Nikolay Mihaylov (Bulgaria)

What attracted you to community psychology?

I had been interested in psychology more generally as a way of changing the world for the better by changing people for the better (it does sound a little messianic, hopefully youthful idealism is a good enough excuse). I enrolled in a BA in Psychology and explored psychotherapy as a practice that helps people improve their lives. During my studies I engaged in student activism. Studying psychology and doing organizing on behalf of a voiceless community led me to the realization that change is more feasible and perhaps more meaningful when it is planned and performed at a group level, not the individual level of therapy. As a student in a peripheral country (Bulgaria), I was not aware of community psychology; I was aware of social psychology as the “change” variety of psychology – it dealt with attitudes, social influence, conflict and cohesion. I would read Aronson’s The Social Animal and be thrilled by his description of jigsaw groups overcoming prejudice and the experiments on making people care more about the environment. Eventually I set myself a goal to get into a PhD program in Social Psychology in the United States (where all these great textbooks were coming from). I applied through the Fulbright Commission in Bulgaria and won the scholarship. The Commission facilitates and funds applying and studying in the US. I filled in their forms, described in my personal statements how much I wanted to do social-change oriented research and gave evidence from my experience as an activist. The result – I was not accepted anywhere. The Commission was quite dismayed with the US universities not accepting a Fulbrighter. I (and obviously Fulbright) did not know that social psychology in 2010 had moved quite far from Aronson’s textbooks (if it ever were there anyway). This discouraging situation turned for the better when the Commission hooked me up with Ron Harvey, a US student who was doing Fulbright research in Bulgaria. He happened to be a PhD student in community psychology (CP).

When we met his first words were: “I read your statement. What you are talking about is community psychology, not social psychology.” And then he told me about action research, community change, context, prevention and all the other ideas we like so much about the CP approach to social issues. It all seemed to fit great with my interests, my experiences and my goals. Eventually I went to DePaul University in Chicago, Ron’s home program in CP, on a Fulbright scholarship for one year as a non-degree student. From there I was able to obtain first-hand knowledge of our field, get the connections and the experience to apply to a full-time Ph.D. program. The gap between the Bulgarian academia and the US PhD programs is really big and I had to be both lucky and strategic to jump it.

What makes community psychology special for you?

The most important thing about CP for me would be that it is a set of social technologies that can be used by ordinary people, “the” people. Most knowledge, most technologies are capitalized on by those who already have power – corporations and state power. Knowledge is (more) power to them. If we looked at social psychology, for example, we would see that almost all its research and the knowledge it produced are being used by big business to control its workforce and its consumers (and to some extent by the corporate-owned state as well). And there is some “trickle-down science” for the self-help-oriented upper middle class. CP, on the other hand, is designed to work with and involve people in research that they can use for their own good, often against that control from above.

Other features of CP complement or make possible this liberatory potential. CP is action oriented, which is very motivating for both the researchers and the community participants – the interactive process of research is stimulating, and the practical, grounded goals are constant positive feedback to our efforts. CP is also relatively cheap and easy to apply in terms of money and materials. No labs, no sophisticated equipment is necessary. That was one of my personal reasons to enroll in a CP Ph.D. program – I could transfer my knowledge back to Bulgaria even as a psychologist-errant. A CP training also allows for very versatile jobs in and out of academia. On a personal level CP is also attractive in giving practitioners the option to work by their avowed values, self-express through their work, which is rare in a positivist science paradigm.

Please tell us about an event that was formative for your engagement with community psychology.

There was no single event – it was rather a gradual journey and realization. A very important experience was my engagement in student activism in my first years of the university. I felt the exhilaration of making your voice heard and changing reality through collective action; I also experienced solidarity and camaraderie; and I also encountered the frustrations and dilemmas of trying to make other people become active, or “free”. One important book I read at that time was Saul Alinsky’s biography (Let Them Call Me a Rebel) – it gave me a framework to think about collective action and empowerment – community organizing. The final step for me was to figure out how to engage with social change. Being a person of analytics and words, with some knack for personal interaction, I decided to go for the research route. And that led me to the application for US Ph.D. programs.

How can community psychology contribute to the debates/work regarding environmental justice and climate change?

First of all, with its participatory community-based action research approach, CP can help communities living at the fringes of world capitalism engage in the global debate about climate change and nature destruction. Even the green transition is in reality based on further exploitation of local communities in the resource bowels and dumping grounds of the world economy. CP produces and publicizes research that can make the extraction activities, the climate change effects and the local resistance visible. As CP involves communities as equals (ideally), the voices of these communities can partake in the debate around environmental justice directly, often circumventing the oppressive development-bent local corporate state. Now, the problem here would be getting those voices and experience out of our journals (where they do get published) into the public sphere and politics.

CP is also well-equipped to facilitate the production of local knowledge, which is always crucial for the particular implementation of an exploitative technology. In other words, if local people can produce evidence on the side effects, harms and risks from the local application of a “modern” technology, they are in a much better position to oppose it. Who else is more knowledgeable of the local context than the people who inhabit it? With its pragmatic approach to research – mixed-methods, goal-driven, participatory – CP can be very helpful in making that knowledge explicit and applicable in policy-making debates.

Community psychologists as experts can also contribute to the expertise conflicts around development. Most environmental issues have some complex technology-nature interaction at their heart. This makes the participation of experts in the conflict about development very likely. Usually, experts are paid to explain away the risks and certify the benefits of techno-industrial development. They act as a shield for political-economical decisions and close off the debates by limiting them to an expert discourse. It is very difficult for lay people to defend their interests in legitimate, expert knowledge terms. Community psychologists can help local people demystify expert knowledge, use research competently and even become experts themselves.

A significant question remains about the generalization of local knowledge and lessons from resistance: How can local efforts cross-pollinate and even grow to something global? Do we bring knowledge in when we go into a community? Do we facilitate direct local-to-local exchange? Do we write books on local organizing? What else?

What are some challenges associated with being a community psychologist in Bulgaria?

The greatest challenges come from the fact that CP is unknown in Bulgaria and there are very few (probably almost none) community psychologists. Sciences in Bulgaria are very compartmentalized and formalized, so not having a clear identity or definition of the field creates extra issues. When I came back to Bulgaria with my Ph.D., I had to go through a process of certification of my credentials by a public (state-run) agency. I was officially pronounced a sociologist because this was the box where my multidisciplinary dissertation seemed to fit best. From this follows that I can develop my career in universities as a sociologist – either in Sociology or in some more multi-disciplinary department such as Public Health. Funding, hiring, grants depend on that box you are put in.

Another issue with the outlandishness of CP is that it is difficult to find colleagues to work and partner with. The academia here is very conservative in the sense that university scholars avoid value-driven research and politically controversial topics. This is partly a remnant from positivism, but also the public universities are strongly dependent on subsidies from the national government so critical research or research-based advocacy is awkward. Even conclusions from research that is by design focused on public policies (like in public health) is coached in abstract and cautious terms and is not widely publicized.

One interesting thing I have encountered is how activists regard experts (see my previous response). When I studied the anti-fracking movement in Bulgaria, I was also a fringe participant in the actions. Nobody from the activists would regard me as an authority on organizing, and ask me about organizing techniques, tools. Everyone must prove themselves as an activist and that would be the only authority recognized. This was due to the activists’ meanings around organizing – that it should be “natural” and spontaneous, not formalized and institution-like. And there was an interesting discrimination among experts in the movement. To believe experts, you need to be sure they are autonomous – not mouthpieces. Therefore, the trustworthy expert is the one who speaks spontaneously as a citizen, and not the one that speaks as a professional when they are hired to speak on an issue. Only the citizen-expert was considered autonomous. You need to participate in the action to prove you are speaking “the truth”.

A song that, for you, symbolizes what CP is about.

That would be El Pueblo Unido and/or We Shall Overcome. The hope that when we unite we will create the good life.

Dora Rebelo (Portugal)

How were you attracted to community psychology?

I started my career as a systemic psychologist, but already looking into community-based projects as my main target of attention. I was attracted by the possibility to build collective projects, particularly with communities that were oppressed by the state. I started working as a field psychologist in peripheral neighborhoods in the outskirts of Lisbon, Portugal, where a majority of migrants and ethnic minorities lived, withdrawn from the privileges of the city center. I worked at a project that aimed at breaking the social barriers for youth that were living in these neighborhoods, finding new opportunities for social inclusion and the promotion of diversity. These were mainly young people racialized as migrants (although the vast majority were in fact Portuguese, of either African or Roma descendance). I was impressed with the effects of their spatial segregation from the urban areas, and how the cycle of exclusion perpetuated a series of stereotypes and mistrust between these communities and the so called “Portuguese community”, which was mainly self-perceived as white. I thought of community psychology as a means to innovate and co-create projects of inclusion that made sense for the people we aimed at “including”.

Any formative experiences for your engagement with community psychology?

I had two highly formative engagements. First, my time at the Federation of Roma Associations in Catalunya (FAGIC- Federació de Associacions Gitanes de Catalunya). I was employed by the Federation as a project coordinator, and supported Roma communities to apply for European funding that could suit their needs and support their projects. The Federation was totally run by Roma people, advised by a committee of elders, and they held relevant positions in municipalities, to forward the access of Roma people to basic services (education, transportation, health, etc). My time at FAGIC was highly formative in what involves witnessing the effects of the decision-making powers in marginalized communities. Having a “space at the table” promoted FAGIC as a stakeholder in relevant decisions usually taken without the advice of the communities, which facilitated city services, like healthcare centers, to receive relevant training to better serve Roma people and reduce the initial obstacles identified by community members themselves.

 The second highly formative engagement was at the Roberto Clemente Center, in New York, a community-based clinic initially created by Puerto-Rican psychologists, to better serve the mental health needs and social inclusion of Caribbean communities. During this engagement I was supervised and trained by highly-skilled community psychologists from the region, who helped me to develop intercultural dialogue and more thoughtful clinical skills. I was rendered convinced that communities are the best catalyzers of scientific advancements in psychology, working with their own expertise and self-awareness.

What is special about community psychology?

 I believe community psychology can be useful in bringing awareness to new knowledges, built from grassroots participatory action-research. It can bridge the gap between communities and mainstream academia/mainstream psychology, by simplifying well-being tools and language. When truly democratic, community psychology can be particularly relevant in raising the political participation and the struggles for equity and human rights. Furthermore, the focus on prevention and on social justice, combined with the openness to interdisciplinary collaborations, can go a long way in promoting and designing policy change, civic participation and solidarity.

How might community psychology be more influential at policy level in Europe?

 I have been inspired, in the last years, while my doctorate research lasted, by european solidarians. I met many common people, during my fieldwork in Europe, who were transformed by what researchers refer to as “the event of the encounter”. By “the encounter” I mean the solidarity actions with people on the move, usually people racialized as migrants. Motivated by moral or political positionalities (e.g. “lives are more important than borders”), these solidarians have been engaged in an intentional resistance to the political orientations taken by EU governments around migration. The perception of structural inequalities has intensified the flow of struggles and social movements, producing these community solidarity dynamics between people, alongside the new hostilities and animosities that have been shaping EU’s reactions to migrants. I think community psychology can be determinant in amplifying these natural and informal solidarity systems, arranged around the needs and injustices faced by people on the move. The harshening of the European border regime has forced asylum seekers to endure precarious living circumstances and limited their ability to use their agency and regain control over their lives. By legitimizing and supporting the solidarity networks that offer safety and resistance to people on the move, community psychology can become a voice of resistance and a partner for migrant communities that want to impact policy change.

A piece of advice for aspiring community psychologists?

I recommend that the engagements with the communities are made in the spirit of the liberation theories, recognizing the flaws of mainstream psychology and daring to go one step further in taking action for social injustices, as true allies, rather than “experts”. An interplay between community psychologists and the communities they work with needs to involve a lot of unthinking, engaging and renovating knowledge. One needs to be prepared to also question (and even “diagnose”) the institutions, rather than focusing on the “issues” presented as dysfunctional or pathological. Displaced communities in the world are giving us a chance to improve our discipline, and we should take it, by getting more deeply involved in their social struggles.

Finally, a song? One that symbolizes what community psychology is about for you?

Patti Smith, “People Have The Power”, 1988

The increasing relevance of European rural young people in policy agendas: Contributions from community psychology

Webinar with Francisco Simões, 19 December 2022, 5PM (CET).

With contributions from Elena Marta, Cinzia Albanesi, Nicolas Carr, and Maria Fernandes-Jesus.

About the webinar

Our presentation focuses on a central question: how can community psychology contribute to improving rural young people’s prospects? This question is relevant in face of (a) the increasing relevance of rural younger generations in European policy agendas; and (b) the massive societal transformation associated with the dual (digital and green) transition that will also affect rural communities. After briefly introducing the demographic trends of these young people in continental Europe for the past decade, we list the current challenges faced by rural European young generations, as well as the opportunities emerging for them from the twin transition that can inspire the community psychology field. We then contextualize community psychologists’ interventions in this domain according to an ecological-systemic standpoint and by embracing a Participatory Action Research (PAR) perspective on research and practice. We further detail the reasons for adopting a PAR approach in research and practice to address rural young people’s challenges and opportunities. Finally, we highlight four potential intermediation missions to uphold community psychologists’ rural youth development input, based on the adopted theoretical and methodological standpoint. We conclude that our short guide can facilitate community psychology professionals’ complete understanding of rural young generations’ prospects, in line with the expected increase in the need of/demand for rural young people’s participation. Our proposal may also have long-term benefits for rural communities by contributing to the redesigning of intergenerational relationships and securing critical mass.

Picture from Tomasz Filipek

Importantly, this presentation results from a creative session at the 11th European Conference of Community Psychology held in June 2021 and summarizes a paper recently published in the Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology.

Simões, F., Fernandes-Jesus, M., Marta, E., Albanesi, C. & Carr, N. (2022, in press). The increasing relevance of European rural young people in policy agendas: Contributions from community psychology. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1002/casp.2640


About the presenter

Francisco Simões is an Associate Researcher at and Full Member of the Centre for Social Research and Intervention (Cis-Iscte). He is co-coordinator of the thematic line “Promoting Inclusion, Equality and Citizenship” of the SociDigitalLab for Public Policy and co-coordinator of the research group Community, Education, and Development (CED), between 2017 and 2021. He is the chair of COST Action 18213 – Rural NEET Youth Network, funded by the European Commission, through the COST Association (2019-2023) and Principal Investigator (PI) of the project Tr@ck-IN – Public employment services tracking effectiveness in supporting rural NEETs, funded by the Youth Employment Fund (EEA & Norway Grants) (2021-2024). His work focuses on a psychosocial analysis of the school-to-work transition, namely social inclusion, well-being, and access to education and decent jobs for vulnerable young people such as those Not in Employment, nor in Education or Training (NEET). He has also dedicated his work to scientific advice for public policies in these areas, at regional, national and European levels.  He has experience in coordinating scientific teams to implement projects in public institutions, in Portugal. Between 2004 and 2015, he also collaborated with several organizations and projects (Caritas da Ilha Terceira, Câmara Municipal de Angra do Heroísmo; ISCTE-IUL team responsible for supervising schools included in the Priority Territories for Educational Interventions – TEIP program) in the role of an external advisor.

Carolyn Kagan (England)

What attracted you to community psychology?

As a student in 1971-74 a small part of the curriculum was devoted to social psychology. At the time, I was involved in social action groups via Christian Aid (regarding homelessness) and International Voluntary Service (regarding women migrants who did not speak English) and had previously worked with young women caught up in the criminal justice system. The social psychology course addressed none of the issues arising from these experiences. The Tavistock Institute advertised a post for a ‘community psychologist’ and, as chair of our Psychology Society, I invited the contact person to come and speak – the post was really about clinical work in the community – but got a group of us thinking about what a community psychology could be. To my delight in 1976, Mike Bender published a book (Community Psychology, Methuen) which, although somewhat clinical, in which I had no interest, revealed further possibilities for a community psychology. I was a social psychology post graduate (1974-76) during the ‘crisis’ in social psychology and the relevance (or not) of social psychology was being called. Nigel Armistead’s reconstructing Social Psychology (1974) was an important influence as were Hare and Secord’s Explanation of Social Behaviour. In 1979 I spent a year at University New South Wales where I met Sidney Engleberg (a USA-trained, mostly quantitative community psychologist); worked with Alez Carey (a political and industrial psychologist) and gave a public lecture on Psychology of Women (which was in its infancy) – from an all-male department. These factors combined with a growing interest in Latin American politics and encounters with community psychologists from that continent shaped my interest in community psychology.

What makes community psychology special?

A number of things. A concern with social justice; a concern with social change which inevitably means taking a political stance to social issues like inequality, migration, patriarchy, and the economy; working with people about issue that concern them (beyond mental health) and that are not prescribed by service organisations; a systems perspective that throws up the possibilities of understanding and working with complexities; possibilities for interdisciplinary perspectives and for working collaboratively through progressive alliances; an action research orientation; possibilities for incorporating non-professional knowledges into theory and practice. I worked in academia in UK and we had the opportunity to develop a particular approach to community psychology, untrammeled by the pressures and priorities of service or other organizations.

An event that was formative for your interest in or engagement with community psychology?

Meeting and working with Alex Carey who was doing some work in partnership with the Australian Telecomms Union. Nothing in my training had ever raised the possibilities (and actualities) of working politically, or of partnering with a trade union.

What is the future of community psychology in Europe?

There is a strong network across national boundaries, which has done some great work in networking; academic developments; cross-national research. For many years European community psychology suffered from the perception of a strong in-group, making it difficult for others to permeate. This group is now beginning to expand to include younger community psychologists or those interested in community psychology. There is still a lot of work to convince active people (in the UK) of the benefits of working at a European – or indeed international – level and the major challenge is processes of communication between those interested at a European level and those working in the different countries. The zeitgeist is in favour of better collaborative links – at least in academia, possibly not amongst practitioners.

One piece of advice for aspiring community psychologists?

Be thick skinned and keep a sense of humour: never take the ire you might be confronted with as people’s power is challenged personally. Always work collaboratively.

How about a song? One that symbolizes what community psychology is about for you?

Phil Ochs, “When I’m Gone,” 1966.

Special Issues Call for Papers JCASP

The Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology is calling for submissions for two special issues.

Multicultural Identities in Context: The influence of social, community, environmental and historical factors

Special Issue Editors: Elena Trifiletti, Katarina Pettersson, Verónica Benet-Martínez, Seth Schwartz, Alan Meca, and Yasin Koc

Deadline for Abstract Submission: 31st January 2023.

Sport for the Community: Psychological and sociomoral benefits of sport participation in youth and adult communities

Special Issue Editors:  Elisa Bisagno, Marianna Alesi, Francesca Vitali, Alessia Cadamuro, Veronica Margherita Cocco, Loris Vezzali, and Maria Kavussanu

Deadline for Manuscript Submission: 1st May 2023

Solidarity with People on the Move in Ireland: Formal and Informal Approaches

Webinar with Megan Vine, 13 October 2022. Discussant: Dora Rebelo

About the webinar

Globally, there are more people displaced or ‘on the move’ than ever before – as political instability and climate destruction continue to drive people from their homes in search of safety. People on the move are subjected to direct and slow forms of border violence, and racialised categorisations that shape their access to resources and justice. Drawing on my PhD research and independent research work, this webinar will offer a comparative analysis of informal and formal solidarity initiatives for different groups of people on the move in Ireland.

People seeking asylum in Ireland are predominantly from African countries and must stay within the Direct Provision (DP) system while their applications are being processed to receive government supports. DP is a privately-run network of hostels and hotels that segregates residents from the wider community and aims to deter asylum-seeking through disempowering regulations, long stays, and poor conditions. Across Ireland, people in DP and the wider community have collaborated to create informal community solidarity initiatives (CSI), to build relational solidarity through shared activities such as cooking, sport, and cultural celebration. Although they do not impact the lived experience of DP, CSI offer a space where people on the move can resist negative social representations of their group and forge friendships with people in the wider community. Cross-group friendships, in turn, mobilise the wider community to stand in solidarity with people on the move, for example by supporting the campaign to abolish Direct Provision.

The Irish government has demonstrated selective solidarity with people on the move through the Community Sponsorship programme for Syrian refugees. Established in 2018, Community Sponsorship provides a community-based alternative to traditional resettlement, where groups of local volunteers collaborate with Regional Support Organisations to offer housing and supports to selected families for two years. Community Sponsorship has positive outcomes for sponsored families in general; however, Covid-19 and world events have negatively impacted the implementation of the programme. Furthermore, a lack of meaningful engagement with sponsored people has impeded their active participation in the programme, with disempowering effects. 

Both informal and formal community solidarity initiatives offer fruitful examples of how meaningful solidarity with people on the move can be enacted. Nevertheless, arbitrary categorisation of people on the move impacts their access to rights, entitlements, and supports, and systemic changes such as the abolition of Direct Provision are needed for equity to be achieved. Furthermore, programmes like Community Sponsorship could be adapted to accommodate people from other nationalities, to expand the benefits of this kind of community support beyond a select few.


About the presenter

Megan Vine is a final year PhD student at the Department of Psychology, University of Limerick, and is based in Galway city in the West of Ireland. Megan has been actively involved with a community solidarity group called The Melting Pot Luck in Galway since 2017, supports the campaign to end Direct Provision in Ireland, and is a member of the international Community Psychology and Migrant Justice research network, and the Migration and Diversity research group at UL. Megan’s PhD research uses qualitative, participatory, and quantitative methodologies to investigate experiences and outcomes of community solidarity initiatives with people on the move and host communities. The project is supervised by Dr Ronni Greenwood and Dr Anca Minescu and is funded through the Government of Ireland’s Postgraduate Scholarship programme. In 2022, Megan also collaborated with the Irish Refugee Council and the SHARE network as an independent researcher to evaluate Community Sponsorship in Ireland, as part of a multi-country study.


About the discussant

Dora Rebelo, Ph.D. is a systemic psychologist, recently awarded a PhD in Anthropology. She works as a consultant for humanitarian NGO across the globe and as a researcher and invited lecturer at ISCTE-Lisbon University Institute. She is also an activist for refugee rights and migrant justice at “Fórum Refúgio Portugal” (a refugee-led association) and “Europe Must Act” (a citizen-led advocacy group struggling for refugee rights). Her main professional interests are directed towards community-based solidarity, migrant justice and activist initiatives with communities on the move. 

9 ICCP 2022

Community Regeneration

Bonds and bridges among people and environments

ECPA is partner of the 9 ICCP Conference that will take place this year in Naples from September 21 to September 24

The call for papers is still open (June 10, the final deadline) as well as the opportunity to benefit from reduced fees.

Don’t stall, take a look at the Conference website and organize your trip to Naples. And yes, you can also attend online, but if we may make a suggestion….take the opportunity to benefit from a conference of great scientific and applied interest and enjoy the beauty of a unique city in the world. Why not take advantage of all the benefits? Naples, Italian and European community psychology are waiting for you.

Visit the conference website https://9iccpnaples.com/

Housing First: a solution for eradicating homelessness in Europe

Webinar with Branagh R. O’Shaughnessy and Marta Gaboardi, June 30, 2022

https://youtu.be/CoBZw5IYL9I

Housing First: Europe’s Capabilities-Enhancing Homeless Service Model (Branagh R. O’Shaughnessy, Ronni Michelle Greenwood, & Rachel Manning)

Abstract:

Being able to control your living space or having enough food to sustain yourself are basic personal freedoms that we often taken for granted. These basic freedoms form part of Nussbaum’s Central Capabilities which refer to the essential elements of a well-lived life. However, many capabilities dimensions are absent in the lives of adults experiencing homelessness, who often do not have control over their living space or enough food to sustain themselves. As part of a Horizon 2020 project on homelessness as unfairness across eight European countries, two studies were carried out to examine homeless adults’ capabilities. The first study quantitatively examined the relationship between homeless service type (Housing First (HF) or treatment as usual (TAU)) (N = 565) and capabilities at two timepoints. Findings showed that HF service users had heightened capabilities compared to TAU, and that this relationship was mediated by choice and housing quality. The second study qualitatively examined the capabilities, including internal and external affordances and constraints, of homeless services users in HF and TAU (N = 77). Three themes were identified: autonomy and dependency, the relational impact of living arrangements, and community interaction and stigma. Overall compared to TAU, HF is progressing to reverse many of the inequalities experienced by homeless adults. HF service users have much greater opportunities to maximise their capabilities and sustain a life of dignity and well-being compared to those in TAU. Thus, policies aligned with a HF model in Europe are recommended as a solution for persistent and prevailing homelessness in Europe.

Working with people experiencing homelessness (Marta Gaboardi)

Social service providers in homeless services may experience burnout and stress caused by helping people with multiple problems in complex working environments. Moreover, professionals’ well-being and their working conditions can strongly influence client outcomes. Nevertheless, few studies have been conducted on factors affecting social service providers’ work that may increase the risk of work-related stress and then affect the relationship with people experiencing homelessness.

As part of a Horizon 2020 project HOME_EU: “Homelessness as unfairness”, 17 photovoice projects involving 81 social service providers were carried out across eight European countries. This cross-national research examined social service providers’ perspectives in Housing First and Traditional Staircase models regarding factors that facilitate or hinder their work.  

This study proposes an innovative use of photovoice for cross‐national research that allows participants to express their experiences about a topic through photographic language. In particular, this study showed five main advantages of using photovoice in cross‐national research: visual language, methodological flexibility, participatory data analysis, the bottom‐up process, and the promotion of social change.

The results show factors affecting social service providers’ work at three levels: systemic, organizational, and individual. Some challenges are common to the two types of service: the difficulty with the broader community (such as citizens’ opinions and in influencing policy), the importance of the support among colleagues, and the difficulty in balancing the relationship with clients. Nevertheless, in Housing First social service providers seem to have the best conditions to work since they identified more facilitators than obstacles.


Dr Branagh R. O’Shaughnessy is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Health and Human Performance, Dublin City University. Branagh’s doctoral research examined empowerment-orientated homeless service provision, part of which was aligned with the international Horizon 2020 study, Homelessness as Unfairness (HOME_EU). HOME_EU incorporated multiple perspectives, including that of citizens, service providers, and service users, to examine the issue of chronic homelessness in Europe. Branagh’s research interests lie in empowering interventions for marginalised individuals experiencing mental health and substance use challenges.


Dr Marta Gaboardi is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Developmental Psychology and Socialisation, University of Padova. She achieved her Ph.D. in Psychological Sciences at the University of Padova in 2020. She is a community psychologist and her research activities focus mainly on: homelessness, social service providers’ well-being and community integration. During her Ph.D. she collaborated at the European project HOME_EU: “Homelessness as Unfairness” (H2020 research project) to examine the issue of homelessness in Europe with an ecological and multilevel perspective.

Modern local communities as ubiquitous social ecosystems: Disentangling the contribution of social media to community experiences and interactions

Webinar with Flora Gatti, May 12, 2022 | Discussant: Alexander P. Schouten

About the webinar

In modern times, citizens’ experience of their local communities of belonging (that is, neighborhoods and cities) has complexified. On the one hand, such communities have become increasingly spatially and socially closed (Gatti & Procentese, 2020), with consequences in terms of opportunities for citizens to experience their social dimensions. On the other hand, the widespread use of location-based social media as integral parts of everyone’s daily life has made them more complex social ecosystems which include social interactions, dynamics, and opportunities related to both online and physical environments (Tonkiss, 2014).

Thanks to their features, these technologies can make the boundaries between online and offline social dynamics, relationships, and interactions permeable, favoring their integration (Gatti & Procentese, 2020a, 2021; Van De Wiele & Tong, 2014). In this vein, their affordances make them suitable for answering individuals’ social and community-related needs (Gatti & Procentese, 2020b; Van De Wiele & Tong, 2014) and enriching citizens’ local community experience (Gatti & Procentese, 2020a, 2021; Hsiao & Dillahunt, 2017).

Within this framework and by relying on the results from four studies, I will address how modern local community experience is shaped by the interplay of (a) citizens’ self-in-community (Pretty et al., 2003), (b) the physical and social features of their neighborhoods and cities, and (c) their use of ubiquitous, locative, social media with community-related aims. The community-related uses of two mainstream platforms (Instagram and dating People-Nearby Applications) will be deepened as to (a) the needs underlying them and (b) the paths through which they can enhance users’ tie to their local community.

Overall, the complexities related to modern local community experience clearly emerge, suggesting that social media could provide citizens with new opportunities and resources to be activated within the local communities of belonging. Becoming aware of these complexities and of their implications allows opening new perspectives for further research as well as for innovative practices and interventions to be implemented.


About the presenter

Flora Gatti is a post-doc research fellow at the Department of Humanities of the University of Naples Federico II. She achieved her Ph.D. in June 2021 at the University of Naples Federico II. Her research interests revolve around the interplay of online and offline social environments in shaping citizens’ local community experience, the impact of social media use on interpersonal and community relationships, and collaborative social and urban regeneration processes. Currently, she is involved in the development of the Italian local case in the EU-funded project “YouCount – Empowering Youth and Cocreating Social Innovations and Policymaking Through Youth-Focused Citizen Social Science” (Horizon 2020).


About the discussant

Alexander P. Schouten is an associate professor of Business Communication & Digital Media at the Department of Communication and Cognition, Tilburg University. His research and teaching interests include social media use, online collaboration, and online impression management. Within these areas, he is specifically interested in how different media capabilities affect the way in which people and organizations can effectively use new media technologies to communicate, to market, to work together, and to present themselves. Specific topics of study include the social psychology of online communication technology, social and digital media, identity management, social influencers, online dating, IT & organizations, virtual & augmented reality, qualitative and quantitative research methodology.

Applying the capabilities approach to the mental health field: a contribution to the evaluation and innovation of community mental health program

Webinar with Beatrice Sacchetto, 28 April 2022 | Discussant. Prof. José Ornelas

About the webinar

The capabilities approach emerged as an alternative framework for evaluating quality of life, considering broader dimensions of well-being and pointing out the role of the social and political arena that may hinder or foster individuals’ potential. In this sense, it seems to share the same underlying ecological perspective as community psychology, encompassing an understanding of people as social beings within interpersonal, social, institutional, and political networks. The capabilities account is also consistent with community mental health models based on empowerment, recovery and community integration; in fact, the capabilities focus on individual agency and choice converges with decision-making power, self-determination and social participation.

The capabilities framework is particularly relevant for groups that suffer discrimination and social exclusion, as they may need more institutional and social support than other socially advantaged groups to access social opportunities and achieve their potential. Throughout the history people with mental health problems have suffered social exclusion and lack of power in the mental health system. Moreover, the involvement of people with mental health challenges in research and service evaluation has traditionally been scarce, especially in the construction of outcome measures.

The current webinar will present a research with the main aim of contributing to the evaluation and innovation of community mental health programs, presenting a new measure – the Achieved Capabilities Questionnaire for Community Mental Health (ACQ-CMH) – based on the capabilities framework and developed through collaboration with people with lived experience of mental illness.

It will also be highlighted a) the innovation of the theoretical capabilities approach, considering the historical and current background of the mental health field; b) the linkages with community psychology models and values; c) the relevance of the collaborative approach in research and evaluation in the mental health field; d) the main research results and its implications for transformative change.


About the presenter

Dr. Beatrice Sacchetto completed her PhD in Community Psychology in 2021, at the ISPA-University Institute of Lisbon. She is actually an Integrated Researcher of the Applied Psychology Research Center Capabilities & Inclusion – APPsyCI, and the coordinator of the community center of the Association for the Study and Psychosocial Rehabilitation (AEIPS), an NGO in Lisbon that provides support services for people with experience of mental illness.

She recently coordinated an EEA Grants project on leadership, capabilities and empowerment in mental health, and previously worked in an IC&DT FCT project on community integration and capabilities of people with mental health challenges. Dr. Sacchetto has a large experience in both research and intervention in mental health towards a community psychology perspective, applying collaborative approaches to promote community-centered and empowering processes and results. Particularly, she has widely investigated and published about the adaption of Nussbaum’s capabilities framework to the community mental health field, in order to provide an innovative evaluative framework for community mental health programs.


About the discussant

Prof. José Ornelas is a Clinical and Community Psychologist, specialized in community intervention and integration of people in extremely vulnerable situations. Completed his first doctoral degree in the Boston University (USA) – 1979-1984; and a second doctoral degree in the University of Oporto (1999). He completed his aggregation in the University of the Azores (2009). From 2016 to 2019 Ornelas was the principal investigator of the Horizon 2020 HOME_EU Reversing Homelessness in Europe, GA/726997, and is currently the coordinator of the EEAGRANTS Project (OC4-B11 | ISPA) PEER NETWORK: Gender Violence and Empowerment. He is the scientific adviser of a community-based program on the promotion of educational achievement in 5 Portuguese national counties, in parallel with teaching and research supervision of Master’s and Doctoral theses on Psychology.