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Theory in action: A sustainable community development framework from a psychological perspective

Introduction

 

 

1.1 Purpose

As urgency mounts to mitigate human contribution to environmental degradation, social inequity, and economic instability, many in the academic realm are being called upon to offer solutions to social, environmental, and economic problems. Among these experts are those in the field of psychology. Researchers and theorists in the fields of psychology are increasingly being asked to consider what role they can play in strengthening the development of sustainable action at the community level. Adapting the definition from the 1987 Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, this investigation defines the term sustainable community development as action that strengthens a community’s ability to meet the social, environmental, and economic needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own social, environmental, and economic needs (Brundtland, 1987). In reference to this topic, The American Psychological Association explains that a population and environmental psychologist’s role in the matter is to conduct the research and advance the theory relevant to improving interactions between human behavior and environment and population (American Psychological Association, 2009).

While this broad mission statement does imply that collaboration between psychology and sustainable community development is valuable, guidelines as to how this collaboration is relevant and practical are not specified. Without these specifics articulated, the potential that exists to discover cross-disciplinary techniques for strengthening sustainable action at the community level is weakened. In an attempt to articulate a framework within which psychological theory is put into action in the practice of sustainable community development, this report proposes and analyzes the theoretical relevance and perceived practicality of the Theory in Action (TIA) framework. The TIA framework is proposed as a sustainable community development process wherein psychoanalytic, social, cognitive, and behavioral theory and methodology are applied to six aspects of sustainable community development practice to discover cross-disciplinary techniques for strengthening sustainable action at the community level. The purpose of this report was to describe how TIA techniques were proposed from a psychoanalytic, social, cognitive, and behavioral perspective and how an exploration of these techniques was informed by an investigation of sustainable community development theory and practice.

It should be noted that in this report, the theory and methodology proposed by the TIA framework was inspired by four out of the fifty-six divisions of psychology that were officially recognized by the American Psychological Association at the time of this research. This fact, in combination with this report’s specific concentration on the TIA framework’s application to the approach, direction, design, implementation, facilitation, and maintenance of sustainable action limits the scope of this research. It was not the intention of this investigation to report how other divisions of the field of psychology might be applied to the many processes that influence the strength of sustainable action at the community level. Further research is necessary to explore the potential of additional collaborations between psychology and sustainable community development.

1.2 Organization

The report is organized to give readers an understanding of the psychological underpinnings of each technique proposed in the Theory in Action (TIA) framework before exploring the theoretical relevance and perceived practicality of TIA techniques within the field of sustainable community development. This chapter, Chapter 1- Introduction, furnishes the purpose and organization of the report. Chapter 2- Methodology describes the means by which information was gathered for the report. Chapter 3- Theory in Action Framework defines the six techniques proposed within the framework and elaborates on the psychological underpinnings of each. Chapter 4- Sustainable Community Index reviews how literature on the sustainable community development model, Sustainable Community Index, informed the exploration of the theoretical relevance of the first two techniques proposed in the TIA framework. Chapter 5- Community-Based Social Marketing reviews how literature on the sustainable community development model, Community-Based Social Marketing, informed the exploration of the theoretical relevance of the last four techniques proposed in the TIA framework. Chapter 6- Sustainability Exploration and Education Development Committee and Interview Analysis summarizes the findings of the interview conducted to investigate the perceived practicality of using the TIA framework’s six techniques to strengthen the sustainable community development efforts at Prescott College. Chapter 7- Analysis and Recommendations analyzes how the literature review and interview findings informed the exploration of the theoretical relevance and perceived practicality of the TIA framework and summarizes recommendations for further research and for those interested in applying the proposed framework to sustainability efforts at Prescott College. Chapter 8- Conclusions summarizes and concludes the report. Appendix AInterview Recruitment Materials and Prescott College SEED Shareholder Interview provides the best thesis of recruitment e-mail sent to prospective participants and a full text of the structured interview used to investigate the perceived practicality of applying the TIA framework to sustainability efforts at Prescott College. Appendix B- Bibliography provides a complete listing of texts, journals, and Internet websites used to research this report.

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