Sunday, November 7, 2010

Community Practice: The What and the Why

Greetings, and a warm welcome to this community practice blog.

There are plenty of blogs, but we’re not here to add to their number. We’re here because we want to make community life better and stronger; because we have ideas on how this can be done; and because we want to share those ideas with you.

Yet here’s the most important reason: because we want to invite and encourage you and others to get involved in community practice of your own.

Let’s begin, though, at the beginning.

We are community psychologists. Community psychology involves the applications of psychological and behavioral science principles to improve community life. What kind of applications?; those that are both helpful and feasible in daily community living. That’s what we mean by community practice.

But why is community life important in this electronic age? It’s because we all need social and emotional connection and support; and while electronic technology can certainly assist (this blog is electronic, after all), more personal connection and face-to-face communication are essential too.

A vibrant community life can provide that connection and support; and it can yield more specific benefits for all of us. Much research shows that community support improves both physical and mental health, increases our feelings of safety and security, produces better outcomes for children, and helps economically, through close local networks of contacts. All desirable things.

Then how do we get there? As community practitioners, and as psychologists, we know about techniques and skills that lead to more satisfying community living. More than that, we can provide community members with those same techniques and skills, so that they can act successfully where they live – and do so without much money, technical expertise, or major time investment.

Beyond that, we can offer different examples from around the country on successful community action, which other groups can borrow from and adapt. We can motivate those in decision-making positions – locally, statewide, and nationally – to think and act along the same lines. And we can provide encouragement and support to those who believe as we do. All this to us is what community practice is about.

There’s one more reason behind this blog: it’s all too clear that public dollars for traditional community support services are scarce, and are likely to become scarcer. What this means is that community members will need to take more responsibility for their own community quality of life. Everyone will, by necessity if not by choice.

So we believe there's never been a time when local community life has been more important – or when it’s been more important for residents to know how to create and rich and satisfying community lives for themselves. We want then to share our skills and ideas with you, and help put them into daily community practice. To us, community practice is the wave of the future.

And that’s what this blog is about – to offer ideas and dreams, skills and techniques, discussion and dialogue, tips and tools, encouragement and hope, for all those who value community life as something worth building, strengthening, and maintaining.

So welcome once again. Please take the next simple step and join with us as an email subscriber (to subscribe, enter your email in the box at the top right of this page, entitled "subscribe"). And let the blog begin!

Bill Berkowitz
Department of Psychology
University of Massachusetts Lowell

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