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. ________________________________________
Former Connecticut PEP Facilitator
Cheryl E. Czuba
Extension Educator, Community Development, Families
University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System
Internet address: firstname.lastname@example.org
For many in Extension, empowerment is the goal we have for our programs and the volunteers, participants, or clients with whom we work. But what is empowerment? How can we recognize it? Evaluate it? Talk about it with others who are interested in empowerment? Our recent literature review of articles indicating a focus on empowerment, across several scholarly and practical disciplines, resulted in no clear definition of the concept across disciplinary lines. Many using the term cope with its lack of clear, shared meaning by employing the concept very narrowly, using only their specific scholarly discipline or program to inform them. Others do not define the term at all. As a result, many have come to view "empowerment" as nothing more than the most recently popular buzz word to be thrown in to make sure old programs get new funding. We maintain that empowerment is much more than that. 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,...