di Alfredo Anania


The primary purpose of the community psychology is to seek the way of improving the quality of the life and the welfare of a community through research means directed to individualize (search-analysis, network analysis) the psycho-social causes of individual and collective uneasiness and to elaborate together with the individual belonging to a community some plans (social intervention-action) aimed towards the empowerment of the community in the light of the data acquired through the search on the “field” (what vital context-space inclusive of the physical, social and psychological environment).

The ideal would be to operate so that the members of a community can increase their awareness of the problems and to help them to autonomously plan the desired changes, but not always it is easy to overcome the different forms of resistance, including the lack of a true tradition about these researches, and surmount the obstacles that can continually interfere with the realization of such operational run. On the other hand, it is true that many psychosocial community-development interventions appears as “social actions” that not rarely end with to hardly result distinguishable from the “political actions”, while in our opinion the psycho-social operator must be able to remain within his role of technical counsellor.

The psycho-social acting aimed towards the community-development can usefully consist in offering systems of “social support” such that it is possible to increase the levels of information, participation and interpersonal communication inside the territory where one intervenes, strengthening the interactions between the single persons and the groups that compose the whole community and operating both on the formal network (institutions, public corporations, etc.) both on the informal network (family, friends and cognizant network, self-help groups and so on).

During one historical period in which finally it is more and more recognized the value of the collective participation for the process of social “construction of the territorial reality” and its importance for the improvement of the “life-quality”, an important function of the community-psychology is to furnish to the territory every mean to levitate all the human resources useful to the attainment of the “common well-being”.

We have to consider, for instance, the advantages that can be achieved through the development of enough recent methodologies as the “sense-making”, the “narration” or the “social imaginability of the places”: the territory can be differently contextualized, revitalized and, in a manner of speaking, “tasted again” as shared “environmental unity” for its symbolic, imaginal and narrative meaning that interactively unites its members, including the “symbolic belonging ones” – that is the non-native figures who somehow, through the participation in meaningful events, are englobed in the history of the place and contribute to its narration, as it shows, for instance, the experience of the Itinerant Seminar “L’Immaginario Simbolico” that – by means of the presence of the other, or the different one, or the foreign – allows new explorations of the cultural matrixes and the historical Self of the place, consolidating its identity and renewing the inside social interactions.

Some of the modern psychosocial intervention techniques are enough distant from the action-research of Lewinian memory which consists in promoting, at the same time it is researched for knowing the problems, the social actions that appear the most proper for to find a solution to them.

They show a greater psychological thinness some methodologies, as the “sense-making”, that helps the community – which is constructing its own social reality - to revisit such realizations, to give it sense and means “a posteriori”, so that to maintain constant a dialogic vision of the collective run in its becoming. Also the psychosocial methodologies founded on the “narration” allow the members of a community (and the whole community) to know themselves, to recognize themselves, to historicize themselves, to reciprocally welcome, to intensify the sense of commune affiliation, to interact on a deeper level and to construct together in a truer way. Similarly we can say about the methodologies directed to strengthen the “social imaginability of the places.” It is evident, in fact, that when it is favoured the donation of sense to the belonging environment and the possibility to imagine it in its future projection, one achieves a decidedly pro-social dimension.

Anyway, the local public corporation - if it truthfully wants to make a community service, to promote the welfare inside it and to take care of the territorial empowerment - cannot disregard specific cognitive data about the social reality and it has to research means directly derived from those people who daily live that reality, so that the initiatives aimed towards the empowering can spring in a way the most pertinent to the true emergent needs.

The community social empowering first of all has a positive psychological value because the community, feeling the closeness by the local government and by a political leadership dedicate to attenuate the social disparities and to offer equal opportunities, can more easily to overcome the feeling of collective impotence and re-acquire the hope that, by means of the participation, everyone can develop a real role in the social construction of the local reality, and, besides the community can recover the capability to take care of herself (care by the community) becoming the active protagonist of the initiatives aimed towards the common welfare.

Anyhow, any operative intervention that helps the members of the community to overcome the feeling that the events are realized entirely in extraneous way to their ability to influence them (external locus of control) acquiring a renewed feeling to be able to engrave on the events and to be able somehow to check them (inside locus of control) it turns out to be an improvement of the individual and collective welfare, that already corresponds, per se, to an operation of primary prevention.

The problem that the local authority has to resolve is to succeed in activating cognitive means (cognitive procedures) which don't involve a great economic investment, wide employment of operators or long time and that at the same time result entirely effective. Probably they have had their days the extensive or mass surveys (extensive-quantitative procedures) which seem more proper for market research, while more incisive, for a community development politic and for an expansion of the social welfare, appear the intensive-qualitative procedures on the base of interviews and/or talks directed to assume data necessaries to analyse, interpret and elaborate hypothesis for following interventions. Unlike the extensive-quantitative researches, that can be valid only and since derived by a projection of vast numbers whose reliability is regulated by precise statistic norms, the qualitative research is founded on the testimony of a non-vast number of subjects and on the analysis that derives from them; the main point is, in this case, to resort to prearranged questionnaires that prevent some eventual not-registrable digressions by the interviewed (or better that they don't involve a registration of the answers when such eventual digressions had to happen).

The structured interview is a modality of research that can result precious in order to get data and observations that could be object of possible following more focused or more systematic researches.

As per the Raffaella Anania’s research, published on our journal “Psicologia Dinamica” N.1,2,3 year 2002 with the title “Cultural matrixes and transformations of the community”, it has been adjusted a model of structured interview which can constitute an important formula for the development of some more systematic and widened research-projects. The purpose of the research was to understand, through the interview, both the idea of prevailing development within the examined little communities both the social imaginary emergent through the interviewed people. A series of enough simple, in their formulation, answers have been predisposed and then they have systematically been proposed to all the people who the researchers have had the possibility, during the programmed time, to meet within the select community. The answers were orally set in a dual context interviewer-interviewed .

The model of search is particularly appropriate and applicable to some cultural realities not much accustomed to mass surveys. The model results well accepted by the interviewed people and it doesn't determine resistances, besides it has the advantage not to foresee a direct involvement of the community official structures and formal institutions. For the reasons above exposed, it is essential, as per the model of research, to avoid any pre-selection of the subjects to be interviewed while it is necessary that the meeting with the people approached by the researcher, to realize the survey, happens entirely in casual way. The only parameters to be respected are the homogeneous percentage (for sex, age and working activity) of the subjects interviewed in every community, so that to avoid that, for instance, in a community prevails a number of interviewed belonging to the masculine sex or in another community prevails the senile age interviewed subjects and so on, otherwise it would make difficult the analytical interpretation of the data and a comparison among different territorial areas. The interpretation of the data is enough easy. The principal advantage of this action of search is that the possible interventions for the community social empowering which can spring from it, for once, are not the fruit of the thought of a local authority that pretends, from above, to know what priority the community has need to accomplish but all genuinely the people think first of all is essential for the common good in their place of life.





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