PG303 Community Development and Practices
Topic: Community Empowerment
Due Date: 30th March 2012
What is empowerment?
Many use the term empowerment without understanding what it really means. A literature review resulted in no clear definition of the concept, especially one that could cross-disciplinary lines. This article defines empowerment as a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. It is a process that fosters power in people for use in their own lives, their communities and in their society, by acting on issues they define as important. The Connecticut People Empowering People program uses this definition to connect research, theory, and practice. Empowerment is a process that challenges our assumptions about the way things are and can be. It challenges our basic assumptions about power, helping, achieving, and succeeding. To begin to demystify the concept of empowerment, we need to understand the concept broadly in order to be clear about how and why we narrow our focus of empowerment for specific programs and projects (specific dimension or level, etc.) and to allow discussion of empowerment across disciplinary and practice lines. Understanding empowerment became a critical issue for us as we grappled with the task of sharing the People Empowering People (PEP) program with Extension faculty across the country. Wilson (1996) pointed out that recently, more researchers, organizers, politicians and employers recognize that individual change is a prerequisite for community and social change and empowerment (Speer & Hughey, 1995; Florin and Wandersman, 1990; Chavis & Wandersman, 1990). This does not mean that we can point the finger at those with less access to power, telling them that they must change to become more like "us" in order to be powerful/successful. Rather, individual change becomes a bridge to community connectedness and social change (Wilson, 1996). To create...