Abstract: Power As a Resident, Neighboring, Social Cohesion, and Mutual Efficacy: Developing a Model of Grassroots Activism (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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471P Power As a Resident, Neighboring, Social Cohesion, and Mutual Efficacy: Developing a Model of Grassroots Activism

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Michael Gearhart, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Missouri-Saint Louis, MO
Background: One of the goals of community practice is to mobilize communities to create social change. The present study examines measures of empowerment and action in communities: power as a resident, neighboring, social cohesion, and mutual efficacy; and tests a model of grassroots neighborhood activism using structural equation modeling.

Power as a resident refers to the ability and desire of individuals to create change. Neighboring refers to interactions among neighbors. Social cohesion reflects perceived trust among neighbors, shared values, and norms among neighbors. Mutual efficacy are community members’ perceptions that collective action can be successful at achieving group goals.

Method: Data for this study were collected from Prolific.co, an online survey platform. A sample of 750 individuals was recruited. The majority of respondents were white (n = 574, 76.1%), female (n = 374, 49.1%) and the average age of respondents was 45.7 years old (s.d. = 16.1). Most respondents were married/cohabiting (n = 373, 49.5%), employed (n = 348, 46.2%), and held a Bachelor’s degree (n = 275, 36.5%) at the time of survey completion.

Power as a resident is measured using six items that reflect the ability and desire of residents to create change in their neighborhood (e.g. “You genuinely want to participate in activities that improve your neighborhood”).

Neighborhood activism (α = 0.821) was measured utilizing four-items assessing the perceived likelihood that neighbors participate in five advocacy activities (e.g. get together with other neighbors to address a neighborhood problem”).

Social cohesion (α = 0.840) was measured using a scale consisting of five items reflecting shared norms, values, and trust (e.g. “people in this neighborhood share the same values).

Mutual efficacy was measured using an eight-item scale (α = 0.915). Items assess the perceived capability of residents to create change (e.g.” residents in your neighborhood can work together to successfully influence positive change”).

Results: Power as a resident had a significant association neighboring (β = 0.422, SE = 0.034), social cohesion (β = 0.433, SE = 0.061), mutual efficacy (β = 0.599, SE = 0.061) and neighborhood activism (β = 0.200, SE = 0.095). Neighboring predicted social cohesion (β = 0.639, SE = 0.106) and neighborhood activism (β = 0.399, SE = 0.142). Social cohesion predicted mutual efficacy (β = 0.552, SE = 0.054), which in turn predicted neighborhood activism (β = 0.463, SE = 0.084).

Conclusions: The findings suggest that residents with the ability and desire to create change perceive higher levels of social cohesion and mutual efficacy, and are more likely to interact with their fellow neighbors. These interactions build social cohesion, which in turn fosters a sense of mutual efficacy. The combination of these factors increases the likelihood that residents will participate in neighborhood activism.

Typically, community interventions focus on the skills most directly related to addressing a community problem such as writing a representative or how to effectively prevent crime. Findings presented here suggest it is also important to train residents in the skills necessary to recruit fellow neighbors in collective efforts like deep canvassing.