Training in community relations

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journal abstractReviews the book, Training In Community Relations by Ronald Lippitt (see record 1950-00551-000). This book is the best example so far in print of the type of investigation known as “action research.” Action research is the scientific study of controlled social change. The book describes a two week workshop for community leaders conducted in the summer of 1946. Practitioners from the Connecticut State Board of Education and the National Conference of Christians and Jews helped set up the workshop program. The members of the training team were pretty well committed by their educational philosophy and previous experience to a training program based primarily on discussion and role practice. One of the major purposes of the project was to test the effectiveness of this type of program. A second goal was to determine the amount of social action resulting from the training of a strategically selected group of individuals from a single community, as compared with the amount of action resulting from training the same kind of individuals from a large number of different communities. A third major purpose was to discover the differential effects of the training program on individuals in different community roles. Subjects of the experiment were 18 teachers and school administrators, 14 professional social agency workers, and nine lay community leaders. These people, plus six others of unspecified background, were organized into three training groups of approximately equal size. An excellent but still unsatisfying feature of Lippitt's book is its detailed account of the workshop program. It is by far the most complete account of such a program which this reviewer has seen, and the program itself was a remarkably ingenious attempt to increase what the author calls “basic human relations skills.” The only criticism which can be made is that Lippitt does not go far enough in describing exactly what was done at the workshop so that other experienced group leaders could, if they chose, duplicate the training procedures. The most striking change following the workshop was the increased level of activity of the trainees. In analyzing the differential effects of the workshop, Lippitt contrasts trainees who came in large community teams of six or seven members with trainees who came in groups of two or three. One of the neat points in Lippitt's analysis is the use of an “influence potential score” based on the number and type of community organizations to which an individual belonged and his position in those organizations. A weakness in the measurement of workshop effects is the lack of a good single index of qualititative improvement in an individual's performance following the workshop experience. Taken as a whole, Lippitt's book is a milestone in the scientific study of social change. Added to its careful account of a particular training project are a wealth of hypotheses and tentatively established generalizations about group dynamics and individual development. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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