Bridging the gap: A community-based, open-systems approach to school and neighborhood consultation

Bret Kloos, Jon McCoy, Eric Stewart, R. Elizabeth Thomas, Angela Wiley, Trudy L. Good, Gladys D. Hunt, Thom Moore, Julian Rappaport

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we describe an approach to neighborhood-based consultation that emphasizes collaboration with and advocacy for local citizens. Our primary goal is to facilitate involvement of families and other citizens in collective action. The school, viewed as an open system situated in a neighborhood context, is seen as an important location for collective action and citizen empowerment by creation of a range of opportunities for meaningful participation. Practice involves assessment of direct interests as defined by participants, development of bridge-building activities between school and citizens, small wins over time, and long-range commitment to creation of organizational structures that connect the culture of the school and the interests of the neighborhood. Practice is based on several principal tenets of community psychology: the value of democratic participation and citizen empowerment, the power of collective action, attention to strengths and resources as well as stakeholder interests, ecological analysis and identification of interdependencies, and system adaptations. We elaborate on how the theoretical underpinnings of this approach suggest roles for psychologists and other professionals as consultants who can help to bridge the gap between schools and economically disadvantaged communities. The real educators of the young are the grownup generation.... Society at large must be regarded as a vast normal school in which the whole active, doing, and driving generation of the day are pupils qualifying themselves to educate the young. (Brownson, 1839/1971) The movement for greater community participation in the policy process in American cities extends beyond school reform. It represents the hope of a large segment of the population that has been alienated from the institutions of society. (Gittell, 1968/1971) The political principle justifying parental involvement is that when decisions are made affecting you or your possessions, you should have a role, a voice in the process of decision making. ... It is quite fashionable to proclaim the necessity and desirability of parent involvement in our public schools ... the fact is that it is too often empty rhetoric. (Sarason, 1995).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-196
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Educational and Psychological Consultation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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