UNDERSTANDING NEIGHBORHOODS AND PLACE-BASED INITIATIVES THROUGH THE LENS OF GROUP RELATIONS
Allison Pinto, Ph.D.
Neighborhoods are social networks and environments that influence and are influenced by the well-being of the people who reside within them. They are fundamental units of civic life and have the potential to initiate and lead broadscale social change. They are also the geography of focus of place-based initiatives, which refers to a cross-sector approach to comprehensive community change designed to catalyze collective transformation through a preliminary focus on particular neighborhoods. How can Group Relations theory and practice be used to understand neighborhoods and place-based initiatives as social systems? How can the science and practice of neighborhoods and place-based initiatives reciprocally inform the continued evolution of Group Relations? These questions are actively being explored through neighborhood-oriented, place-based efforts now underway in Florida.
This presentation will apply the Group Relations concept of group-as-a-whole to understanding the dynamics of neighborhoods and associated place-based initiatives. It will also explore ways in which a focus on boundaries associated with time, turf, task, resources, and role can be helpful in understanding neighborhoods and neighborhood-oriented community change efforts.
Enriching the theory and practice of Group Relations with concepts and methods associated with the science and practice of neighborhoods, and place-based initiatives more specifically, will be considered as well. Neighborhoods are more like voluntary associations than formal institutions, so what are the implications for understanding and addressing power and authority at the community scale? What are the implications for communities as whole systems when residents take up their role and agency as neighbors, in contrast to the roles of consumer, student, or service recipient? Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping, Cognitive Edge storymodeling, Dynamic Social Network Analysis and Agent-Based Modeling can be used to visualize patterns of thriving and suffering within and across neighborhoods, revealing positive deviance as well as disparities. How might these technologies and methods of analysis be used to clarify and explore unconscious group dynamics in the field of Group Relations?
This presentation will also share preliminary plans for a Group Relations conference designed to explore the dynamics and related functioning of neighborhoods and place-based initiatives, with a particular focus on the neighborhood and city in which the conference is held. Considerations and implications for group relations practitioners, neighborhood residents, fellow community members, and place-based practitioners will be highlighted.