Our NASP Cooperative
By Rhonda J. Armistead, NCSP
An "association" is often defined as a group that exists for the purpose of advancing a cause based upon a common vision and shared values. In the last 6 months, you, as NASP members, have personally experienced one of the defining attributes of what it means to be part of an association. I am referring to the outpouring of concern about the American Psychological Association's proposal to eliminate the long-standing exemption supporting state department of education credentialing for school psychologists. As a group, we sent over 11,000 letters to APA and collectively raised our voices in protest. NASP has had an impact on this issue not so much because we created a fervor, but because individual members networked and discussed the merits and implications of what APA proposed. While NASP alerted members with information and provided evidence of the potential threat to the profession, it was "word of mouth" that created the energy, drive, and the results. Some have criticized NASP for encouraging member feedback to another association, but I doubt NASP leaders could have rallied so much passion had members not shared an identity with the Model Licensure Act (MLA) issue.
However, this column is not about the MLA; more broadly, it is about the value we can find in our association with each other. Those who study professional associations describe them as "co-op" arrangements in which members are both givers and receivers—in economic terms, both suppliers and consumers. Unlike other groups, members of associations conduct research, compile knowledge, publish, give presentations, answer questions, and share experiences on listservs— all for the purpose of having it analyzed, critiqued, and synthesized into valuable information suitable for the entire group. So, there is a unique system of giving and getting that works best when the inputs and outputs are balanced. The common cause that's implicit must be appreciated and responded to. For this reason, a decision to join a professional association is really a decision to share and affiliate. Despite the financial cost involved, this decision is not so much about a purchase, but about acknowledging this shared commitment and communicating to others that you wish to share an identity with the group. NASP members have long contributed to the co-op effort involved in every NASP convention, and each issue of Communiqué and School Psychology Review. Venues such as our annual convention allow many of our members to come together and get involved in exchanging information, ideas, and initiatives.
However, as President of NASP, one of my initiatives for this year has been to increase the number of members who get involved in the NASP co-op. And you have responded. Hundreds of you have participated in recognizing "Resilience Builders" in your schools. Not only did you promote the value of resilience within your workplace, you took the time to post the names of teachers, principals, counselors, and others who exemplify the special qualities essential for student success.
But some of you have not yet found a way to get involved in the co-op. I will be the first to acknowledge that there are many demands upon our time—children's activities, church, PTA meetings, neighborhood associations, and any number of special interests and hobbies we all enjoy. And most of us, understandably, don't seek more tasks, meetings, or obligations. Involvement in NASP, however, can occur at many levels and intensities. For example, there are many NASP activities that comprise very specific tasks with very limited time commitments. Let me mention just a few. You may not realize that the Convention Committee never has enough volunteers to review abstracts submitted for each year's convention presentations. This involvement occurs once a year and requires just a few hours. A similar involvement is to contribute your thoughts on important policies such as professional standards or position statements. Currently, the Standards Revision Workgroup is seeking input from members on four NASP documents: standards for training, credentialing, practice, and ethics. Your completion of a 15-minute survey could contribute to guidelines for practice which will be in place for the next 10 years. To help you find out about such opportunities, we've instituted a "Getting Involved" page in the Membership area of our website: www.nasponline.org/membership/ getinvolved. I encourage all NASP leaders to post involvement opportunities there and I hope you will be able to find something there to get involved with that is right for you.
So, my message is ... we value every member's involvement in our association. Everyone can't take on a leadership role but everyone can be involved in some way. Every time we share a nugget of professional information at nasponline.org with a colleague, complete a member survey, renew our memberships, volunteer at the convention, or mention the value of membership to a colleague, we participate in the economy of our association. Without your involvement and support for NASP, the co-op gets out of balance.