Miles Thompson (UK)

What attracted you to community psychology?

I was always looking for something like community psychology – it just took me a while to find it and even longer to find any space to be able to consistently research within it. What I mean by this, is that I was always looking for something with a wider focus than the individual alone. Always looking for something more focused on social justice, more political, both aware of wider structural issues and resolved to tackle them.

In my undergraduate degree and beyond, I spent quite a lot of time exploring other parts of psychology. Thinking: this is interesting, but doesn’t seem to go wide enough. To be honest, I’m not even sure the phrase “community psychology” was mentioned during my first degree. And if no one tells you about it, you don’t necessarily know it is there. Community psychology can remain quite hidden.

We explore this a bit in two pieces of recent research (Thompson et al, 2022; Thompson & Thomas, 2023). In one study, we talked to qualified UK clinical psychologists with an interest in critical community psychology. We asked them how they came to have a relationship with critical community psychology and they told us about their own lifespan events, which often involved the interaction of their wider principles and politics. They also told us about their somewhat awkward interactions with psychology – where they kept waiting and wanting for more critical and community psychology related content. In the other study, we asked UK psychology undergraduate students about their perceptions of critical community psychology having been introduced to it as part of the study. A number of participants wished they had already known about it – and wanted more education around it, not just for themselves as students, but also for the wider public.

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

Community psychology is not an especially easy path to follow in the UK. So, I took a much more established and clearly defined route and became a clinical psychologist, working in the NHS in the field of chronic pain, before moving into higher education.

My formative community psychology experiences came during my clinical training. During the course, we did have at least one session on community psychology. If I’m honest – though I highly regard the person who led the session – I don’t remember a single thing about its content. But clinical training did give me a book budget, and made me aware of wider meetings and conferences. Bookwise, I purchased, “Writings for a Liberation Psychology” by Martín-Baró, the first edition of “Critical Psychology: an introduction” by Fox and Prilleltensky and two books by David Smail. It was the critical psychology text I started reading first. I distinctly remember being sat outside, in the sunshine, reading the preface and first chapter, thinking: “Wow. I didn’t think you were allowed to say things like that”.

The first community psychology event I attended, was around the same time, way back in 2003. It was the “Community and Critical Psychology Conference” in Birmingham. I think the event had sold out, and I had to wait for a cancellation in order to attend. I’m sure there were many inspiring sessions at the conference, but the memory that stayed with me, was from a plenary talk, or the Q&A that took place after, where I remember sitting there thinking: “Oh, we’re just being critical of CBT. Is that it? Is that all we’re going to do? Is that as radical as it gets?

So, on the one hand there was the excitement of attending a community psychology event, and on the other the somewhat more mundane content being discussed in that specific session. And this came against the backdrop of the explicitly political content that I was excited to read in Fox and Prilleltensky. The contrast was interesting.

With hindsight, this tension remains interesting and relevant. In fact, we explore this a bit in Thompson et al. (2022). We asked participants how they bring their interest in critical community psychology into their NHS clinical work. Participants told us it can be hard given the confines of NHS practice. Moreover, some of the things they told us about seemed more like good contemporary clinical practice – rather than anything more radical or transformative. Still, arguably, forms of community psychology, but perhaps not especially distinct or different.

In your assessment, what is future of community psychology in Britain?

I think, in some ways, the future can be anything we want it to be. But, as with everything, we have to organise and fight for it. Community psychology in the UK is not especially well developed. It exists in pockets: inside the NHS, inside academia, inside the charity sector, even inside politics. Back in 2003 – and again in 2007 – Mark Burton and Carolyn Kagan – wrote great papers about the state of community psychology in the UK. One titled: “Community psychology: Why this gap in Britain?”. Over 20 years on from that first paper, it is tempting to ask whether the gap has widened or narrowed?

Rather than answering that question here, perhaps a related story might be useful. I virtually attended the international community psychology conference in Naples in September 2021. There was a great session titled: “New volumes in CP” where panelists spoke about new community psychology book titles from Italy, South Africa, Germany, the UK and elsewhere.

When the speakers talked about their books, they spoke about the state of community psychology in their own countries. Of course, if you’re promoting a book, you might talk up the health of community psychology at home. But one speaker, who wasn’t from the UK, just said (words to the effect of): “Community psychology has been fading away from the universities here. So this new text may not be especially innovative. But we need to be honest about how things are, join together and move forward”.

This really struck me, and made me think that part of the work we should be doing is building better structures that allow us to get to know each other and work together, beyond our national borders. Getting better connected globally on a day-to-day basis. Of course, we have our biannual international conference – with the next being in Uruguay. And in the UK, we have a regular community psychology festival. But how are we encouraging people with an interest in community psychology to meet, network and collaborate outside of these events? Could we be doing more – especially during the climate and ecological emergencies when we should arguably be flying less? For example, could we create a global, lightweight, digital forum, that helps us organise and shape our shared futures as a discipline? Something that includes but maybe goes beyond organising bodies like ECPA and SCRA?

Two other things to consider when thinking about the future. While it continues to be great to see new books and chapters about community psychology coming out – could we be doing more to ensure our future publications are Diamond Open Access? Where authors don’t pay processing charges and readers can access digital versions fast and for free. “Community Psychology in Global Perspective” and the “Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice” are leading the way in terms of journal articles. And Jason et al., (2019) have published a freely accessible Introduction to Community Psychology textbook. But is there more we could be doing more to give our knowledge away when we write books and chapters? (For a recent blog about these issues see Thompson & Clark, 2023).

Finally, when planning for the future. Let’s not assume all of today’s students are coming to community psychology positively or even neutrally. In one of our recent studies (Thompson & Thomas, 2023), we found a small subset of students who felt that statements related to critical community psychology were not relevant to: i.) individual mental health, ii.) to psychology, and even iii.) not relevant as ideas.

In what ways can community psychology contribute in tackling issues for marginalized people facing climate change?

Three thoughts: First, by doing some of things we do best. Meeting with people, groups and communities where they are, in the contexts they find themselves. And then genuinely working together as partners and co-researchers to tackle the issues that matter most to them.

Secondly, acknowledging that community psychology does not have all the answers – or all the leverage, and so using our networks, to draw in others from academia, from health and social settings, from charities, NGO and activist networks to help tackle the issues that marginalised people and communities face.

Thirdly, I think I’d ask – are the first two enough? Not just in terms of climate change, but in terms of our work generally. Have we – in our history to date – done enough to hold the limiting structures and the powerful to account? Are we able to show consistent success at changing things in truly transformative ways? Not just at local levels, but also at national and international levels? Because this is what tackling the climate and ecological emergency requires.

How do we combine: i.) on the one hand our partnership working with marginalized communities. And on the other ii.) forcing progressive, positive movement from governments, corporations, and international bodies who arguably seem steadfast in upholding the status quo? The outcomes of the recent COP28 seem to have given us nothing more than what Greta Thunberg rightly identifies as “blah, blah, blah”. There are no easy answers here, but this is something we grapple with in a recent paper (Thompson et al., 2023). In it, we explore participant generated examples of environmental and wider social challenges as a tool to reflect on climate change and community psychology. In the discussion, as others have already done, we highlight the role of capitalism and neoliberalism. But beyond highlighting it – how do we challenge and change it? How do we even dent it? In the paper we highlight the role of critical consciousness. Not just raising awareness, but also promoting focused critical action. One of the challenges of the climate and ecological emergencies is the way it demands that we work across all levels from the micro to the macro – but with change necessarily needing to happen urgently at the macro level. Again, no easy answers – but vitally important work for us all to do.

Virginia Paloma (Spain)

What attracted you to community psychology?

Within the academic field, I have been fortunate to have had mentors who helped me to mature intellectually, to initiate me in committed and socially useful research, and to meet a scientific community—that of community psychology—with the same intellectual concerns and personal values as me. Specifically, it was Prof. Manuel García-Ramírez who introduced me to Liberation Psychology and, from there, I came across community psychology.

From the beginning, I was “in love” with Ignacio Martín-Baró, the greatest exponent of Liberation Psychology, a current that emerged in the 1970s in Latin America. This current emphasizes the role that structural dynamics and asymmetrical relations of power play in human suffering. It also encourages building a transformative practice from academia that advocates for the rights and well-being of oppressed people. I remember that one of the first texts that Prof. Manuel García-Ramírez shared with me was “War and Mental Health”.

Later, I did a research stay at the Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas in El Salvador, where Martín-Baró did most of his work. I still fondly remember how I dusted off many of his writings from the shelves of the university library. I went crazy photocopying all the material I could find of his—at a time when his work was not yet digitized. In fact, the folder with all this material that I brought back to Spain is still one of my greatest academic treasures.

What makes community psychology attractive for you?

For me, community psychology (CP) is attractive because I feel that this discipline aligns with my own intellectual concerns and personal values.

My parents raised me in a family environment characterized by intellectual restlessness and concern and help for people in socially vulnerable situations. My upbringing took place largely within a Christian community in a working-class neighborhood. Before I was born, my parents decided to move from a more privileged area of the city to this neighborhood, as a way of being consistent with their own ideals and values. This decision by my parents meant that I grew up in an attentive and intellectually stimulating family environment (my father always had a book to offer me, and my mother accompanied me every afternoon when doing my school homework), along with a largely challenging social environment. For example, I remember that my high school was right next to a slum settlement and my peers were—what I would now consider—an at-risk population in terms of drug use, dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy, etc. At the same time, I remember going with my parents to various demonstrations, protesting in front of the courts against the imprisonment of people who opted for insubordination, temporarily hosting homeless people at home, receiving recurring visits from people with mental health problems or with some kind of functional diversity, etc. We were a family firmly rooted and involved with the reality of our environment.

All this undoubtedly had an impact on my way of being, my dreams, fears, concerns, etc., which clearly led to my professional choice. So, this is why CP was attractive to me (and I decided to specialize in it): because I thought it was a way to be useful to others through my work, contributing as far as I could to generate more individual well-being and social justice in our world.

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

It is difficult for me to think of a single event. Rather, I believe that it was a series of events that took place at the beginning of my formative period as a researcher (2007-2010) that were key to understanding my engagement with community psychology.

In 2007, when I finished my degree in psychology, I helped Prof. Manuel García-Ramírez to organize in Seville the seminar “Integrating New Migrants in New Europe: A Challenge for Community Psychology”. Here, I had the opportunity to meet in person Isaac Prilleltensky and Maritza Montero, two authors I had already read. Hearing them firsthand was exciting. In 2008, we founded CESPYD: The Center for Community Research and Action at the University of Seville. That same year, I participated in my first conference in CP (which coincided with the II International Conference that took place in Lisbon, Portugal). Both events helped me to deepen my identity as a community psychologist.

In 2009, I made a research stay in El Salvador, where I could learn about the work of Martín-Baró and witness situations of oppression that consolidated my interest in doing work that would serve to advocate for social change. That same year, I also participated in the 12th Biennial Conference of the Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA) in New Jersey, USA. This brought me closer to the scientific community in the United States, something that was consolidated to a great extent after a research stay at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2010, invited by Fabricio Balcázar.

In your assessment, why is community psychology very useful for working with immigrants?

My studies have been analyzing the degree of subjective well-being—and other related variables—of migrants and refugees in situations of social vulnerability. To this end, I have understood that mental health is closely linked both to individual strengths and the existing social justice in the receiving context. On the other hand, my studies have been characterized by trying to improve this subjective well-being. To this end, I have designed community-based intervention proposals that make use of the community’s own strengths and resources, in order to increase mental health by promoting processes of resilience and psychological empowerment (moving away from individualistic and pathologizing visions).

In this sense, CP offers me a valuable conceptual framework to (a) understand mental health from an ecological or multilevel approach, where the intersecting oppressive social determinants have a great impact on the lives of migrants; (b) design, implement, and evaluate community interventions from a collaborative approach with other social agents and allied disciplines; (c) emphasize the strengths of migrant people and communities, who are considered agents of change; (d) respect, value, and celebrate cultural diversity; and (e) consider research as a way to understand social reality, transform it, and advocate for more inclusive and fair policies.

What are the main challenges community psychologists in Spain are facing today?

In Spain, the Official College of Psychology only defines the specialty of “Social Intervention Psychology,” presenting it as the field within psychology interested in contributing to the study and improvement of social problems. The reference journal in Spain within this field is Psychosocial Intervention. Thus, CP itself is not formally defined, and can be considered as a specific approach within Social Intervention Psychology. This means that there is no easy identification as a “community psychologist.” Moreover, in the academic field, communication networks among psychologists who define themselves as “community psychologists” are scarce. Therefore, I believe that one of the main challenges is to establish meetings within the Spanish territory to identify ourselves, share projects, and seek synergies among us.

Please provide a painting (or mural) that, for you, symbolizes what CP is about.

I have chosen the painting “Almond Blossom” by Vincent van Gogh, painted during his stay in the psychiatric center of Saint-Rémy (France) in 1890. This painting suggests to me the importance of beauty, the beginning of spring and of a new life. CP, like an almond blossom, represents for me hope in life and in a better world.

Uwe C. Fischer (Germany)

What attracted you to community psychology?

I was already fascinated by the systemic approach and its philosophical background when I started to study psychology. Switching the focus from the individual to a meta-level perspective on the interaction and its dynamic process gave me new insights. The content of psychology at the university was already on the road to mainstream psychology, but there were also teachers with an attitude and association to community and health psychology. For instance, Prof. Lothar R. Schmidt was focusing on the empowerment and social context of psychiatric patients and was supporting the political process to bring back the psychiatric individuals from an institution to the community. I was also interested in courses for environmental psychology and the salutogenetic approach of health psychology at the university.

With this mind set, I started as a scientific employee in practice-oriented health promotion and prevention projects. A European and interdisciplinary project on community based addiction prevention with the ideas of community development and bottom-up strategies with a systemic focus on the responsible adults (and not on the drugs and kids) was the beginning process to come closer to the practical and theoretical concepts of community psychology. Curiously, I participated in the conference of the German Association of Research and Practice of Community Psychology (GGFP) and found a warm-hearted group with interesting discussions and different approaches to run a conference. All along, I was involved further on in and initiated new community-oriented projects and I participated more often in the conferences of the GGFP, which strengthened my identity as a community psychologist over the time.

What makes community psychology attractive for you?

Community psychology (CP) presents concepts going further than looking only on the individual behaviour. It focuses on the social, political and cultural context in which the different people and groups are interacting. CP reflects the different perspectives and needs of involved community groups, and also the contextual situation within they are acting and thinking (culture, implicit and explicit rules and structures, distribution of power and resources etc.). CP is target-oriented in enhancing the well-being of the individuals of a community in consistency with the well-being of the whole community.

CP especially focuses on socially disadvantaged or powerless groups and enables their empowerment and participation in the community. The main questions are mostly: “who is (or has the power of) defining a problem and who has the power to decide for a possible solution?”. If the concerning persons are not involved in the two questions, the so-called solutions will mostly fail in the end.

CP supports diversity and the salutogenetic approach (with an important influence on the WHO concept of health promotion and mental health).

CP had an important and sustainable influence on the psychiatric reform process. It is still supporting improvements together with psychiatric patients.

CP focuses on contextual structures, which enables (Sen, 1999) even persons with disadvantages to realize their aims in a self-determined way and degrades care structures, which makes them helpless, powerless and passive.

CP uses the ‘local’ knowledge of the persons concerned. Generalized expert knowledge has not the absolute power. In consequence, CP supports also self-help groups.

CP uses proactive communication and discussions between different groups to clarify contradictions, to enable understanding of the others, and sometimes to find acceptable solutions. Furthermore, CP stimulates social networking.

CP favours bottom-up (or grassroots) instead of top-down strategies.

CP uses the power of community development and civic engagement for changing situations in the sense of the concerned persons.

CP is multidisciplinary oriented, as it is relevant in all disciplines concerning human communities and their institutional contexts or environments (health, education, social life, municipalities, architecture, environment).

CP uses research to realize social solutions for a better life, mostly involving the concerned persons in the research or evaluation process (action and participative research).

Please tell us about an event or experience that was formative for your engagement with CP.

As you can see in the answer for the first question, it was rather a continuous identity-formation process on the way to the harbour of CP than a single event. The process intensified during my scientific work in the project for community-based addiction prevention. In dealing with useful concepts for community development, involving community members for engagement and prevention, the concepts of CP were fitting this need very well.

In your assessment, what is the potential power of CP to respond to the wave of anti-immigration, or xenophobic tendencies in Germany and/or Europe?

That’s a difficult question. The conservation of resources theory (Hobfoll, 1989) tells us that people have more fear and stressful emotions for losing resources than to have no access to new resources. This happens already if they are expecting to lose resources in the future. In dividing people in established and outsider groups (Elias, & Scotson, 1994) the groups (especially the established group) generate their own repetitive narratives about the others and how the others threat their identity, culture, health, material resources and power. These narratives of status quo and expectations are produced and distributed from people in the community, reinforced by political groups and are mostly fare away from direct experience.

CP has the concepts to reinforce the empowerment, integration and participation of migrants and minorities (mostly defined as outsiders from established groups) on the level of local communities and on the political level. The process of separating and defining groups as ‘outsiders’ can be reduced in suspending separation structures and camps (e.g. for migrants and asylum seekers). The stereotype narratives are a great challenge in the digital media society with the self-selection and algorithm controlled information access in a bubble. Other and positive narratives have to be distributed and direct experience and communication possibilities between the groups are needed to build up new narratives.

What are the main challenges community psychologists in Germany are facing today?

The presence of CP in the professional community and in public: Acting in a way of community psychology, but not referring on it and telling about it, seems to be a problem to recognize community psychology. The more CP concepts are seemed to being integrated in other disciplines (but not sustainable), the more it seems to disappear as a ‘brand’ in the conscious mind. With the new “Handbook of Community Psychology in Germany”, we try to bring the brand ‘CP’ back to consciousness.

Defend human rights for migrants and minorities: Human rights are in danger international, in Europe and also in Germany, regarding the tendency of political opinions and the growing parties on the far right wing. Besides the challenge to achieve new enabling chances, it seems that we have to defend already gained rights and resources for minorities.

CP confronted with the digital age: The rapid development of the digital technology with its consequences for the working situation and mental health, but also for the social work itself, brings up questions, how to deal with it. Challenges of social networking and risks of alienation have to be discussed and will be a topic of the next issue of the German journal of CP “Forum Gemeindepsychologie”.

Is there a painting (or mural) that symbolizes what CP is about?

Hands at the Cuevas de las Manos upon Río Pinturas, near the town of Perito Moreno in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. The art in the cave dates between 13,000–9,000 BP.

Moises Carmona Monferrer (Catalunya, Spain)

What attracted you to community psychology?

I found community psychology from professional practice. During my final year of psychology degree studies, I started working on a community project in the Torre Baró neighborhood in Barcelona. This was a project that aimed to contribute to the community organisation to build together with the Barcelona City Council a new urban plan for that neighborhood. It was the 2000-2001 academic year. And when I finished my psychology studies in June 2001, I started to find out what type of psychology I could connect with what I was doing. I knew that the tools and knowledge I had known about social psychology did not fill all the concerns and challenges that I faced is this project, which began being 6 months for an urban plan and ended up lasting 4 years for the integral transformation of the three neighborhoods that make up the north of Nou Barris, “north of the north” as we said in Barcelona. I quickly realised that community psychology allowed me, as a psychologist, to work not just to imagine a better world, but to try to build it. It allowed me to reinforce a concern I had as a teenager: Trying to change those things that I did not like in the world that I had to live in.

What makes community psychology special?

For me, community psychology (CP) is like a bonsai within psychology. Something small but very nice, something that requires care and affection. What makes it special, though not unique, within psychology is that it is nothing against the current. Because it is a psychology that goes from the person to the macrosocial. That is, it tries to understand what we do by looking at the person, the context, the culture, the laws, the others…. It has a multilevel look, which breaks with the individualising look that prevails in mainstream psychology. CP asserts that many of the psychological and social problems that people experience have their causes or their roots in the collective, and have their solutions, also, in the collective. Because it is a psychology that recognizes the other: One that not only sees their problems or weaknesses but sees their opportunities and potentialities; one that recognizes their abilities to add, that is capable of learning from “the poor”. CP shows what many people do not want to see because it makes inequalities that are normally hidden visible, because CP denounces these inequalities. CP is a power-building effort for oppressed groups.

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

Although in the last 20 years I have had the opportunity to participate in many congresses and training events of CP, at local, national and international level, I always remember in a special way the first international conference I attended outside Barcelona. It was the first community, work and family congress, held in Manchester in 2004 (I think). I had the opportunity to participate thanks to the fact that the previous year, at the European Congress of CP held in Barcelona, I had met Carolyn Kagan and Mark Burton, and they invited me to participate in Manchester. It must have been for the youth, for the transformative energy that I felt in the execution of the community project in which I was working at the time, because it was the first time that I attended a congress outside of Spain, and especially because of the fantastic climate created in the congress that I continue to keep an enormous memory of that time. To discover that there were people in other parts of the world who shared passions, values and the desire to change the world. And to discover that it was possible to organize a scientific meeting at a university where all participants could feel welcomed, cared for and recognized remains a huge recollection and impetus for my interest in CP.

From that meeting of 2004, between scientific sessions, innovative workshops and some pints, two milestones emerged that helped me greatly in my academic consolidation in the field of CP. A 6-month stay at the Research Insititute for Health and Social Change (RIHSC) led by Carolyn Kagan between February and July 2008 and a European project, Residency, between 2013 and 2015 led by Mark Webster from the UK. I also had the opportunity to meet Maritza Montero, who offered to translate the presentation I made in Spanish into English. In addition to starting friendships that are still present today. (Thank you Carolyn for sharing that experience.)

In your assessment, what is the future of community psychology in Europe?

The future of CP in Europe is positive, especially in professional terms. The effect of the context on people’s well-being is becoming increasingly evident. And if we talk about taking the context into account, CP is able to look at the social, the political, the cultural, the environmental contexts, and see how they affect people and their interactions. Now, if we look at it in academic terms, CP, like many other disciplines, risks becoming intranscendent. In a discipline locked in itself, worried about publications and impact rates, and moving away from the oppressed groups it committed to make visible. And give up trying to make a fairer world. This is a problem that goes beyond CP and involves the university and the technocratic publishing drift in which it is immersed.

What are the main challenges community psychologists in Spain are facing today?

The main challenge faced by community psychologists in Spain has to do with their professional recognition. It is true that social and community intervention psychologists are recognized in some basic services, such as social services. For years they have been working in different NGOs and they face the challenge of professional recognition of the figure of the general health psychologist. This figure, created by law to regulate the profession of clinical psychology in the private sphere, is becoming a serious threat to the figure of the psychologist of social and community intervention, for whom there is no regulation by law. From many services and NGOs, the idea of a health psychologist has been confused with the idea of psychosocial intervention. It is necessary to generate an in-depth debate in Spain on the need, or not, to promote by law the figure of the psychologist of social and community intervention. I remember having this discussion with some European colleagues, especially with Caterina Arcidiacono of Italy, who defended precisely the importance of having a specific profile for the community psychologist.

Please provide us a photo that, for you, symbolizes what CP is about.

This photo represents the superpowers from our CP students have in their transition from students to professionals. It arises from a session where we work on this transition and ask them to paint their superpowers on a mask. It is in the last sessions of the semester that the class group feels like a community.

How about a song?

Gracias A La Vida by Mercedes Sosa. “Thanks to life!” tells me how lucky I am to be a community psychologist.

Nicholas Carr (Norway)

What attracted you to community psychology?

As a Norwegian psychologist I was fortunate to be attracted by the national pioneers in community psychology (CP) during my early student years in Bergen. University of Bergen had a more eclectic profile than Oslo, with influences from Europe. The very first professors in Bergen were my teachers. Bjørn Christiansen (3rd row, fifth from left in the photo) was one of those who attracted my attention and became my supervisor. My graduation thesis was a follow up on his ongoing research on the role of psychologists working in the community.

These people and their knowledge are what attracted me to CP. The notion that «it takes a community to raise a child» is evident when looking at the photo of my teachers and mentors who I met in early student years. Later on, I was fortunate to be part of the very first post graduate community psychology training in Norway. The program lacked teachers, so we had to import scholars from Europe, which put me in touch with colleagues I still enjoy contact with today.

Please tell us about an event that was formative for your interest in community psychology.

After graduation my thesis became a reference to ongoing reforms in the post graduate training of psychologists. For me it was formative to experience that psychological knowledge can have a direct impact on health services planning and policies.

I discovered early how CP provides insights to achieve social justice, placing the cultural and political context at the heart of what psychologists do. I wished to orient myself further towards a systemic view of social and psychological problems, and my first job was in a remote community isolated by fjords on three sides! I was given a great deal of trust and equivalent responsibilities.

Working close with the rural youth, gave huge inspiration and meaning for me as a young clinician and school psychologist. The position gave a free mandate to fill according to personal preferences. The first meeting of partners in this project was a major formative event for my growing interest in CP. When I asked the boys dropping out of school what their preferred activity was, the responses gave an impulse to a community project still growing after 35 years.

The early formative years were probably long before my professional years began. Born in the 1950s UK with a psychiatrist and a nurse as parents, the choices of profession were already made. I grew up in a caring environment dominated by the asylum ward next door to the doctors flat. Being a student of Dr. Anna Freud, my father was influenced by the early psychoanalysts. This gave me an opportunity to develop a critical position to the dominating power relationships in clinical settings. My brother and sister both graduated at the same medical college as my father Dr. R.B. Carr, the renowned St. Bartholomew College in London. The opposition role in discussions about mental health has been formative from my early years. I deeply respect my father’s work in prisons during his late years, providing therapy for prisoners doing life-time sentences for murder, having no rights for mental health care services.

As a practitioner more than a researcher, I have taken the odd jobs as a student in major psychiatric institutions to learn how the system functions. There I was confronted with class inequalities inside the hospital. I have never forgotten the less privileged patients from these days.

What makes community psychology special?

The multidisciplinary origin and the diversity of CPs around Europe is a strength for any profession. Personally, I have developed a strong identity and connection, making CP special to me by going beyond the professional role. I see CP as a way of thinking more than a discipline within psychology. It connects to a value-based psychology in order to address the underlying causes of mental problems. Teaching CP on how to analyse determinants of participation and sense of community gave me access to an active professional network in the 1990s.

I began to see the psycho-social processes through which inequality and injustice impact on communities’ health and well-being. This has been crucial in my suicide prevention work, adding a supplying perspective to the individual suicide prevention strategies.

The key message and what makes CP special to me, is that CP challenges the idea that human crisis affects only the individuals, and promotes the idea that well-being is always connected to social and political contexts. By strengthening the bonds, trust and sense of belonging between people and institutions, CP helps communities to recover and give hope after the crisis. Why some communities recover quicker than others, is related to resilience and togetherness. I have always been more interested in the strengths than the weakness of people and communities.

I believe CP can play a crucial role in facilitating growth and resilience during our ongoing global crisis. I feel comfortable in my role as coordinator between people and institutions to increase participation and civic engagement. Working with youth in schools, addiction and mental health services has given me huge pleasure in facilitating and moderating human growth in groups, volunteer organisations and communities. I have a strong perception that CP is welcomed in almost every other discipline of psychology, and we are thereby able to be generous and give CP away.

What is the future of CP in Europe?

As a growing discipline, in contact with real life problems, such as climate change, war in Europe and after effects of the pandemic, I believe we can play an important role in future Europe.

In the songs from the film «Searching for Sugarman» there is a longing for something beyond knowledge, a human experience of connectedness between people. I see a paralel story to this film in the way CP is coming back from the US to Europe, being rediscovered in countries where the ideas originated. The album «Cold Fact» which the film is based on, never sold in the US, but became a cult classic in South Africa. Kids in school could recite the song texts, and the album became a huge inspiration among youth in their struggle against apartheid. Rodriguez’s family came over from Mexico, and he grew up in Detroit. Rodriguez was loyal to his heritage and working class background, and was never interested in making a commercial success.

The most important future challenge is to connect with the multi-disciplinary field of climate change research and action. Looking at the APA Climate Advisory Group in the U.S., the CP perspectives are clearly missing. To fill in the gap, CP approaches can play a significant role by bringing in participation research, communiy resilience, transforming and building communities, climate justice and global sense of community. As a citizen in Norway, a country responsible for the worlds highest carbon emissions I feel a personal responsibility to take part in the fight against climate change.

What is the most important piece we are missing in community psychology in Europe?

I do not think we miss anything specific, as we are extremely diverse with many traditions and cultural backgrounds. What we need in order to have a greater impact in a European context is a unifying element in our different associations. We have for a long time been fragmented and not well connected in professional networks. After 1996 in Rome we saw the first step towards a unifying network across national borders with the ENCP. In 2006, the European Community Psychology Association was formed, which hosted biannual international events. Then in 2011, European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA) launched a Task Force, developing into a permanent Standing Committee in 2013. This year in Brighton we are witnessing nothing less than a turning point for European CP. For the first time in the ECP history, the congress is waving a high profile on CP in the official program. The signs are very clear; CP is one of the main thematic tracks, the Scientific Committee has a CP member, the Interdisciplinary Topics are typical CP research areas, a community psychologist is giving a keynote, and the CP pioneer Marie Jahoda will be presented in a historical panel session.

From a position outside EFPA, not well known in mainstream psychology circuits, CP has established itself in the centre of EFPA activities, with an influence on other fields of psychology and society on the whole. This is only the beginning, now we need to build CP as a EuroPsy field of practice and develop CP training at all major universities in Europe. This is what we are missing.

Please offer us a song that, for you, symbolizes what community psychology is about.

The song «Cause» is from Rodriguez’s second album «Coming from Reality».

Isabel María Herrera Sánchez (Spain)

What attracted you to community psychology?

When I started my studies in psychology, I had originally planned to pursue a clinical career like most of my classmates. However, as I progressed in my training, I began to explore other fields that held a greater allure. Among them was community psychology. I had the opportunity to do my internships at a municipal community health center, where I collaborated with other professionals of different disciplines. In that inter-professional context, I witnessed how psychology contributed to the well-being of communities, improving living conditions in neighborhoods, and promoting the social welfare of vulnerable groups.

Later, my doctoral research focused on evaluating social organizations, which gave me a broader perspective on the significant role that the social sector plays in social well-being. Subsequently, I got involved in evaluating programs aimed at disadvantaged neighborhoods. This specialization led me to engage in teaching community psychology, participating in undergraduate and postgraduate training programs. Concurrently, I actively worked to ensure the proper development of this academic and professional field. In Spain, we have a strong network of professionals dedicated to the field of social intervention psychology, closely linked to community psychology. Unfortunately, recent professional regulations and socio-political changes have posed challenges to this sector. As a result, I have been actively involved in the efforts of our professional association to ensure the continued strength and empowerment of this field of practice, as its initial beginnings.

What makes community psychology special for you?

Community psychology (CP) can be described as a field that is dedicated to addressing social challenges and creating positive change in communities. CP is committed to achieving equity, social justice, and collective well-being. It confronts structural barriers and inequalities head on, driven by a strong determination to make a difference. Community psychologists strive to overcome obstacles and empower the marginalized individual and communities. When implementing empowerment-based strategies, the goal is not only to alleviate problems but also to address their underlying causes by driving sustainable and meaningful change. These strategies provide tools for the active participation of the individuals and communities involved, promoting decision-making and fostering the strengthening of their ability to overcome obstacles and achieve greater well-being. CP goes beyond the personal and interpersonal level and focuses on transforming social issues at their core. By employing innovative strategies, it aims to empower communities and promote equal opportunities. The adjective to describe the determination to overcome challenges and promote equal opportunity, positive social change and improve quality of life in communities is “resolute”.

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

It is not so much an event as a circumstance in which I am currently immersed, in addition to my work as a teacher and researcher. For the past few years, I have taken on the role of coordinating the professional area of Social Intervention Psychology in the Andalusia region (Spain) through the professional association of psychologists in the region (Colegio Oficial de Psicología de Andalucía Occidental). In this region, the regional government has the authority to legislate on social policies. From my position as the coordinator of this area and, along with other colleagues, actively lead efforts to review and improve those laws related to social policies. Although our efforts yield varied results, with success or failure (with the less successful outcomes more common), what I want to emphasize is the importance and challenge that psychologists undertake when attempting to influence social policy. Social policies play a crucial role in promoting well-being and equality within society. Therefore, we must actively participate in the analysis and proposal of changes to existing policies, ensuring that we effectively address the needs of individuals and communities. CP has the tools necessary to achieve this objective.

What is the future of community psychology in Europe?

The EFPA Standing Committee on Community Psychology, of which I am a member, is actively working to strengthen CP in Europe. We have undertaken a project to assess the implementation of CP as a field of practice in European countries; to identify the educational offerings available to students and explore the possibility of aligning CP with EuroPsy. We are fully aware of the significant diversity in the professional development of CP across European countries and there are numerous areas closely linked to CP that play vital roles within their respective area of knowledge, such as Social Intervention Psychology, Social Problems Psychology, Applied Social Psychology, Liberation Psychology, and Critical Social Psychology. All these approaches share values and principles including working for the well-being of individuals and communities; promoting equity and social justice in the most disadvantaged groups; promoting social and community participation and empowerment; strengthening the sense of community, community development, and community leadership; intervening from the perspective of diversity and social change; relying on action research approaches and sociopolitical validity. The key challenge lies in harmonizing this diversity of knowledge into a recognized field of practice at the European level, which would result in strengthening the identity and visibility of CP. In addition, it would provide greater opportunities for psychology students to develop competences related to this field, as well as in other more established areas.

What is the most important piece (or pieces) that is missing in community psychology in Europe?

Rather than focusing on a topic, I want to emphasize methodology because the strength of CP lies in its capacity to foresee and embrace emerging fields. I think of the transformative paradigm, which is more than just a conceptual framework; it is a particular stance towards using methodology to bring about social change by questioning power structures and promoting social justice. I cite Donna M. Mertens, who highlighted the primacy of what is to be achieved (social justice) rather than on the rigorous adherence to a methodology, where the vision and values of marginalized groups should be at the core of the transformative process. CP is characterized by its integration of various methodological approaches, and I believe the transformative paradigm is essential.

Please tell us about an event that  summarizes what community psychology is about for you.

The 15M Movement comes to mind, which emerged in Spain on 15 March 2011, in response to the economic crisis that began in 2008 and exacerbated the country’s social inequality. It originated as a spontaneous gathering on the night of 15 March in the “Puerta del Sol” in the city of Madrid and quickly spread to other cities, where people settled in their tents in the main squares for a month. During this time, participants engaged in various assembly-style activities to discuss pressing issues such as inequality, housing, education, job precarity, political corruption, and the prevailing two-party system. The movement organized inclusive activities of all kinds, catering to people of all ages and backgrounds, without focusing on individual ideologies. It stood out as a citizen participation movement that served as a protest and a call for political and social changes. Although this protest movement did not achieve significant improvements in social rights, it laid the groundwork for a greater public awareness of social inequalities and caused a change in the political landscape of the country, moving away from the prevailing bipartisanship towards a new multiparty model that allowed greater representation and diversity of political options. I often refer to this historic moment with my students to illustrate the potential grassroots change.

Michael Richards (UK)

What attracted you to community psychology?

When I was an undergraduate student in psychology in the UK, I soon became frustrated that mainstream psychology was not a psychology that could really make a difference in people’s lives, at least for the most marginalised, and be a psychology that could be about voices, inclusion, empowerment, and creativity. Thankfully, I was introduced to “critical community psychology” by Carolyn Kagan, Rebecca Lawthom and others, and I started to see that psychology could be one of hope and change, a move away from wholly individualistic and exclusionary nature of mainstream psychology. This form of critical community psychology aimed to be driven by values, working with people in context, and was interdisciplinary, driven by change and creativity in its approaches, and I could see hope that this could make a difference in people’s lives. I saw how powerful it could be in part in my own work with disabled people, homeless young people and people in poverty in Manchester, and have not stopped flying the flag for community psychology since.

What makes community psychology special?

For me, what makes community psychology (CP) special is its approach to action that focuses on oppression and liberation and on challenging systems that are unjust, and it seeks to collaborate in solidarity with workers and members of communities through a critical praxis. Participatory action research, wellbeing, and collaboration is different from the work and ideas around labs and individualism that is manifested in mainstream psychology, and CP for me provides hope in a way that critical psychology alone does not. CP, in whatever form, is a psychology that gives me hope that mainstream psychology can move forward in a way that allows psychology to become a psychology for marginalised people.

Please tell us about an event that was formative for your interest in or engagement with community psychology?

There has not been one singular event that was formative in engaging my interests in CP, but the CP festivals that have taken place in the UK since 2015 in cities including London, Manchester, and Bristol, have been hot beds for dialogue and engagement in CP, and seeing these events take place to promote CP and inspire future community psychologists have been rewarding to witness.

In your assessment, what is the future of community psychology in Europe?

Critical CP provides a platform of hope that the shortcomings and old-fashioned ways of mainstream psychology can be challenged, but critical CP also needs to be challenged and maybe the challenge is greater. After all, the well-intentioned core values, principles, and approaches of any form of critical CP is up against conservative and entrenched psychology powerbases across the world. This fits in with the neoliberal and capitalist governments agendas across many countries that only have passing reference to social justice, equality, and diversity values in their economic and political narratives, and instead prioritise medical and individualised approaches that collaborate with multi-billion-pound industries, and this will exasperate further post-Covid-19. This makes it very difficult for community-orientated, qualitative, creative, and dynamic approaches and set-ups to be founded in collaboration with marginalised people because it is not the priority of the most powerful and the elite.

More than ever, there are less degrees, modules, practitioners and speakers of critical CP and psychology’s alternatives. They have become at best a special interest topic, an opportunity for psychologists to get angry now and again, rather than making any headway in terms of penetrating, influencing, and denting the power of mainstream psychology. Additionally, the same names dominate the space, ensuring that a patriarchal and white critical CP is ever-present. Whilst more speakers and ideas are emerging in critical CP from different backgrounds and communities, it is slow paced and not making progress in challenging and changing mainstream psychology. A future critical CP in Europe needs to turn itself upside down and reconfigure itself into an identity that makes a real epistemological break from mainstream psychology, but in a way that is prepared to work with all kinds of psychologists, who can all bring skills, strengths and knowledges that have the potential to genuinely change the lives of people for the better, in collaboration with them.

For CP to thrive in Europe, it needs to decentre itself and work cross-nationally, work across disciplines, engage with technology better, be prepared to think and develop ideas in ways community psychologists have not done before, and be relational, innovative and promote and collaborate with marginalised people, with a view to decolonising all forms of psychology, with justice at the heart of its existence.

What advice would you give to aspiring community psychologists?

CP has the potential to make in-roads within mainstream psychology, with a view to helping psychology become a psychology for marginalised people, and to be able to do that, my advice to aspiring community psychologists is to always aim to underpin your work with the voices of marginalised people. Let them be CP and the foundation to how you practice and speak about CP. Without those voices being at the heart of CP, then CP is just another psychology that means nothing to marginalised people.

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

Bon Jovi, ‘Living on a Prayer’, 1986.

Angela Fedi (Italy)

What attracted you to community psychology?

Even as a psychology student, I was fascinated by community psychology (CP). I remember studying for the exam and feeling exactly: “Wow, this is exactly the psychology I want to deepen and practise!” I studied Donata Francescato’s manual and took the class with Piero Amerio, so it was really easy to become intrigued…

What makes community psychology special for you?

I found that CP allowed me to combine my interest in collective phenomena with the psychological perspective and with some values that I had chosen as the basis for my life.

What makes CP so special for me is the possibility to have an understanding and a way to act in almost every situation of ordinary (e.g. stressful situations, collaboration, participation, healthy behaviour…) and extraordinary life (e.g., pandemic, war, climate crisis…). I am so glad to have a psychological theoretical framework that is applicable to many different problems and helps me to think in terms of both problem setting and problem solving.

Also, I was and am in love with the idea (and effort) of moving “from case to problem”: I am convinced that psychology cannot limit itself to chasing single cases (both individual and collective), but should work to limit/eliminate the causes that generate suffering, that hinder balance and harmony (within people, between people, between people and other living beings…), and to improve the resources of people, groups, communities, contexts to achieve goals related to peace, enriching coexistence, flourishing – not in a kind of “positivity at any cost”, but in awareness of power injustice and any other kind of inequality.

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

A year before I started my studies at the university when I was still living in my beautiful village by the sea, I read an interview with Professor Piero Amerio, who became my mentor, in the newspaper. He had been interviewed on the occasion of the opening of the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Turin. He presented social psychology as an advantage of the new degree programme.

My plans were more oriented toward a career as a social practitioner than as a clinical psychologist. And this interview was like a confirmation. I will be in the right place to do the right thing. (I still have that newspaper clipping.) Now, many years later, I am an Associate Professor of Social and Community Psychology at the University of Turin.

In your assessment, what is the future of community psychology in Europe?

I hope that CP in Europe will become less and less subject to the classical clinical view and evolve into a psychology of peace, well-being and sustainability (in the broadest sense). I would be happy if European colleagues could help shape the scientific (I am thinking, for example, of the large European grants) and political decisions of our continent, which could restore an important tradition related to the psychological study of relationships and social phenomena from the point of view of subjectivity and the social construction of reality.

What advice would you give an Early Career Researcher starting out as a community psychologist in Europe today?

I would suggest to build a solid and broad theoretical base, along with a relevant methodological knowledge, but to avoid choosing a single perspective or topic. Instead, I would suggest building on this foundation to be curious, to study persistently and to look around, with scientific and human curiosity and with empathy and a desire to make things better. I would also suggest travelling through countries and taking the best from each encounter.

Please provide a painting or mural that, for you, symbolizes what CP is about.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Effetti del Buon Governo in città, 1338 40,

Sala della Pace, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena

[I asked to have it on the first book I edited, about social work, many (!) years ago.]

Megan Vine(Ireland)

What attracted you to community psychology?

I was introduced to community psychology through a module taught by Dr Ronni Greenwood in the M.A. (conversion) in Psychology at the University of Limerick. I was immediately attracted to community psychology, as it aligned with my values and research interests more than traditional approaches to psychology that I had encountered. I had previously studied Applied Theatre in the UK and had spent several years working as a facilitator of drama and storytelling for community youth groups, so I had an interest in community-based participatory methodologies. Community psychology represents an exciting approach to psychology that allows me to draw on my experience and design research and interventions that can address important social issues.

What makes community psychology special?

The ecological approach and the principles that underpin community psychology make it special. Appreciating the interdependence of individuals and systems (ideally) allows community psychology research and practice to identify and address the root causes of social issues.

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

Attending the virtual International Conference on Community Psychology in 2020 was a formative experience, in terms of connecting me with an inspiring and supportive academic network of like-minded people. As community psychology is still quite marginal in Ireland, opportunities such as the International Conference on Community Psychology have been invaluable for me to make international links.

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

This is a difficult question, but I feel that greater visibility and awareness of community psychology in general could increase the fields’ impact on policy-making. There seems to be a lack of understanding among the lay population about the value of applying ecological principles to addressing social issues, and an over-focus on individualised interventions.

How would you characterize a “successful” intervention in community psychology?

An intervention that improves the well-being of individuals and settings through empowering approaches that have positive ‘ripple effects’ on wider society.

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

Mutual Core by Bjork. The lyrics can be found here.

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.