Friday, February 24, 2012

Arts-Based Approaches and their Contribution to CBPR

“ABR practices have emerged out of the natural affinity between research practice and artistic practice, both of which can be viewed as crafts.”- Patricia Leavy

Many of us have heard about community-based participatory research (CBPR), whether it was in a classroom, a nonprofit board meeting, or an evaluation research team. However, we may not be as familiar with arts-based research or its relevance to CBPR. For this reason, we will be exploring arts-based research and its contribution to CBPR.

CBPR is oriented towards promoting agency and participation within the community and dismantling those ‘active researcher-passive participant’ power relations that have a long history in research. The goal is to build capacity for a more equitable experience when initiating and carrying out research in communities.1

This approach to research is, in many ways, revolutionary. It stemmed from two historical roots: The northern tradition and the southern tradition1. The northern tradition has influenced our value in collaborating to solve problems and altering power dynamics. The southern tradition, linked to Latin America, Asia, and Africa, began as an integration of liberation theory and practice.1 This paradigm emphasized an emancipatory approach to the social science2, and was greatly influenced by challenging the positivist approach to research and the domination of the people by the Colonizers; this orientation was championed by Paolo Freier.1

These two paradigms have influenced the way we currently think about CBPR. There are four major elements to CBPR: participation, the co-production of knowledge and control, praxis and equitable distribution of power.1 Community members are actively involved in the research process and are considered  co-researchers who share ownership over the creation, implementation, and dissemination of the study.1 CBPR is a framework that fits well with our goals and practice as community psychologists and contributes to our intention of understanding the social context of individuals within their communities.4  The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality have developed criteria to evaluate the participatory qualities of research projects, which can be found here. These aspects may be helpful to keep in mind when developing CBPR studies.9

Similar to CBPR, arts-based research (ABR) provides a unique and transformative set of methodologies that draw on various art modalities to address social issues.6,7 This approach uses art forms such as literary arts, music, dance, drama, visual art, film and so on.6,7 It has served as a medium through which researchers and communities can identify or raise consciousness about social issues, such as poverty, sex-trafficking, or homelessness.6  The work of Dr. Izumi Sakamoto and her colleagues provides a powerful example of what arts-based CBPR looks like. Their Coming Together project documented the experience of homeless women and transwomen in Toronto. In using staged photography (an art form that combines photography, theatre, dance, and painting), women expressed their experiences with social support, trauma, homelessness, and discrimination based on gender or transphobia. The researchers and advisory board (consisting of women who had experienced homelessness) held public presentations showcasing the work, and disseminated the findings to local policy makers and social service agencies.8

In arts-based research, we can definitely see how the core concepts of CBPR emerge. ABR is, in fact, action oriented and participatory.6 ABR is a creative and powerful tool that can be used to create compelling, contextual accounts of a community’s experience.6 When we look at the history of participatory approaches in community psychology we see that it has been an important tool for engaging communities and promoting empowerment.3,4,5 As arts-based CBPR continues to expand, we hope to see a stronger presence in community psychology research and practice.

In the coming posts we will explore different methods embedded in ABR/CBPR, and would love comments on people’s thoughts or experiences of these approaches!

This post was written by Katherine Cloutier from Michigan State University, and Kyrah Brown from Wichita State University.

1. Wallerstein, N., & Duran, B. (2003). The conceptual, historical, and practice roots of community based participatory research and related participatory traditions. In M. Minkler & N. Wallerstein (Eds.), Community-based participatory research for health (pp. 27-52). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 
2. Lykes, M. B., & Mallona, A. (2008). Towards transformational liberation: Participatory and action research and praxis. In P. Reason & H. Bradbury (Eds.), Handbook of action research (pp. 106-120). London: Sage Publications.
3. Kelly, J. G. (1971). Qualities for the community psychologist. American Psychologist, 26, 897-903.
4. Kelly, J. G. (2003). Science and community psychology: Social norms for pluralistic inquiry. American Journal of Community Psychology, 31(3/4), 213-217.
5. Rappaport, J. (1977). Community psychology: Values, research, and action New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
6. Leavy, P. (2009). Method meets art: Arts-based research practice. New York: The Guilford Press.
7. Finley, S. (2008). Arts-based research. In J. G. Knowles & A. L. Cole (Eds.), Handbook of the arts in qualitative research (pp. 71-82). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
8. Sakamoto, I., Ricciardi, J., Plyler, J., & Wood, N. (2007). Coming together: Homeless women, housing and social support. Toronto: Centre for Applied Social Research, Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto.
9. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (2004). Community-based participatory research: Assessing the evidence. Rockville: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Rockville, MD.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Exploring Arts-Based Approaches to Community Psychology Research and Practice

This is Kyrah from Wichita State, and Katherine from Michigan State. As two students in community psychology programs we have become intrigued by, and invested in, arts-based participatory methods. As we begin to explore these methods and how they may be particularly useful when working in empowering and social justice oriented ways, we will be writing reflexive pieces here on the Community Psychology Practice Blog. 

Throughout our exploration we have decided to begin a posting series related to Arts-Based Approaches to CBPR (community-based participatory research). We are hoping these posts will be informative (regarding arts-based methods that practitioners are using), reflective (for us to share our experience using methods as well as our general reflections to how specific methods may be particularly useful for community psychologists), and inspirational (encouraging other students and scholars to explore arts-based methods further). We are also hoping for people to comment on our posts – give us feedback, share past experiences, anything – we’d love to hear it!

Please keep your eyes open for more posts coming soon!

Kyrah & Katherine

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

If a Community Psychologist Ran for President....

What would our candidate’s platform be?
          Suppose that platform was based on commonly-held community psychology and community practice values. And suppose the time has come to launch the campaign with a policy address. Our candidate approaches the microphone. Might the speech sound like this?  

“My fellow Americans, I stand before you at a watershed moment in our country’s history. I won’t repeat here the serious and multiple challenges that threaten our way of life; they are all too familiar by now.  But I think we can agree that both our major political parties have failed to meet those challenges; and that, as presently constituted, they are unlikely ever to meet them in the future.
“Clearly we need a new approach and a fresh point of view. And so we offer a new vision for our country’s future – a different vision, but a realistic and sustainable vision, one that, in the words of our forefathers, will promote the general welfare, establish justice, secure the blessings of liberty, and insure domestic tranquility, as well as provide for personal security and well-being, for generations to come.
          “The centerpiece of our platform is based upon strong local community life. We will help build and maintain vibrant, cohesive, and supportive communities across the United States.  Why the community? Because that’s where almost all of us lead our daily lives, and gain the satisfactions that make life worth living. That’s where we build and keep relationships with others that lead to friendship and trust. That’s where we can act together to reach common goals. That’s where we can more easily get things done, and see the fruits of our efforts. Both other parties have failed to recognize these basic truths. And so they have missed a major opportunity to revitalize and to transform our society.
          “We will work to strengthen citizen participation in community life, because all citizens must be able to participate in decisions that affect them; because participation builds relationships; and because participation is enjoyable, pure and simple. But more than that, let us say frankly that citizen participation is essential  in the budgetary hard times we live in. Participation is fulfilling, even joyful, but it  is also the obligation of a citizen living in our society. The hard truth is that we have asked little of our citizens other than to pay taxes and obey the law; this must change. We will not ask citizens to police the streets or haul the trash, but we will encourage and expect every resident to participate in his or her community to the best extent possible – not simply as a “volunteer,” although volunteering is commendable, but rather as a basic accompaniment of citizenship.
“We will aim to build competencies in every community member, and provide every opportunity to acquire competence in such fields our citizens choose – because building competence fulfills our human potential, and equally because it fosters self–reliance, independence, and personal responsibility. Building competence also empowers people, which is more than a buzz word for us; we must translate empowerment into practice. We both want and need an empowered citizenry – or as one of our other presidential candidates has put it, “people power,” echoing the words of Saul Alinsky.     
“We of course will promote diversity, not just to honor diversity or celebrate diversity, but to utilize diversity – the varied talents and interests of all members of our communities. There is something for everyone to do – we believe ‘everyone is a perfect something’ – and the tasks ahead of us are too important to do anything but maximize each person’s contribution.
          “Social justice is one of our primary values and presidential campaign themes. We will foster it by drawing on the diverse talents we have mentioned. But economic justice is vitally important as well. We care about the very poor, the near poor, the poor in substance, and the poor in spirit. By building cohesive communities, where people feel connection and kinship with each other, the wealthier among us will be more likely to share resources with the less fortunate. Yet that is not enough. Although we value entrepreneurship, and support fair profits, we stand behind national and local policies that ask the wealthy to pay more – because morally that is the just thing to do, and because pragmatically, as we have learned in recent books such as The Spirit Level, a more equal society is also a healthier and more robust society in virtually every way. 
          “We stand neither for big government nor for small government, but for generative government – for government as catalyst, government as partner, government as facilitator.  Government must ensure provision of basic needs, and beyond that help support other activities in the public interest.  Toward that end, we will teach and train. We will consult and advocate, stimulate and energize, collaborate whenever we can. We will give technical support, and offer modest monetary incentives, especially for new creative solutions. We will evaluate results and be guided by actual data, for we are committed to scientific method and to evidence-based practice. And we will provide moral leadership for our community vision, helping to realize it in every community across the United States. These are not empty words, for our party’s leadership is made up of community psychologists with tested skills for creating community change.  Who knows better than community practitioners how to strengthen community life?
“How much will this cost? The good news is comparatively little. Our vision will be cost-effective in the long run. For when communities and community members are energized, organized, and active, we are certain that dollar costs to maintain our quality of life will be significantly less than when the community is indifferent, fragmented, and passive.
“Finally, through these combined efforts, and throughout our villages, towns, cities, and neighborhoods, we will build a strong sense of community. Because with that sense of community, we are more likely to comfort and support our fellow community members, and be supported by them, in times of need. Because that sense of community will sustain us in times of adversity. And because it will make our lives fuller and richer. The most important resources in our communities are our community members themselves; and so a primary goal in our platform is to identify and utilize all our capacities and skills – our best human qualities, qualities that have for so long been unrecognized and untapped in our communities.   
          “So when we take office, we will build communities that will meet our material needs, but that will be especially rich in social infrastructure and in human relationships. They will be what our colleague John McKnight has called “abundant communities” – abundant in our ties to each other and in the great pleasures that come from being connected to something larger than oneself.
          “It is true that we are late entrants into this race. Realistically, there may not be time for us to win this particular election. But, mark my words, our ideas and our focus on strong community life will be the wave of the future, by necessity if not also by choice.  Community life will and must be the foundation for a new society that will be sustainable, secure, self-renewing, and deeply satisfying. We hold that vision high. And we invite all of you who are listening to share that vision with us and help transform it into reality.”  

The speech concludes. What is your reaction?
Do you support such a platform?
Would this community psychologist candidate win your vote?

Bill Berkowitz
Department of Psychology
University of Massachusetts Lowell 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pushing Open the Doors

The moment she started talking and telling me about her doctoral program, I was hooked. That day the clouds revealed rays of light, shining down on me, and I had found the ultimate doctoral program. After graduating from college it took me more than 8-years to find my calling and a discipline that would integrate my knowledge and experience. In 2007, I began a doctoral program with an emphasis on community psychology in the Psychology in the Public Interest Program at North Carolina State University. Since then, I have been exposed to a variety of experiences, individuals, and opportunities that have reinforced my decision and have aligned themselves with my professional goals. However, over the past four and half years I have had to explain what community psychology is and, on occasion, deal with individuals who would respond with “That sounds like social work” or “Isn’t that social psychology?” My adamant “no” followed by terms used from systems thinking and the ecological model left them still wondering “So what is community psychology again?” For me, I never second guessed my decision to pursue this degree or ever had an “identity” issue as a doctoral student in my program. I knew what I wanted and how the program would provide that. It was through my doctoral experience that I wanted to find ways to work with individuals that would continue to promote and advocate on behalf of community psychology and the myriad ways in which we contribute to shaping psychology and the larger world. How was I going to do that? First, I needed to apply for fellowships or other opportunities that would provide me with the platform to discuss my program and CP. Secondly, I needed to get in front of undergraduates and other prospective students and inform them about my discipline and focus. I also needed to apply the principles of community psychology and go out and make connections with community-based organizations. Use the principles and methods I have learned in courses, through conversations and training and apply them within a setting that required me to negotiate my role as a community psychologist. The struggle is not in my own validation, but in exposing people to a field that will lead communities towards innovation, transformation and liberation. I am constantly learning and wanted to share this blog space with other doctoral students and CPs. I do encourage each and every one of us to seek those spaces and, if they are not there, create them and push open the doors loudly so that people will know who and what we are.

Dawn Henderson
Doctoral Candidate
Psychology in the Public Interest
North Carolina State University