Empowerment Strategies: Theory and Action By Douglas D. Perkins , Program in Community Research & Action Dept. of Human & Organizational Development Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, USA http://peabody.vanderbilt.edu/hod/ email@example.com.
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Empowerment Strategies: Theory and ActionBy Douglas D. Perkins,Program in Community Research & ActionDept. of Human & Organizational DevelopmentPeabody College, Vanderbilt University, USAhttp://firstname.lastname@example.org
Organizations studied for their empowering ways (from Perkins, D.D. (1995).Speaking truth to power: Empowerment ideology as social intervention and policy. AJCP, 23, 765-794):
1. Greater attention should be paid to different levels of empowerment... look beyond individualistic conceptions... to collective conceptions... that are commensurate with solving group, organizational & community problems.
2. Smaller is better. Beyond the community & organizational level... higher levels of policy-making...result in progressively more ambiguous conceptions of empowerment & diminishing returns... local grassroots efforts may work best.
3. The paradox implied in 1 & 2 illustrates a dialectic of empowerment. Other possible dialectics include (a) emphasizing both personal & collective (and, for some, spiritual) control, (b) the paradoxical requirements of leadership, order, & organization in helping others to help themselves, (c) people's needs for both individual & community identity & (d) for both change & stability (Brown & Perkins, 1992), (e) the personal & organizational benefits of empowerment along with its risks & challenges, (f) a political orientation of both populism & progressivism, & (g) an approach to theory & research that allows for both deductive & inductive logic & both specific & general info... pay more specific attention to what models of empowerment work with what populations in what settings & why.
4. The relationship between empowerment cognitions, person-env. transactions, & behaviors must be explored... In particular, because many vague descriptions of "empowering thought patterns," emotions & other intrapsychic constructions have clouded the... concept, greater emphasis on empowering behaviors-- such as citizen participation in the community, workplace, & government-- is needed.
5. Researchers need to become more familiar with the policy-making process... & more comfortable disseminating & directly applying their research, not just in a particular organization, but by working with executive, legislative, & judicial bodies & advocacy organizations at all levels, from local to federal & international agencies.
6. Follow Coleman's 5 steps to planning effective policy research: "1) identify the parties in policy outcomes & with some power... to affect policy; 2) determine interests of these parties; 3) find what kinds of information are relevant to their interests; 4) determine the best way to obtain this information; 5) determine how to report the results."
7. Policy researchers must become more proactive, not only in the planning & evaluation stages, but throughout the process, from agenda formation & policy adoption to policy implementation & review.
8. Researchers should play the role more of learner/collaborator than "scientist". ...graduate programs in community psychology & related disciplines should do a better job of training for such a role.
9. Learn to disseminate more practical information & to deliver it in (more user-friendly) ways... cultivate information channels within the policy-making bureaucracy. may include choosing multiple target audiences (e.g., legislators, voters, other interest groups), understanding each one's unique orientation, & tailoring the focus & style of presentation accordingly. It requires the ability to present complicated theories & data concisely, in plain but accurate terms (i.e., without overgeneralizing or overstating the case)...
10. Both theory & research would be more practical if more psychologists carefully examined & tried to understand the qualitative knowledge about real-world empowerment processes that practitioners bring...The clearest definitions & descriptions of empowerment may come more from voices on the front lines of movements for social change than from the policy or even research literatures...
Orders of Change & Levels
1st-order change: effects just part of system vs.
2nd-order change: systems-level change in the basic goals, structure or processes of the org.
Individual Learning or Development
Decision-Making Practices, Participation, and Learning in Non-Profit Organizations
Kimberly Bess, Douglas Perkins, Dan Cooper, Diana Jones
Organizational Change Work Group,
Center for Community Studies
Peabody College of Vanderbilt University
Prepared for the10th Biennial Conference for the
Society for Community Research & Action
University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
**Research funded by Learning Sciences Institute, Vanderbilt University email@example.com http://peabody.vanderbilt.edu/hod/cra.htm"
Working Model of Organizational Decision Making
External Influences on Organizational Decision-Making in Non-Profit Settings
Community Level Change
Individual Level Change
Stated Mission and Goals
Internal Organizational Decision-Making Practices Based on Learning Organization Theory
Radcliff Community Org.
Community-based HSO serving defined geographic area
20 years old
Serves rapidly changing, working-class, most ethnically diverse area of city
Multi-level change mission: individuals, families, community
Programs incl. ESL, housing & job assistance/development, youth/mentoring, WIC/food, clinic, literacy, immigrant svcs.
Neighborhood-based, community decides issues to focus on
Started by organizing around urban renewal in ’60’s
Currently focuses on housing and development, education, crime
Community level change focus
Radcliff Community Org.
Crisis & Maintenance
Financial Crisis: from $50K to $1.5M budget in 4 years; accounting expertise did not keep up, causing a problem w/ biggest funder
# & variety of programs expanded rapidly
Funding Organization Demands
Funding more indiv. svcs.
Vanderbilt U. volunteers also more svc.-oriented
Diverse community needs & constituencies
Crisis & Maintenance
Ongoing Struggle with funding
Maintaining participation from members and partners
Development pressures; affordable housing
Lack of amenities
Radcliff Community Org.
Mix of top-down management & participatory
3 or 4 paid senior staff (incl. strong Ex. Dir.) make most decisions
Others w/ some input: volunteers/participants used as collaborators & source of expert knowledge
board members (mostly residents from neighborhood)
volunteer staff (many who live outside of the neighborhood)
other outside organizations (funders, university)
persons served by programs
Bottom-Up: Neighborhood resident input informs decision of what issues to focus on.
Residents volunteer to serve on issue related committees; gather research.
Top-Down: Board decides action steps and strategies without much resident (volunteer) input
Formal structure for soliciting resident participation and input in org. decision making; however, not continuous across all levels of org. decision making
Radcliff Community Org.
Good learning/human capital development opportunities w/in programs
Some [limited] participatory mgmt. opportunities for individual learning & empowerment
But big decisions made at top, thus hurting:
role clarity for staff, bd., volunteers
diversity of input on big decisions
fiscal planning & responsibility
reputation of org. w/ funders, some neighborhood residents
Gravitation toward individual services & away from grassroots community change
Radcliff Community Org.:
New SPECs Action-Research ProjectOrganizational Change Work GroupCenter for Community StudiesVanderbilt University2005 SCRA Biennial Conference, Urbana
Vanderbilt New SPECs Team (currently):
Kimberly Bess, Leslie Collins, Patricia Conway, Scot Evans, Diana McCown, Bob Newbrough, Doug Perkins, Isaac Prilleltensky (P.I.), Courte Voorhees + other student volunteers
[for more info: firstname.lastname@example.org
And More on:
Changing Community Conditions
NewSPECs is an action-research project, in consultation & collaboration with human service organizations & the local branch of a national funding agency, whose aim is to create a new intervention paradigm that focuses…
Principal Investigator (Faculty)
Process Consultant (Emeritus Faculty)
Research Consultant/ Co-PI (Faculty)
Org. Consultant/Research Associates (PhD students)
Research Coordinator (M.Ed. student)
Research Assistants (M.Ed. students)
Research Interns (B.A. students)
Org. Intern (Med. student)