The Society for the
Study of Social Issues



Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
Strategic Plan

Adopted by Council on February 1, 2009
Reviewed and updated by Council, February 2016

The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) was founded in 1936. Its membership includes a diverse group of about three thousand psychological and allied social scientists who share an interest in applying research on the social science and psychological aspects of critical social issues to improve the human condition. SPSSI holds as a central tenet Kurt Lewin’s dictum: “There is nothing so practical as a good theory.” In various ways, the Society seeks to bring theory and practice into focus on human problems of the individual, group, community, and the nation, as well as the increasingly important problems that have no national boundaries. Throughout its history, SPSSI has been involved in a broad range of social issues with a special emphasis on peace, prejudice, poverty, health, legal issues, and the environment. The Society is committed to strategically leveraging its resources to promote the public good and social justice through science, practice, and policy.

Cherishing its successes and persisting core values, SPSSI has periodically focused on the Society’s evolving priorities and opportunities for the intermediate future (e.g., the next 5 years).  In 2007-08, SPSSI sought to produce a formal Strategic Plan that would serve as a guide to future actions of the organization.  The Strategic Plan was not intended to “box us in.”  Rather, we viewed it as a “live” document, guiding us in the strategic management of SPSSI’s resources, and undergoing changes and updates as needed.  We anticipated a repeat of this more formal process on a periodic basis (e.g., every five to eight years).

The final plan includes two main sections, the first about SPSSI itself (e.g., mission, values, and core functions within the organization) and the second a list of goals for SPSSI.  Accompanying the Plan per se, there are four appendixes, this one about the rationale and process of developing the plan, a second on promotive energies within SPSSI, a third on participants in the process, and the fourth listing possible — but not yet agreed upon — strategies for reaching these goals.   

Mission: To generate, disseminate, and apply social science knowledge to address the problems of society.

SPSSI’s Identity & Values
SPSSI members are socially conscious empiricists and empirically minded social activists. SPSSI is distinct from other social scientific associations in its commitment to translating science into action and distinct from other social advocacy organizations in its commitment to basing action on science.

SPSSI values include:

• A commitment to social justice and changing the world in positive ways.

• The premise that science should guide policy and practice. 

• A commitment to promoting a sustainable environment.

• A commitment to promoting peace and alleviating prejudice and poverty.

• A commitment to having an international, cross-cultural and diverse membership that informs SPSSI’s functioning as a Society. 

• A commitment to educating the next generation of scientists to carry on SPSSI’s work.

SPSSI’s Core Functions
Why does SPSSI exist?

A. Science

1. To stimulate science that leads to new knowledge relevant to key social issues: 

•Knowledge of the underlying causes and consequences of social problems.
•Knowledge of mediating social and behavioral mechanisms.
•Knowledge of programmatic and policy interventions that improve the human condition.

2. To foster the development of new methodologies that promote the discovery and understanding of key social issues.

B. Societal Impact

3. To disseminate social science information to individuals and groups who could apply it in their organizations and daily lives.

4. To increase understanding by policy makers and the public of key social issues in order to change attitudes, behaviors, and social systems.

5. To bring social science theory and evidence to bear to improve public policy across a wide range of social issues from the local to the global level in accordance with SPSSI’s guiding values.

C. Membership

6. To build community among those who have an interest in using science to promote progressive social change.

7. To promote SPSSI members’ professional well being and success in teaching, scholarship, practice, activism, and leadership.

8. To encourage academic institutions and disciplines to value the types of research and professional activities in which SPSSI members engage.

What does SPSSI do in order to achieve these outcomes?

1. Publishes journals and books to disseminate policy-relevant research.

2. Holds biennial and other conferences.

3. Provides grants to support research.

4. Offers fellowships (e.g., the Marshall and the Taylor Fellows) that allow researchers to gain experience in the policy arena.

5. Convenes task groups to formulate white papers, policy recommendations, and amicus briefs or to contribute to the governance of the Society.

6. Provides briefings and workshops on social issues at Capitol Hill, the United Nations and other venues.

7. Commissions research and literature reviews on topics important to SPSSI and amenable to policy change.

8. Provides professional recognition through awards.

9. Supports scholars at all stages of their careers who are interested in SPSSI-relevant topics.

10. Supports members in the development of courses and curricula on topics relevant to SPSSI’s mission.

11. Provides travel support (e.g., for graduate students, under-represented groups, and international scholars to attend SPSSI Conventions and other SPSSI activities).

12. Offers print, electronic, and in-person venues to foster communication to and among members (e.g., newsletter, website, listserv, conventions).

13. Partners with other professional organizations with shared values.

14. Convenes SPSSI Council, SPSSI’s governance group, to oversee functions and operations of the organization.

15. Maintains a committee structure to support all operations.


The following set of goals was distilled from the collective brainstorming and discussion sessions among SPSSI leaders over the entire course of this planning process from June 2007 through November 2008.

A. Science

1. Foster, identify, and bring forth new science that sets the stage for policy, attitudinal, and behavioral change on issues of interest to SPSSI.

B. Societal Impact

2. Disseminate policy-relevant knowledge to key audiences in a timely, influential fashion.

3. Form connections and coordinate with organizations that are able to influence the policy-making process.

4. Maximize the influence of SPSSI and its members with policy and decision makers.

5. Build the capacity of SPSSI members to translate research into policy-relevant recommendations.

6. Include and work collaboratively across a broad range of disciplines to more effectively address social issues.

C. Engaging, Diversifying, and Supporting Members

7. Engage members, especially younger members.

8. Diversify the organization’s membership and leadership with regard to age, race, ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual expression, disability, social class, religion, work setting, academic discipline, nationality, and other forms of human diversity.

9. Identify and respond to the needs and interests of current and future members, and support them as they address the challenges that arise in their professional lives.

10. Support members in the teaching of psychological aspects of social issues through such activities as the development and dissemination of teaching materials, classroom activities, and so forth.

D. Organizational Operations

11. Be strategic in expending financial and human resources.

12. Evaluate outcomes of programs and initiatives.

13. Establish clear policies and procedures with regard to committees and governance.

14. Seek to promote a culture of environmental awareness, foster environmentally sound practices, and advance environmental stewardship as an organizational value of both the Central Office and the Society as a whole.



Appendices to the Strategic Plan



Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin