Research & Theory
SPEC's method is based on extensive empirical research supporting our social justice-based theory of social change. Our approach highlights the importance of focusing simultaneously on Strengths, Prevention, Empowerment, and Community Change. Many of the articles available on this site describe that theory and research.
Our wiki links to external resources you might find useful - articles by other researchers and change agents consistent with SPEC's approach, more general work on the theory and practice of social change, and other resources such as relevant databases and reports. Members can add new resources.
In a recent issue of The Australian Community Psychologist, Tim MacKellar applies the SPEC framework to health psychology. He concludes with this:
To promote liberation, critical psychology needs to engage with the political and the psychological concurrently, it needs to operate at the level of the individual and political. This means identifying processes and practices which can transform the psychological processes associated with oppression and facilitate taking action to bring about change in social conditions at the level of widespread discursive practices and the subjugating forces on the individual. The SPECS framework recognises that these dynamic terrains need to be negotiated in order to promote wellbeing at the individual, relational and collective levels. The broad reflexive nature of the SPECS model not only takes these psychological and political forces into account but also provides a solid base to which new theories of health and wellbeing can be incorporated.
Current SPEC Team Focus
The SPEC Team's primary current focus is a three-year action research project aimed at transforming key funding and service delivery agencies in the child and family services sector. The research design includes consultation, action and research within each organization. [Read more about Miami SPEC]
Health and human services organizations strive to reach a balance between dealing with crises and preventing problems. While these organizations may struggle to improve community conditions for all, they often focus on the problems of individuals, While they may seek to concentrate on long term preventative approaches, urgent circumstances and emergency situation can take precedence in their budgets and their actions. While they believe they are changing the community, they may really be trying to change on one person at a time.
SPEC is designed to shift the emphasis in human services organizations from crisis management to the promotion of a culture of prevention. By working directly with human services organizations, we seek to provide human services personnel with the knowledge, tools, and experience to examine their organization's beliefs, structures, and functions. Through this collaborative project, human services personnel are guided as they strive to change their organizations to ones that implement strength-based, preventive, empowering, and community-based approaches.
The SPEC project is all about well-being. The inherent belief is that improved personal well-being leads to organizational well-being and ultimately community well-being. In this cyclical process, community well-being fosters individual and organization well-being.
To experience personal well-being, human beings first have to experience affirmation. Affirmation comes from, among other things, an acknowledgment of a person's strengths, voice, and choice. Health and human services have been -- and many continue to be -- known for concentrating on deficits and for creating clienthood and patienthood instead of citizenship. The focus on weaknesses and the insistence that clients passively acquiesce to professional dictates run counter to an affirmation of strengths, voice, and choice. When empowerment and strengths are promoted, the experience of affirmation grows.
Research on allocation of resources in physical, mental, and community health indicates that less than 2% of state and provincial budgets in the United States and Canada are allocated to prevention. The vast majority of resources are assigned to rehabilitative costs such as hospital beds, expensive treatments, or therapeutic interventions - this, despite the fact that high quality preventive interventions have proven efficacious, cost-effective, and enormously more humane than waiting for citizens to develop maladiesthat medicine and psychology can only treat at very high financial and human costs. The reactive approach occludes the imperative need to devote more resources to prevention. It is imperative in the health and human services field that attention be paid to exemplary models of preventive interventions so that more effective and humane avenues of enhancing wellness may be put in place. The tremendous imbalance between reactive and preventive approaches in favor of the former must be challenged, repaired, and healed. Otherwise, the endless treadmill of new cases will never cease. No mass disorder afflicting human kind has ever been eliminated, or brought under control, by treating the affected individual. Similarly, there will never be enoughworkers to attend to people afflicted with psychological and physical ailments. The only way to make a dent in the incidence and prevalence of suffering is through prevention.
Efforts to enhance personal wellness in the absence of corresponding improvements in the social conditions of living are limited at best and injurious at worst. While working with single individuals may be more convenient than trying to change community conditions and social policies, one must be aware of the long term repercussions of continuing to focus on a single source of suffering, the person, to the exclusion of sometimes overwhelming environmental factors.