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Partnering on Social Issues for Social Change: SPSSI’s 2009 APA Convention in Toronto, Canada, August 6-9.

 by Michaela Hynie, 2009 APA Program Chair

Psychologists who are interested in using their research for social change are challenged to find ways of making their research meaningful to policy makers and community members. One way of making research meaningful to community is by including community representatives as full partners in the research process. This approach has been taken up with enthusiasm in health research, which is increasingly adopting Community-Based Research approaches (CBR; also called Community-Based Participatory Research). Community-Based Research emerged from Participatory Action Research (PAR), which was utilized to help oppressed people gain control over and improve their lives through participation in research projects (Khanlou & Peter, 2005). Similarly, CBR engages communities in defining relevant research questions, methods, and interventions and is thus a powerful way of ensuring that research and interventions are relevant to, and appropriate for, the communities for whom they are intended (Israel, Schulz, Parker, & Becker, 1998). Moreover, CBR projects aim to create social change through the research process as well as the research findings.

Toronto, Canada, the site of this summer’s APA convention, has great depth in CBR research, and in meaningful community-academic partnerships more generally. We were therefore inspired to take advantage of the wealth of community partnerships in Toronto in the SPSSI division programming at the APA convention by choosing the convention theme of “Partnering on Social Issues for Social Change.”

SPSSI’s APA Program
The response to the partnership theme has been lively and enthusiastic. The APA convention program will include several symposia, paper sessions, and invited addresses on the theme of partnership. Sessions include papers and invited addresses describing examples of successful partnerships, symposia on the challenges of meaningful partnership, and a symposium on arts-based methods for research with community partners. Most exciting for us is that even the process for planning the conference this year has been an example of partnership! We partnered with 10 other divisions on the creation of the program (Divisions 8, 9, 17, 27, 32, 34, 35, 39, 44, 45, and 48). Several of those divisions’ programs now also include sessions that focus on partnership, notably Division 17 (Counseling Psychology), Division 27 (Community Psychology), Division 44 (Lesbian and Gay Issues), and Division 48 (Peace Psychology).

Visit Toronto Community Centres
As part of the partnership theme, we have also arranged a half-day pre-conference on Wednesday, August 5, in collaboration with two community engagement centers (the York TD Community Engagement Centre and the Wellesley Institute), and with the generous support of the Office of Socioeconomic Status of the Public Interest Directorate, who are handling registration process for this pre-conference. The pre-conference will include visits to the two community engagement centers, each of which are situated in a diverse and economically challenged Toronto neighborhood. The pre-conference will include sessions with community agencies and community members from these neighborhoods who will speak about the partnership projects that they have been involved with, and their experiences of partnership from the community side of the table. The bus trips themselves will have guides from the two neighborhoods who can provide information and history about these neighborhoods and their own engagement with their neighborhood, and with local research partnerships. You can register for this pre-conference at

SPSSI’s Suite
This year SPSSI will also have a lively program situated in the SPSSI suite at the InterContinental Hotel. It will have a range of social, professional and educational events starting on Thursday, August 6th and running through Saturday, August 8th. Please see the SPSSI program flyer in this newsletter and on SPSSI’s website for information about SPSSI’s APA Suite events.

See you in Toronto!
Finally, the conference program committee -- Karen Dion, Vicki Esses, Michaela Hynie, Richard Lalonde, Alex Rutherford, Regina Schuller, and Charlene Senn -- partnered with over 100 members of SPSSI who served as reviewers for our conference submissions this year! Thank you to everyone who participated and we look forward to seeing you in Toronto!

Israel, B. A., Schulz, A. J., Parker, E. A., & Becker, A. B. (1998). Review of community-based research: Assessing partnership approaches to improve public health. Annual Review of Public Health, 19, 173-202.

Khanlou, N., & Peter, E. (2005). Participatory action research: Considerations for ethical review. Social Science and Medicine, 60, 2333-2340.

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