Trajectories on the Path to Reciprocity—A Theoretical Framework for Collaborating With Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Communities

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The importance of cultivating connection to enhance individual, relational and collective well-being is gaining attention in the current literature on building community. Although these goals are being increasingly considered, the concept of reciprocity has been less prominent than may be warranted in the field of psychology. This article presents a theoretical framework on the dynamics of reciprocity which resulted from grounded theory (GT) research involving 2 complementary studies. The first study involved 22 participants from different socioeconomic backgrounds engaged in “reflecting-team with appreciative audiences” sessions (Madsen, 2007) in Portugal. The second study involved participant observation of 15 community programs recognized as good-practices in collaboration with socioeconomically disadvantaged participants, at national and international levels, across 9 countries. The theoretical framework emphasizes the centrality of building reciprocity for the development of individuals, families, communities, and programs. It integrates the trajectories of reciprocity; quadrants reflecting the standpoints assumed according to socioeconomic and cultural positions; basic social-psychological processes inherent to the process of building reciprocity; and characterizes different types of programs. The resulting framework is analyzed in relation to prior literature for a broader understanding of synergies and challenges, and the article concludes by suggesting implications for further research and practice.

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