsmoveschools.org/assets/lmas-

partner-infographic.pdf

Mendoza, J. A., Watson, K., Nguyen, N., Cerin, E., Baranowski, T., & Nicklas, T. A. (2011). 
Active commuting to school association with physical activity and adiposity among US youth. The Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 8, 488-495.


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.