Do-It-Yourself Lowell

Several years ago, a young couple moved to the mid-sized city of Lowell, Massachusetts. They became attracted to the city’s diversity and spirit, and soon wanted to give something back to their new community. But without money or special expertise, what could they do?

Lowell (Mass, USA), City of Lights Parade

After some thought, they hit upon the concept of “Do-It-Yourself Lowell.” Its goals were to generate ideas for community events and projects and work together on them. By so doing, they could also create lasting civic improvements, enhance civic engagement skills, and build diversity.

The concept itself was very simple. Any resident could submit a community idea, and other residents would vote for the best. The winning ideas would receive funding leads and guidance, technical assistance, and publicity for community volunteers to transform the idea into reality.

Do-It-Yourself Lowell soon caught on; it has received hundreds of community-building suggestions, many of which can be found on its website, and some of which have been put into practice. Some examples: a mobile bike repair truck, a traditional medicine festival, a children’s tea party, a Quarantine Café (following the coronavirus outbreak).

Story shared by Bill Berkowitz, USA.

To learn more, contact at www.diylowell.org

Obituary – Murray Levine

Murray Levine, a prominent figure in community psychology and one of its leading theorists, died May 4 in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, NY, after a short illness. He was 92.

He served as president of the American Psychology Association’s Division of Community Psychology in 1999-2000 and received its Distinguished Contribution Award. In 1997, becoming the third person to receive the Seymour B. Sarason Award from the Society for Community Research and Action.

ECPA expresses its sincere condolences to the family and relatives of Murray Levine.

Cultural Community Corona Response: Remember Your Old Drive-In Cinema

The ‘sixties’ brought something new from the US to Germany. Drive-In Cinemas became the ‘hot-spot’ for couples, lovers and families and they could stay in their car. In the late eighties most Drive-In Cinemas have been abandoned due to new media.

Picture by ErriTollsten

As a corona-response to strengthen communities and families in many cities Drive-In Cinemas re-open; some cities even start new forms of Drive-In Cinemas. For many people and families today Drive-In Cinemas is a break in the lock-down routine while maintaining social distancing. For local cinemas and cultural events which have been shut down during the crisis and are suffering from economic breakdown, the new form of Drive-In Cinemas offers the opportunity to keep their customers and to maintain some income during the crisis.

Traditional forms of events are creatively re-invented and re-designed by going back to the basic social (cultural) needs of people. Lesson: if you focus on the basic needs your business is built upon instead of money and economic growth, you might be able to re-invent your business for a sustainable future. Of course there are barriers and challenges:

  • Drive-In cinemas are car-focussed, hence less ecologically sustainable. New ideas?
  • How can we integrate single people without cars while maintaining physical distancing?
  • How do we develop a sense of community in a Drive-In cinema? Community-building instead of commercials?

Story shared by Wolfgang Stark, Germany.

More info: here and here

6 Feet at 6PM

During the coronavirus outbreak in early 2020, my own community near Boston, like a great many others, strongly encouraged residents to stay inside their homes. Not surprisingly, community members wanted to find ways to have visible contact with others, even if they couldn’t meet directly with them in person.

Aerial view of Arlington by Juhan Sonin

Some planners in town proposed an idea they called “6 Feet at 6PM.” Neighbors on a street were encouraged to come outside their homes at 6:00 every evening, to wave, greet each other, and talk while maintaining a distance of six feet or more. This would be a safe and healthy way to maintain social contact under new and challenging circumstances.

According to local reports, many streets in town adopted this idea, some of them quite enthusiastically. Residents clearly seemed to have a strong desire for personal social contact.

While it’s too early at this writing to know whether it will persist, the “6 Feet at 6PM” initiative is a good example of a creative response to a crisis situation. It satisfies a basic human need, it’s easy to do, it costs nothing, and it’s very adaptable to other community settings, perhaps including the reader’s own.

Story shared by Bill Berkowitz.

To learn more contact Kelly Lynema, Arlington (Massachusetts) Department of Planning and Community Development, at klynema@town.arlington.ma.us.

Street art keeps spirits up and connects during lockdown

One resident bought some chalk for his children to use and started writing messages when it was a birthday or an anniversary; these messages of congratulations and solidarity can be seen from our second story windows.

Children from the area started adding portraits so that it looks like they are all holding hands, something that they cannot not do during lockdown. The idea was first started by children but soon it became a focus of the street, with every resident (including pets) being included in this collective portrait.

Picture by News and Star

The street art was a welcome distraction during these unsettling times, which resulted in increased well-being and community identity on our street.

Creative means of connecting people can emerge when we are separated. Initiatives for children can have spill over effects to grown ups!

Shared by Suzanne Wilson, from the United Kingdom.

More info here or at swilson21@uclan.uk

Leverett Connects: A community wide list serve becomes the hub for all things related to coronavirus in a small US town

Leverett Pond, Picture by Oran Kauffman

Leverett is a small rural town in Western Mass of 1700 people. Our local community building group, the Leverett Alliance, listening to community voices decided to launch a town wide list.serve. Until then the town had no way to connect, exchange info, etc.

In September we started to publicize by posting flyers, sitting at the dump and the Post Office. Within a few months we had 250 members. We then sent a postcard to every household showing how easy it was to sign up for free, and the number climbed. People used the list serve to ask for help offer help, etc.

Then corona virus hit the country and since then the number of folks engaged has grown (now over 425) and the exchanges are very moving. Making masks for each other, shopping for each other, going to the dump for each other, food delivery options, finding out when to shop at the stores, etc.

It has created a true sense of community and has addressed very concrete needs. Some have even started an “coyote howl” across the pond in the center of town to mimic some of the activity in Italy and elsewhere.

As one user observed: “Hi, everyone, I just picked up an absolutely delightful rainbow-striped mask from the Post Office Thank you, seamstresses and seamsters! Thanks, too, to the enlightened techies who set up Leverett Connects. Who could have known that it would become so crucial to so many of us? It is wonderful to live in this town.” (Annie Jones)

We have heard that list serves like this are working in urban neighborhoods as well.

Story shared by Tom Wolff, from Massachusetts, USA.

To learn more: tom@tomwolff.com

Caring and Fast Response in a Small Bavarian Community

PAEHL (Southern Bavaria, Germany) is a small community (2000 inhabitants) in a picturesque location south of Munich and close to the Alps.

Although it is well known for a rich community life (traditional music bands, soccer, clubs maintaining local traditions), the corona-lock-down came as a surprise. However, in a very short time after, the community came together to support the vulnerable groups.

Picture sent by Wolfgang Stark

The young people of the village formed a voluntary corona task force within two days after lock-down. The local mayor immediately started phone-calls to 200 (!) local inhabitants aged over 70, asking if they needed support on food supply or health services. Seniors have also been asked if they would like to receive regular phone-calls if they lived alone.

The local voluntary corona task force provided food supply and shopping services from day three after lock-down. Municipal administration is coordinating orders. The small local public library offered book deliveries on demand. Local administration sent out direct mailers to all households with information emergency phone numbers, health services during shut-down, where to buy local food or where to order hot meals delivered to households.

Based on a rich community life people are amazingly fast and creative to form community support systems. Collaboration of all sectors of everyday life (young and old, local shops and market gardens, libraries, community administration…) is key.

This story was shared by Wolfgang Stark, from Germany.

More info here or at wolfgang.stark@stw.de

The New Bank for Community Ideas and Solutions

Picture by Sabine Sautter

During the Covid-19 crisis, many individuals and communities have been resonating about new forms of sense of community, mutual support and neighbourhood, and also acting in a surprisingly creative manner, collaborating and re-inventing community life.

We would like to know what is going on and we want to capture community lessons for our society from these experiences.

Perhaps your own community has experienced a surprising situation or developed a distinctive response to the coronavirus outbreak. We encourage you to share your experience by answering our survey, accessible via the button below.

We aim to post these experiences in multiple sites (e.g., ECPA, SCRA, CTB, etc). We will also share the stories in a Facebook Group and later at the new webportal of the New Bank of Community Ideas and Solutions.

We hope this site may help to demonstrate the importance of community building in a time of crisis, and illustrate the many ways that community psychology and community action can make a contribution.

Remembering our shared moments and experiences will help to create a better world!

Wolfgang Stark (Germany); Bill Berkowitz, Tom Wolff and Bradley Olson (USA); Cinzia Albanesi and Caterina Arcidiacono (Italy); Maria Fernandes-Jesus and Maria Vargas-Moniz (Portugal).

Coronavirus pandemic: the role of Community Psychologists in Europe

ECPA CALL TO ACTION #5 Join the CPs “Fridays for coping with the Coronavirus pandemic”

We invite you to join our weekly CPs meetings. 31 participants across the world joined the conference call launched by Wolfgang Stark. See a short summary here. So it was decided that this could become a regular date for CPs. Each Fridays at 5pm (CET) Wolfgang Stark will host the meeting, regularly updates of the meeting will be published here, community psychologists  across Europe and the rest of the world are invited to join.

Zoom-meeting will take place regularly on Friday at 5 pm CET. To attend please click here.

ECPA CALL TO ACTION #4 Create a useful resource platform here

We invite you to share tools, materials, and articles to create a resource platform for important tools to cope with the crisis on the psychosocial ground. We will collect them on our ECPA website. Send them by email to cinzia.albanesi@unibo.it or ecpa.psychassociation@gmail.com

ECPA CALL TO ACTION #3 Share your stories of fear and hope on the ECPA Facebook page

We also invite you to share your stories of fears and hopes we are experiencing in our countries at ECPA’s Facebook page.

ECPA CALL TO ACTION #2 Join the conference call launched by Wolfgang Stark ECPA-EFPA liaison member

Dear community psychology colleagues and friends,

In one of the most disruptive times of our lifetime and in our societies there is no doubt that our ‘sense of community‘ and our ability for mutual support may become a crucial factor how we will cope with a situation we never experienced before. This will be especially true for the weakest groups in our societies (see “Combating a Mental Health Pandemic and attachments).

This may be the time when community psychology will be able to prove if our competencies and tools will be useful for real problems both locally and in a global scale. At the same time we are called for creative and immediate action to strengthen our communities towards a challenge we never experienced before. I wonder if you have similar thoughts and ideas.

If so, I would like to invite you to share your ideas, concerns, action, and experiences on what community psychology and community psychologists could contribute to strengthen the ‘sense of community’ facing isolation and social distance as a consequence of the corona pandemic.

If this makes sense to you, please join me for a community psychology Zoom call on Friday, March 20, 5 pm (CET). let us share ideas on how we can be supportive as community psychologists both on a local and global level. If you want to participate, please use the following link.

ECPA CALL TO ACTION #1

We invite Community Psychologists to use their professional networks and competencies to support communities’ adoption of safety behaviours, to share useful (verified) information, and to help people, in particular those who are more fragile (i.e. homeless people, digital immigrants), to cope with the quarantine related measures and the psychological impact of the emergency. If you have materials, documents that you think may be useful to be shared please send them to ecpa.psychassociation@gmail.com we will be happy to publish them on our website.

EFPA INITIATIVES

EFPA has shared some guidelines and possible actions for psychologists to deal with the COVID-19 emergency in its member associations in its homepage.

ECPA as an associate partner of EFPA recommends Community Psychologists in Europe to follow the guidelines on personal protection, environmental countermeasures, social distancing countermeasures and travel-related countermeasures provided by ECDC. The website provides daily updates on the situation.

On EFPA page there are also links to other useful resources  related to the following topics:

  • Provision of first-line psychological support
  • Provision of online consultation
  • The psychological impact of quarantine – How to cope with quarantine/isolation
  • How do our member associations deal with the crisis?

#besafe #beresponsible #stopcoronavirus