Community Psychology

In Pursuit of Liberation and Well-Being

by Geoffrey Nelson and Isaac Prilleltensky

Chapter 7: An Overview of Community Psychology Interventions

Box 7.a

Community Psychologists Study Power Issues in an Alternative Setting

Derksen and Nelson (1995) reported on two central power dynamics in neighbourhood organizations. One is the relationship between professional community developers and neighbourhood residents. They found an ongoing "push and pull" in these relationships regarding who has power. A second power dynamic is the relationship between low-income and higher income residents participating in neighbourhood associations. They found that higher income residents can have prejudices about "those people" (i.e., low-income residents) and are often not attuned to their unique life stressors and circumstances. They identified the importance of "bridgers," residents and staff who can effectively link these two groups and build common ground.

Derksen and Nelson (1995) outlined three implications of their study: First, community

development must involve consciousness-raising for professionals and community members to overcome victim-blaming mythologies and to move from a charity model of intervention to

a social justice model. Second, material and human resources must be reallocated to facilitate

the process of community development. Low-income residents experience multiple barriers to

participation. Providing honoraria, child care, transportation, and hiring low-income residents are some tangible ways to overcome material barriers. Third, conflict is an integral part of the empowerment process. Working across differences of social class and social status (professional vs. community members) is inherently conflictual. But this conflict presents opportunities for growth and change for everyone who is involved in the community.