In This Issue

Division member news

A member describes developing the social and community guidelines for the housing and habitat policy in a Venezuelan State

My name is Esther Wiesenfeld, a senior professor at the Universidad Central de Venezuela.

I define my field of teaching, research and action as Environmental Community Psychology. Although formally retired, I remain active in all academic activities, and in addition, I have been working as advisor, mainly in housing and habitat issues, with government institutions. For this purpose, together with other colleagues and students, we have developed the social and community guidelines for the housing and habitat policy in a Venezuelan State. This has implied a joint and participative work together with professionals from various disciplines (lawyers, architects, engineers, social workers, journalists), poor communities’ residents, and public officers. The goal is to raise public officers’ consciousness about their role for contributing to alleviate housing needs, by critically reflecting on the way policies are usually designed and implemented in ways that seldom represent communities’ voices regarding the way they conceive their problems and solutions. This process, which involves training in notions of housing and habitat, from various stakeholders’ perspectives, including their consideration as human rights; sustainable model of development, particularly emphasizing its social and community dimension; participatory management; psychosocial community principles and processes, etc. Training is undertaken through workshops with exercises and other activities which facilitate critical reflection on the issues discussed. This allows public officers to identify shared needs with poor communities. These needs are contested as human rights and state’s obligations.

This process has facilitated the integration of various disciplines and actors, for addressing poverty-related problems, i.e., housing, showing the contributions environmental community psychology can make for influencing public policy and for promoting environmental, residential and community sustainability.

I would be very glad to exchange ideas and information regarding this and other related experiences. Dr. Esther Wiesenfeld, Instituto de Psicología Universidad, Central de Venezuela.

If you have news you’d like to share with other members of the division, please send it along to Sally Augustin, newsletter editor.