Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Working with Communities to Prevent and Reduce Intimate Partner Violence

Volume 2, Number 4 April, 2013

THEory into ACTion
A Bulletin of New Developments in Community Psychology Practice
(This article has been cross-posted at APA’s Psychology Benefits Society blog)

Working with Communities to Prevent and Reduce Intimate Partner Violence
Jaime Lee Mihalski & Olya Belyaev-Glantsman

With the recent national concerns about violence, it’s important to remember that much violence takes place not among strangers, but rather between intimate partners.  According to the 2010 The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (Black, Basile, Breiding, Smith, Walters, Merrick, Chen, & Stevens, 2011), in the United States, about 35.6% of women and 28.5% of men have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Furthermore, based on the survey’s findings, in the United States “on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner” (Center for Disease Control (CDC), 2013).

This is an area where community psychologists can make and are making a significant contribution to violence reduction. Dr. Eric Mankowski, a community psychologist at Portland State University, conducts research on Intimate Partner Violence in Oregon. Dr. Mankowski’s work with Intimate Partner Violence reflects his interest in anti-sexist men’s work and desire to change society’s definition of masculinity. His work is widespread and ranges from program evaluation to advocacy.

Dr. Mankowski works with many different populations in order to reduce and prevent intimate partner violence. He currently teaches a capstone class wherein high school students look at county-level policies in an anti-violence committee. Students attend a youth summit, create violence prevention programs, and are given a voice in county policies. The second youth summit will occur this year and involvement is planned to increase from 300 students to roughly 600 students. Last year, the youth summit attained a $100,000 grant to bring violence prevention and conflict resolution projects that were conceived at the summit into local middle and high schools.

Dr. Mankowski would like to see more programs like these that are developed and run by youth because they are more cost-efficient and sustainable. He also sees a great need on college campuses to identify the problem of violence against both males and females and is trying to start a movement for campus-based centers that would engage men in prevention of violence. Another area Dr. Mankowski is focusing on is the workplace. Moreover, he is focusing on the labor sector by providing knowledge and developing training to educate people about domestic violence, how to recognize it, and methods of intervention.
Furthermore, Dr. Mankowski has spent the last 15 years working to develop a collaborative relationship with programs that provide domestic violence interventions to men who have been convicted of domestic violence assault and have been mandated to receive education through a domestic violence intervention program. He has helped streamline and centralize domestic intervention programs by creating a directory that is updated annually and includes recent information about programs. The idea of the directory emerged from the disconnect between the Criminal Justice System, men who are convicted of domestic violence assault, and domestic violence intervention programs. The directory is a collaborative effort defined by a reciprocal and power-sharing relationship and has increased general knowledge about domestic violence interventions throughout the state. Dr. Mankowski believes that this is in part due to his research team’s work.

Dr. Mankowski is also a member of a committee for the State Attorney General. This committee is tasked to create a standard of practice for domestic violence intervention programs. While there is not an efficient method of disseminating the standard of practice, Dr. Mankowski’s research team has been able to monitor programs’ compliance to standards using survey methods. Dr. Mankowski and his research team are working to help ensure practice does meet standards by conducting research on program effectiveness and giving these programs feedback. This work is reflective of the ecological model because Dr. Mankowski and his team are considering an individual within their social context by determining if education provided in the programs and the context of the programs are affecting an outcome of future violence prevention on an individual level.

This work, of course, has not been without challenges. Intimate Partner Violence is a difficult topic to effectively study because most abuse is unreported and a lot of abuse is not considered illegal. The field mostly relies on criminal recidivism data and often cannot attain reports from previously-abused partners.  Furthermore, a challenge Dr. Mankowski and his team face is working in partnership with both domestic violence victim advocacy groups and domestic violence intervention programs involved in the coordinated community response. There exist differing viewpoints on the nature and value of education, services, preventive intervention, and criminal justice responses to address intimate partner violence. Dr. Mankowski believes that continued dialogue, exchange of information, and research that incorporates multiple perspectives can facilitate effective working coalitions.

Some believe that men who are convicted of domestic violence assault should be put in prison instead of in educational intervention programs. Dr. Mankowski believes we need something beside prison—we need prevention. Further, relying on incarceration and other criminal justice interventions, we can unintentionally recreate patriarchal and class- and racially-biased responses to Intimate Partner Violence. Prevention and other community based methods would be less limited and not as costly to the long term goals of many feminist analyses of gendered violence.

Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Center for Disease Control. (2013). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/

This is part 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, April 25, 2013

Approaches to enhance solidarity and social cohesion: expanding Bill Berkowitz’s post on “The Repair Café”

By Carlos Luis[1]
(This post has been updated. Scroll down to see the updates!)

            On April 4th post, Bill Berkowitz from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, shared one practice on how to strengthen communities via “The Repair Café”: a place to bring any type of items one wishes to repair, and a place for people who enjoy repairing to do volunteer work while socializing and creating new bonds with the community, and promoting social cohesion.

            By reading Bill’s blog post I remembered a note I saw on Facebook about “suspended coffee’s”[2] an idea that originated in Naples, Italy and that is now being spread in Australia[3], United Kingdom[4], Canada[5], and according to The Independent[6], all over Continental Europe, Russia, Asia and the United States. The idea is simple: paying in advance for a cup of coffee or a meal that could later be claimed by anyone who is in need of a “suspended” beverage or meal; which creates a sense of solidarity in the community, as expressed in the Facebook Page[7] of the initiative, which has gained more than 38,000 likes in just one of its pages as it continues to increase in various countries.

            Approaches to promote social cohesion are varied and more importantly should be shared and placed into an “Idea Clearinghouse” available to everyone (as proposed by Bill Berkowitz), and the Community Toolbox[8] could serve for such purpose as Cristina Holt mentioned.

            Have you heard or know about other initiatives that strengthen community life? Would you mind sharing them with us?

A story on the same topic was posted on NPR on 4/25/2013:
EU Embraces 'Suspended Coffee': Pay It Forward With A Cup Of Joe

[1] Psychologist from the Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM) in Monterrey, Mexico. E-mail: carlosluisz@gmail.com
[2] Hamilton, C. (2013, March 29). Suspended coffee: what a wonderful idea. The Independent. Retrieved from: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/suspended-coffee-what-a-wonderful-idea-8553747.html
[3] Cox, S. (2013, April 8). Charitable 'Bounce': Suspend a coffee for someone in need. The Chronicle. Retrieved from: http://www.thechronicle.com.au/news/charitable-boost-suspend-coffee-someone-need/1821379/
[4] Masters, S. (2013, April 4). Starbucks joins scheme to help homeless: Buy a 'suspended coffee' and it's banked for someone who needs it. The Independent. Retrieved from: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/starbucks-joins-scheme-to-help-homeless-buy-a-suspended-coffee-and-its-banked-for-someone-who-needs-it-8560778.html
[5] De Mara, B. (2013, April 1). ‘Suspended Coffee’ movement comes to Ontario. The Star. Retrieved from: http://www.thestar.com/life/2013/04/01/suspended_coffee_movement_comes_to_ontario.html
[6] Morrison, S. (2013, March 31). A nice, hot cup of goodwill: Buy a 'suspended coffee' and it's banked for someone who needs it. The Independent. Retrieved from: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/news/a-nice-hot-cup-of-goodwill-buy-a-suspended-coffee-and-its-banked-for-someone-who-needs-it-8555342.html
[7] https://www.facebook.com/SuspendedCoffeess

[8] http://ctb.ku.edu/en/default.aspx

Thursday, April 18, 2013

How I fell into and then in love with Community Psychology

How I fell into and then in love with Community Psychology

Natalie Brown Kivell 

Image by Charlotte Prong Parkhill
When I think about my journey into the field of Community Psychology, it has felt almost serendipitous, however, my decisions that have kept me here have been quite intentional.

Throughout my undergraduate years, I had this image of  “success.” My ten-year plan was to attend clinical graduate school and to start my own practice. I would be able to not only help people, but also be my own boss, just like my dad! I stumbled into an introduction to Community Psychology class in my second year, and although it was not at this point that I became infatuated with the field, the moment my professor said something like “the principles and values within which I work permeate all areas of my life” really stands out to me. I thought, “that is it! That is what I want! Somewhere I can live and breathe my values both personally and professionally.”

Ultimately, it took more than a few powerful moments to knock me off of my well thought out 10-year plan. After completing my undergrad, and quite accidentally getting a few more CP classes under my belt, I planned on taking a year off and then applying to a Clinical Psychology program the following year. I was then given a fantastic opportunity to do a late application to the CP Master’s program at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU). This was the moment I had to risk it all…I held my breath and I jumped in with both feet.

After that, I can say that I never looked back. Throughout my years in CP graduate school and beyond, I left my “plan” behind and engaged with every new opportunity that presented itself, where I could learn something new about CP or my community, help make an impact, or strengthen my relationships and network. My ignited passion for all things social justice propelled me to gain tangible experience in my community. I conducted my practicum at the Centre for Community Research, Learning and Action (CCRLA) at WLU. This was likely the moment that I realized the diversity of job prospects for a CP graduate outside of academia. I looked at the amazing past graduates working on diverse paths throughout my community and thought, you know what? We can be whoever we want to be!

So, I tested the waters with my professional network, and spent time brainstorming with family, friends, community leaders, and a couple of really cool mentors. We discussed what I should/could do next, and where I would be best able to have an impact in our Region now that I was the proud owner of a Master’s degree. Big risks had worked for me in the past, so I went for it again. Three months after graduating, I opened my own facilitation and community-based research consulting company called Common Thread Consulting. My business name resonates for me because my work is so diverse that it can often be hard to define who my clients are (non-profit, government departments, community groups), and what I do for my clients (research, facilitation, action, or any mix of these). So for me, the  “common thread” that I can pull through all of my work is linking my values with practice. My values, which I share and keep at the forefront with all of my clients and partners, are (1) collaboration and participation of all stakeholders in planning and decision-making, (2) inclusion and diversity, and (3) social justice in terms of understanding and addressing root causes of social issues, and working towards transformative changes.

I have now been doing this work in the Region of Waterloo for the past three years. Over these three years, every project I have worked on has felt brand new and exciting. Each client, whether a small government department, or a large poverty reduction agency in our community, has allowed me to work in collaboration with different levels of staff and their diverse external stakeholders to creatively address community needs using participatory facilitation methods and community-based research. Much of the focus of my current work is using strategic planning to help (or lightly nudge) organizations to challenge the “we have always done it this way” belief system, and transition into asking hard questions to help leverage change for maximum community impact.

My passions are poverty reduction, equal access to all levels of education (including university), as well as innovative and alternative forms of education. Most of my clients mandates fall within these categories, as they have become my area specialties, and what I am known for in the community. However, the work I do has included sustainability organizations, women’s organizations, outreach programs, leadership training organizations, media organizations, intergenerational work and much more. 10 years ago, as I started this journey I could never have imagined that this is where I would be. I did not know that “this” existed.

And so, I now consider myself a CP practitioner. I have made it to the end of the 10 years in my “plan” and I regret nothing. And dad, you should be proud… I am my own boss!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Society for Community Research and Action Opposes the Federal Sequester

The Society for Community Research and Action Opposes the Federal Sequester
By Madison Sunnquist
(this post has been updated, scroll down to see the updates!)

The Society for Community Research and Action’s Executive Committee voted over the weekend to support a policy position that opposes the federal sequester.

Originally passed as part of the Budget Control Act in August 2011 in exchange for the debt ceiling to be raised, the sequester cuts were intended to serve as an incentive for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to arrive at a consensus to reduce the deficit. Unfortunately, the committee failed to reach a consensus, and $1.2 trillion in cuts will be made over the next ten years. During the nine months between March 1st 2013 and the end of the year, $85.3 billion will be cut from the budget. These cuts will have destructive effects on US citizens, particularly on individuals who depend on government support during this harsh economic climate.

For up to 750,000 women and children, these cuts will take away their access to the Women, Infants, and Children program that provides them with nutrition and food aid. For individuals who have been unemployed for more than six months (about 40% of those currently unemployed), benefits will be reduced by 11%, or about $130 per month on average. Approximately 100,000 families will lose their housing vouchers. In addition, forecasters project that sequestration will cost about 700,000 jobs this year.

The Society for Community Research and Action is encouraging its members to act immediately by:
Writing op-eds, blogs, and editorials to inform the general public about the implications of these budget cuts and encourage community members to contact their local legislators

Contacting congressional representatives to make them aware of the ramifications of the current plan and encourage reasonable modifications

Spreading awareness of the impact of the sequester cuts through face-to-face discussions to encourage more individuals to contact their local legislators

Ongoing negotiations regarding the federal budget are occurring, and possible modifications to the sequester cuts will be a part of this broader discussion. We encourage you to use the links and letter templates below to learn more about the effects of the sequestration and to contact your representatives.

Learn more the sequestration from the APA Federal Budget Blog: http://www.apa.org/about/gr/science/news/budget.aspx#20130304000000 (American Psychological Association, 2013)

Find your local representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

o Use the following template to write to your representative:
Dear Honorable Elected Official, My name is ______ and I am a resident of _______. I would like to request your support of H.R. 900, the Cancel the Sequester Act of 2013. These sequester cuts jeopardize the programs essential for the health and welfare of many citizens in the most impoverished areas of our communities, whom we have a responsibility to protect. In a fragile economy, we cannot make irresponsible, unfocused budget cuts. As citizens, we trust our elected representatives to act within the best interests of the public; however, these sequester cuts jeopardize our citizens’ well-being. Thank you for your consideration.

Petition to eliminate the sequester act of 2013: http://pac.signon.org/sign/congress-vote-for-the?source=s.em.mt&r_by=7268510

o Distribute this petition to friends and colleagues with the following message: “Dear Friends, I signed a petition to the United States House of Representatives to vote for HR 900 and Cancel the Sequester Act of 2013. To sign this petition, click here: http://pac.signon.org/sign/congress-vote-for-the?source=s.em.mt&r_by=7268510 Thank you.”

Below you’ll find a few articles that provide updates on the latest sequester-related news.

The following article tells one woman’s story of becoming homeless due to the sequester cuts in housing programs. After losing her job and her home, she thought she was going to be able to start moving forward again thanks to the housing choice voucher that would enable her to provide a home for herself and her newborn daughter. Unfortunately, she recently received a letter revoking her voucher due to the sequester cuts. http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/investigations/LWRD--202445131.html

President Obama released his controversial 2014 budget yesterday and attempted to replace the sequester cuts through a combination of tax increases on the wealthy and cuts in health spending and Social Security benefits. However, this budget has not gained support from Republicans or Democrats. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/11/us-usa-fiscal-idUSBRE93909G20130411

The results of a recent CNN poll show that 4 in 10 Americans have already been affected by the sequester cuts. The impacts have been even greater among individuals with lower incomes and those who live in rural areas. Over half of individuals making less than $50,000 report that they have been affected by the cuts. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/04/10/four-in-10-americans-feel-sequester-pain/

We greatly appreciate your support so far, and please continue to email msunnqui@depaul.edu as more representatives are contacted.


In addition to contacting our representatives, writing blogs and opinion pieces is another great way to make our voices heard regarding the sequester.

Paul L. Friedman and Reggie B. Walton are federal judges who recently published an opinion piece on sequestration for the Washington Post: “Generally, federal judges should not become embroiled in political disputes. But we feel compelled to speak out because sequestration poses an existential threat to the right of indigent defendants to have publicly funded legal representation — a right that the Supreme Court recognized 50 years ago in its landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/public-defenders-offices-shouldnt-suffer-under-sequestration/2013/04/18/c861b464-a619-11e2-a8e2-5b98cb59187f_story.html

A recent blog by Lenny Jason discusses the current dysfunction in Washington and began with this statement: “As the federal bureaucracy continues to struggle with philosophical issues of the appropriate role of government, many Americans feel that our political parties are incapable of providing credible solutions to the nation’s burgeoning societal and economic problems.” http://blog.oup.com/2013/03/small-gov-social-problems-addiction/ This blog appeared in the Oxford University Press, one of the most widely read academic blogs in the world, with an average of 35,000 visits per month. It was reprinted in newsletters as far away as New Zealand and in newspapers as far as France, and later posted on over 130 websites, including Goodreads and FeedBurner. Following publication, Paul Molloy, the founder of the Oxford House movement sent this blog to all State Directors of Substance Abuse Programs.

Stacey Burling, an Inquirer Staff Writer, wrote a piece about the effect of sequestration on the Science front. Jonathan Chernoff, chief scientific officer for Fox Chase Cancer Center, says the "slow-motion train wreck" that is sequestration is starting to damage the research laboratories at his institution. http://articles.philly.com/2013-04-19/business/38677013_1_research-cuts-cancer-research-grants

Thank you for your continued support, and please keep us updated as you contact representatives or write blogs or Op-Eds by emailing msunnqui@depaul.edu.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Repair Café

The Repair Café
Bill Berkowitz 
University of Massachusetts Lowell 

 …So many good ideas are out there for strengthening local communities and building community life, it’s hard to know where to begin. Here’s one among many that’s recently come my way. First the idea, and then an idea about collecting more ideas.

Recently, Amsterdam started its first Repair Café. According to a New York Times article last spring (May 9), “People can bring in whatever they want to have repaired, at no cost, by volunteers who just like to fix things.”  It could be a coffee maker, a lamp, a vacuum cleaner, a cherished piece of clothing, or something that’s one-of-a-kind.  Why throw it out if it can be fixed or mended?

Think of the advantages: less trash in landfills, less expense for the owner, a chance for repair persons (often but not always older or retired folks) to both feel and be useful. Plus the social benefits: “What’s interesting for us is that it creates new places for people to meet, not just live next to each other like strangers “ said the director of a Dutch foundation, which gave the Repair Café a grant as part of its Social Cohesion program.

The concept is so very simple. More than that, it’s inexpensive, exportable, and, in a small way, joyful. One wonders why there aren’t Repair Cafés in every community, including mine and yours.  All it takes is a little desire and organizational ability, two qualities that we community psychologists should have in abundance.  And what a community service (and/or research project, journal article, conference presentation, or eye-catching video) that could be.

Here’s the larger idea, though.   Many ideas related to this one – innovative, sustainable, low-cost, non-technical, simple to implement, easy to adapt – percolate through our communities.   We don’t do a good job of collecting them; but then again, neither does anyone else.

So can we envision a national Clearinghouse of new community ideas – one that would collect and disseminate new community ideas from across the country and world, and that anyone could contribute to or borrow from?

At the Chicago Biennial, some of us began conversations about such New Community Ideas, which among other things led to a Community Ideas column in The Community Psychologist, certainly a good first step. We’ve seen a few other of these ideas on this blog.  But a bigger and more ambitious next step could be some serious thinking about what such an Idea Clearinghouse might look like and how it could actually get off the ground.

I wonder if any of you blog readers have thoughts along these lines. If so, perhaps you could share them here. And perhaps we’ll have a chance to elaborate on this idea further in a future blog post.