Multiple-level analysis as a tool for policy: An example of the use of contextualism and causal layered analysis
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In 1970 Scribner described four types of community psychologists. Despite social change being a common theme, the four types were differentiated by the extent to which they were inside government and organisations or outside, agitating for change. Community psychology and policy change appear to be implicitly connected. Despite this, engagement of community psychologists in policy change has proven to be minimal. Distinctions between first (cosmetic) and second order (systemic) change (Watzlawick, Weakland & Fisch, 1974) reflect the intractability of fundamental change due to deep systemic cultural influences, and should act as a motivator for community psychologists in the policy arena. We argue that psychology’s failure to adopt a multiplicity of epistemologies, in particular a contextualist epistemology, has meant that psychology, and particularly, community psychology has had limited impact. Further, we argue the need to consider community worldviews and culture, in general, if we are to engage more fully in policy development and implementation. Contending with the social issues relevant to policy settings requires an articulation of the worldview and cultural context. Causal layered analysis, a futures methodology, has been adopted to allow a reflective and contextual approach to policy implementation and involves a structured layered deconstruction of social issues. An example of this approach will be highlighted with its application to the implementation of sustainable Australian agricultural policy in the face of climate change.What is revealed is a psychological paradox involving the general endorsement of sustainable policy alongside cultural impediments to its adoption. Community psychologists have a natural and important role to play in policy formulation, given our epistemologies, methodologies and motivation for genuine and transformative social change.
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