Community psychologists are a unique breed of scientist concerned about: serious social problems, structural/political errors in broad systemic functioning, and often interested in creating cultural change for the benefit of highly vulnerable communities. We are dealing with extremely important issues that affect the lives of people we care deeply about and we want answers!
The traditional culture of science is to be objective, rational, and focused on our own individual contributions by being original. However, community scientists seek the answers to highly complex questions that require us to think outside the box and are often not the result of individual accomplishments. These goals require that we ask ourselves important less explored questions of the world of science:
- What must our process of science look like in community psychology?
- How must we proceed to explore the answers to our questions, especially when the answers seem so unclear?
In an effort to answer these questions, I’d like to share this TED video with you which features a Physicist by the name Uri Alon. Uri provides a 15 minute talk on how channeling and supporting the creative process is a necessary part of conducting research. I believe Uri is really onto something with the idea of “The Cloud” and I hope you will agree.
“The Cloud” is a concept that Uri created to deal with the lack of certainty a scientist experiences when seeking answers to research questions. It is a messy space that stands guard between the known and unknown. Acknowledging this cloud is a way to allow ourselves the creative space to explore the potentially important possible answers to your questions.
It is easy to feel like somewhat of an impostor in the process of conducting research, but we can change the culture of science in our own day to day practice by believing we and others have the capacity to solve our most serious social problems. The science of community psychology research is about getting to the answers. It’s about being passionate about finding the answers and learning how to sit within the messiness of The Cloud so that we seek out resources when we are stuck. It’s also about feeling supported and supporting each other in the process. We can do this by accepting others’ ideas and supporting them by saying “yes and”.
Resources for us can be many! It can be our cohort peers, our faculty advisors, our peer practitioners in the field, literature, or the community partners we are, or are not, connected to. We must acknowledge that The Cloud is a key part of the process toward finding the answers. I hope you will consider The Cloud in your work as community psychologists and embrace it as part of our mutually supportive creative process and unique culture of practicing science at NLU.
-Tiffeny R. Jimenez, Ph.D.