HEB APRIL 2019: Ecology, Wicked Problems, and the Context of Community Interventions


The concept of ecology has, over time, become increasingly important as a frame for conducting community interventions. While multiple ecological frameworks have been proposed both within and outside public health, most have drawn on Bronfenbrenner’s work and the concern with multiple levels of the ecological context. The present article presents an ecological metaphor for community intervention developed in community psychology over the past 50 years. This perspective was specifically developed to conduct community research and intervention in the spirit of community development. The article begins with a brief discussion of social problems as “wicked problems” defying preordained and prescribed solutions.

It then organizes the presentation of the ecological metaphor around five Cs that, together, provide an overview of the main points of the perspective: contextualist philosophy of science, community as a multilevel concept, culture and diversity as critical community-defining concepts, collaboration as a fundamental part of the ecology of intervention, and commitment (to community over time). Each of these five Cs adds to an appreciation of the differing aspects of the community intervention process as an ecological enterprise.

Embedded in the five Cs are four ecological processes drawn from field biology that are metaphorically useful in providing a cognitive map for understanding community and assessing community impact: interdependence, cycling of resources, adaptation, and succession. Together, this ecological perspective both reflects and differs from extant perspectives in public health and, as such, is intended to contribute to furthering ecological thinking and acting more generally in community interventions.



community collaboration, community intervention, ecology, wicked problems

Continuing Education

2.0 CHES, 2.0 CPH, 2.0 Entry-level CECH
Production Date:


Price: $36.00