Guest Post: Creating Communities that Balance Hope and Concern

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Dr. Barbara J. Green is a psychologist, clinical researcher, and community prevention educator. She serves as the Medical Director of the Youth Health Connection program at the South Shore Health System in Weymouth, Massachusetts.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Green last month at a two-day Science of the Positive Institute in Easton, Mass. Dr. Green was inspired to write about some of what she learned at the event for the Youth Health Connection newsletter, and was generous enough to let me share her thoughts here. Enjoy! 

Science of the Positive: Creating Communities that balance Hope and Concern

by Barbara J Green PhD | Nov 2, 2017

Dr. Jeff Linkenbach, Director and Chief Research Scientist at the Montana Institute and author, has developed a theoretical systemic approach to assisting communities to positively harness their focus, effort, attention, energy and initiatives. The end goal is to reduce risk and increase protective factors that are environmentally based and sustainable community by community. Dr. Linkenbach has created a cyclical perspective of change: Spirit, Science, Action and Return. At the core is the understanding that Positive guides us, and and that it is concrete and distinct, that it can dramatically impact community culture and behavior. Fundamental to the process is inspired, passionate leadership that is ready to challenge core assumptions, and to steadily lead the community to move forward in a transformative way.

He begins with a thorough science based foundation which includes the importance of need to have the courage to challenge, to value data and assessments as essential to having a place from which change gets shaped. By changing perceptions, language, messages we can enable communities to have more robust and lasting positive outcomes. Key to this process is the balance between hope and concern. If we engage our communities with messages of hope, while not denying concern, we create momentum for communities to trust that the solutions are within the community and its people. By focusing on positive community norms we allow for pathways that cultivate cultural transformation. We know that fear and negative can actually cause a retreat in community engagement, the opposite of our goal.

To quote Dr. Linkenbach, “ It is time to move beyond health terrorism. If we want health, we must promote health”.

We must help communities write stories that communicate positive messages, that include hope, without excluding concern. Insuring correct perceptions are clearly communicated helps increase willingness to develop healthier, safer behaviors.

Stay tuned for more information on Dr. Linkenbach and his ground breaking work. The combination of science, spirit and positive are incredibly powerful.

I often speak of the goal of “Cultural Sea Change”. Dr. Linkenbach has defined a systemic process for moving toward that goal.

You can read more of Dr. Green's writing on her website