Empowerment Strategies: Theory and Action
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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/ d.perkins@vanderbilt.edu.

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Empowerment strategies theory and action by douglas d perkins program in community research action dept of human

Empowerment Strategies: Theory and ActionBy Douglas D. Perkins,Program in Community Research & ActionDept. of Human & Organizational DevelopmentPeabody College, Vanderbilt University, USAhttp://peabody.vanderbilt.edu/hod/d.perkins@vanderbilt.edu

Collective efficacy or empowerment formal cognition cell of figure 1
Collective efficacy Perkins & Long, 2002) (or empowerment; formal-cognition cell of Figure 1)

  • “trust” in the effectiveness of organized community action

  • an extremely influential concept in community psychology & beyond

  • represents a new approach to social capital by focusing on the cognitive attributions & motivations that lead community members to engage professionals as collaborators rather than as authoritative experts.

Empowerment defined
Empowerment defined: Perkins & Long, 2002)

  • Must mean more than the individual psychological constructs with which it is sometimes compared or confused (e.g., self‑esteem, self‑efficacy, competency, locus of control)

  • "an intentional ongoing process centered in the local community, involving mutual respect, critical reflection, caring, and group participation, through which people lacking an equal share of valued resources gain greater access to and control over those resources" (Cornell Empowerment Group, 1989)

  • or simply a process by which people gain control over their lives, democratic participation in the life of their community (Rappaport, 1987), and a critical understanding of their environment (Zimmerman, 1992).

  • I.E., it is at core a collective construct

Empowerment levels processes outcomes based on perkins zimmerman 1995
Empowerment levels, processes & outcomes Perkins & Long, 2002)(based on Perkins & Zimmerman, 1995)

Characteristics of empowering settings based on maton salem 1995
Characteristics of Empowering Settings Perkins & Long, 2002)(based on Maton & Salem, 1995)

Resource Cultivation:

  • Activating of personal resources

  • Opportunity role structure, participatory niches

  • Increasing benefits, reducing costs of member participation

  • Mentoring

    Belief System:

  • Group-based belief system, transcending self-concern

  • Focus on strengths of members

  • Fostering of critical awareness among members

    Group Climate:

  • Shared events, celebrations

  • Inspiring leadership

  • Peer-based social support systems

  • Appreciating interdependencies

  • Boundary spanning

  • Appreciating and managing conflict

    Task Functioning:

  • Inclusive efforts to define community issues, resources

  • Structured, clear goals & tasks

  • Inclusive, democratic decentralized decision-making

  • Shared leadership

  • Subgroups for specific tasks or sectors of community

Empowerment strategies theory and action by douglas d perkins program in community research action dept of human

Organizations studied for their empowering ways Perkins & Long, 2002)(from Perkins, D.D. (1995).Speaking truth to power: Empowerment ideology as social intervention and policy. AJCP, 23, 765-794):

  • self-help groups, educational programs

  • religious congregations other faith-based community action, service, & advocacy organizations

  • substance abuse prevention & health promotion coalitions

  • environmental organizations

  • large companies

  • community development organizations

  • school-based associations

  • citizen advisory boards of government agencies

  • youth sports & recreation groups

  • community crime prevention groups

  • resident associations & many other contexts

10 recommendations to policy makers program planners empowerment researchers perkins 1995
10 recommendations to policy-makers, program planners & empowerment researchers (Perkins, 1995) :

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.

Empowerment strategies theory and action by douglas d perkins program in community research action dept of human

3. The paradox implied in 1 & 2 illustrates a empowerment researchersdialectic 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.

Empowerment strategies theory and action by douglas d perkins program in community research action dept of human

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.

Empowerment strategies theory and action by douglas d perkins program in community research action dept of human

8. Researchers should play the role more of 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 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...

Social capital at the organizational level the learning organization
Social Capital at the Organizational Level: The “Learning Organization”

  • A “learning organization” helps staff & volunteers engage in critical analysis of:

    • (a) the organization’s demonstrated goals & values (not just its mission statement),

    • (b) power relationships in decision-making practices,

    • (c) the interdependent role of participant stakeholders & organizations as part of a complex, community-wide (or larger) system, &

    • (d) how to work toward fundamental change of all the above.

Empowerment strategies theory and action by douglas d perkins program in community research action dept of human
Organizational learning only happens with opportunities for Organization”critical reflection, collaboration, & effective communication.

  • The lit. suggests that “learning organizations:”

    • include all affected staff and clients in program planning, which will enhance individual learning & development, & organization effectiveness.

    • facilitate critical reflection, open communication, & team learning.

    • focus on both an organization’s development & its managers’ & staff’s professional development

  • AND (we add):

    • facilitate participants’ development, not only as workers (e.g., skills), but also as citizens (empowerment & participation)

    • encourage participants to respect differences, value justice, fairness, & community, take active roles in society

Learning organizations social capital
Learning Organizations & Social Capital Organization”

  • Learning & other psychological bases of social capital largely untested

  • “Learning organization” processes & outcomes in small non-profit & voluntary organizations & communities not well established or studied as they have been in larger for-profit corporations

  • Values, norms, beliefs, & aspirations of civic responsibility are learned through child socialization & adult learning in communities

  • Learning communities linked to social capital in educational reform & community development

Empowerment strategies theory and action by douglas d perkins program in community research action dept of human

Orders of Change & Levels Organization”

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.

Community Change

2nd Order

1st Order



Organizational Learning



Individual Learning or Development

Empowerment strategies theory and action by douglas d perkins program in community research action dept of human
“Learning Communities & Learning Organizations” Pilot Study (Center for Community Studies, Vanderbilt University)

  • focuses on structures, processes, & cultures in community and nonprofit organizations that promote individual, team, & organizational learning

  • how community organizations create learning opportunities & empowering settings

  • Organizational learning practices positively affect group & organizational communication, culture, job satisfaction, & performance

  • Dewey: democracy depends on the creation of a “civil society” by the education & participation of its citizens

Decision making practices participation and learning in non profit organizations

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:

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 kimberly.d.bess@vanderbilt.edu http://peabody.vanderbilt.edu/hod/cra.htm"

Presentation focus
Presentation Focus Non-Profit Organizations

  • Study Background

  • Theoretical Framework

  • Working Model

  • Research Methods

  • Case Study Comparisons

  • Lessons, Limitations & Future Directions

Study background
Study Background Non-Profit Organizations

  • Part of a larger two-year exploratory project using mixed methods to study community organizations as contexts for multi-level learning

  • Phase 1: Compilation, from multiple sources, of a comprehensive database of all 2,361 community-based, nonprofit human service, volunteer, and member organizations throughout mid-size southern city.

  • Phase 2: Brief telephone survey of 270 organizations, measuring such organizational characteristics as staff/membership size, use of volunteers, the nature and extent of their activity, organizational type and goals

  • Phase 3: Case studies of 16 organizations, stratified by organizational type, were selected for in-depth qualitative case studies.

  • Current examination of decision making will focus on data from 2 grassroots neighborhood-based community organizations from qualitative study

Exploratory research questions
Exploratory Research Questions Non-Profit Organizations

  • What is the relationship between participation, decision making, and individual & organizational learning & empowerment?

  • What is the nature of external influences on how decisions are made in community-based non-profits?

  • What is the impact of organizational learning and of how decisions are made on the organization’s capacity to fulfill their community change goals?

Theoretical framework participation decision making goals attainment learning
Theoretical Framework: Non-Profit OrganizationsParticipation ->Decision-Making -> Goals Attainment & Learning

  • Organizational Learning Theory

    • Senge (1994)

    • Marsick & Watkins (1993, 2000)

  • Organizational Empowerment Theory

    • Peterson & Zimmerman (2004)

    • Mathews, Diaz, & Cole (2003)

    • Riger (1984)

Empowerment strategies theory and action by douglas d perkins program in community research action dept of human

Working Model of Organizational Decision Making Non-Profit Organizations

External Influences on Organizational Decision-Making in Non-Profit Settings

Impact/ Outcome

  • Forces driving decision-making process:

  • Crisis

  • Maintenance

  • Growth

  • External environment factors that influence the decision-making process:

  • Funding organization demands

  • Resource environment

  • Umbrella organization relationship

  • Community Needs/Issues

Community Level Change

Mediating Factors

Individual Level Change

Stated Mission and Goals

Internal Organizational Decision-Making Practices Based on Learning Organization Theory

  • Impact of decision-making practices on:

  • individual learning

  • organizational learning

  • Employee/volunteer morale

  • Employee/volunteer ownership

  • accountability for outcomes

  • Culture of decision making:

  • Members invited to contribute to the organization’s vision

  • Members are viewed as resources for decision making

  • Client’s/community’s views brought into the decision making process

  • Members given responsibility for decisions related to work

  • Decision-Making Processes and Structures :

  • Process for getting input from members to inform decisions

  • Process for building alignment across different levels and work groups

  • Structures for communicating decisions across the organization

Qualitative methods
Qualitative Methods Non-Profit Organizations

  • Triangulation of Methods: Participant Observation, Interviews, Public Documents

  • Triangulation of Sources: Semi-structured Interviews with staff, leaders, volunteers, & board members

  • Interview data content analyzed using NVIVO by 2 raters

  • Content categories based on a framework developed by Peterson and Zimmerman (2004) of intra-, inter-, and extra-organizational themes.

Decision making in grassroots community organizations

Radcliff Community Org. Non-Profit Organizations

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.

United Neighbors

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

Decision Making in Grassroots Community Organizations

External influences on organizational decision making

Radcliff Community Org. Non-Profit Organizations

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

United Neighbors

Crisis & Maintenance

Ongoing Struggle with funding

Maintaining participation from members and partners

Neighborhood problems

Community Needs/Issues

Development pressures; affordable housing


Lack of amenities

External Influences on Organizational Decision Making

Organizational decision making structure practices culture

Radcliff Community Org. Non-Profit Organizations

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

United Neighbors

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

Organizational Decision-Making Structure, Practices, Culture

Outcomes impact of decision structures practices culture

Radcliff Community Org. Non-Profit Organizations

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

Outcomes & Impact of Decision Structures, Practices, Culture

United Neighbors

  • Opportunities for individual learning and empowerment related to neighborhood / community level change

  • Top-down decision making in regards to actions/strategies limits:

    • Potential to organize more residents

    • Civic learning in residents

    • Potential Collective efficacy

  • Actions/Strategies tend to focus on ameliorative community change

    • More inclusive participation and organizing could help generate more collective power; transformative change

Benefits and challenges of rapid growth
Benefits and Challenges of Rapid Growth Non-Profit Organizations

Radcliff Community Org.:

  • “What happened to us is we were a little sleepy community organization up to about four years ago, and we went from a probably $50,000 budget to a $1.5 million budget and…I mean we were all just doing everything we could… [but] we didn’t do the things we needed to do to grow effectively. We just service people, which is probably one of my worst traits… I didn’t back up to make sure everybody was on board…so I mean it was a great learning tool for me and it was a great learning tool for my board and it was a great mending and direction setting period for this organization. So it was a good thing.” Executive Director

Lessons limitations future directions
Lessons, Limitations, Future Directions Non-Profit Organizations

  • Analysis of organizational decision-making provides insights into learning, power, and org. development

  • Org. learning largely ignored in nonprofit and voluntary organizations but may be key to survival in funding environment

  • Great diversity of organizations (size, type/mission, budget, structure, culture, role of volunteers) requires mixed methods:

    • Large samples of orgs to capture diversity (quantitatively)

    • In-depth case study analysis to capture subtle differences in culture/climate, leader style, observed (as opposed to "official") practices

Empowerment strategies theory and action by douglas d perkins program in community research action dept of human

New Non-Profit OrganizationsSPECs 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: isaac.prilleltensky@vanderbilt.edu


Empowerment strategies theory and action by douglas d perkins program in community research action dept of human

Less on: Non-Profit Organizations


Reactive intervention

Expert decisions

Changing Individuals

And More on:


Primary Prevention


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…

Empowerment strategies theory and action by douglas d perkins program in community research action dept of human

  • Principles of New SPECs Non-Profit Organizations

    • Ownership by workers and community members

    • Participation of workers and community members

    • Home grown solutions

    • Practice and reflection

    • Learning and taking risks together

  • Goals of New SPECs

    • Develop policies & practices in line with SPEC

    • Institutionalize SPEC in the life of the organization & community

    • Create new practical knowledge for the org. & research team

  • Challenges in New SPECs

    • Process-outcomes tensions:

      • Some uncomfortable w/ so much focus on process; want outcomes

      • Others jump to action for outcomes w/out a good process

    • Marriage, not “rug sale” [institutionalize SPEC in life of the orgs]

    • Ownership for sustainability; avoid “colonizing” client orgs.

    • “Power before program”

  • Opportunities

    • Create in partnership a new model for health & human services

    • Help people who are currently suffering because the conditions are too overwhelming for them to overcome on their own

    • Educate health and human service providers across the city, U.S., and internationally on the benefits of a SPEC approach

Our own team structure part circle decision making reflection part pyramid tasks
Our own team structure: part Non-Profit Organizationscircle (decision-making, reflection), part pyramid (tasks)

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)

Methods Non-Profit Organizations

  • Data Collection Methods

    • Survey

    • Focus groups

    • Interviews

      • Key staff members

      • Snowball sample

    • Observational field notes

    • Archival Data

      • Organizational records and documents

Our own team processes
Our own team processes: Non-Profit Organizations

  • In add. to frequent mtgs. w/ partner orgs., meet as a team at least 2X weekly:

    • Once for business

    • Once for reflection & mutual support

  • Also held overnight retreat for reflection & team bldg.

  • Exploring “critical friend” role w/in team, which is also our hoped-for role w/ org. partners as they take and shape the changes for themselves

Inter team relationships meso system
Inter-team Relationships (Meso-system) Non-Profit Organizations

  • The main issue is whether the main effect of the Project in the community is the colonization of the neighborhoods.  Status differential conferred on the Project Team members. Takes the form of:

    • More education

    • Better spoken

    • More social skills

    • Has a plan based on theory, experience and ideology

    • Has resources

    • Takes initiatives

    • Controls the agenda

  • This may be much more difficult than planned.

With in project team micro system issues
With-in Project Team (Micro-system) Issues Non-Profit Organizations

  • The main issue is whether the power is distributed internally so that the team is prepared and functions to carry out the Project (status, age/experience, degree/program, gender, methodology/interests differencesinfluenceroles, opportunities, intervention approaches, & team process).

  • The team culture is one of equality and open communication, yet the press of business pulls time away from adequate communication and learning. Have a consultant (JRN) to represent these issues and a structure/procedure is evolving.

Key team power management questions
Key team power management questions: Non-Profit Organizations

  • How do we harness power in the team?

    • Management style, lot’s of staff participation & responsibility

  • Who has the power and how do they use it?

    • Project Staff to T-Team, indirectly as much as possible

    • Internal to T-Team. There is a status differential conferred by (experience, personality, location)

  • When is it used and how does it become salient?

    • Implicit structure operates whenever there is a social interaction. It can be observed in the speaking-up patterns in the meetings.

    • Explicitly, directive power occurs when there is pressure to get something done.

Organizational survey demographics
Organizational Survey Demographics Non-Profit Organizations

Spec work support measures
SPEC Work & Support Measures Non-Profit Organizations

  • Empowerment

    • 1a. Regardless of why this may be the case; to what extent does your work give co-workers voice and choice in decision-making processes at the organization?

    • 1b. I feel I have enough opportunities in my job to give co-workers voice and choice.

    • 1c. I feel I have adequate time to give co-workers voice and choice.

    • 1d. I feel I have adequate preparation and skills to give co-workers voice and choice.

    • 1e. I have adequate organizational support to give co-workers voice and choice.

    • [1f-i: same items asked re empowering clients and community members]

  • Changing Community Conditions

    • What percentage of work time do you engage in changing community conditions such as pollution, access to health care, lack of transportation, affordable day care, living wage, and others?

    • 1a. I feel I have enough opportunities in my job to work on changing the conditions that affect our clients and communities

    • 1b. I feel I have adequate time to engage in work to change community conditions

    • 1c. I feel I have adequate preparation and skills to engage in community change activities

    • 1d. I have adequate organizational support to engage in community change activities

Modified dimensions of learning organization questionnaire dloq scales
Modified Dimensions of Learning Organization Questionnaire (DLOQ) Scales

  • The following questions that were asked on a 6 pt. Likert Scale. They have been scaled together to create new variables.

    • Organizational Cohesiveness

      • My organization builds alignment of visions across different levels and work groups.

      • My organization encourages people to think from a community perspective.

      • My organization considers the impact of decisions on employee morale.

      • My organization works together with the outside community to meet mutual needs.

      • My organization encourages people to get answers from across the organization when solving problems.

      • In my organization, leaders ensure that the organization's actions are consistent with its values.

    • Organizational Skills

      • In my organization, leaders generally support requests for learning opportunities and training.

      • In my organization, investment in workers¹ skills and professional development is greater than last year.

      • In my organization, the number of individuals learning new skills is greater than last year.

Modified dimensions of learning organizations questionnaire dloq scales
Modified Dimensions of Learning Organizations Questionnaire (DLOQ) Scales

  • Organizational Climate

    • In my organization, teams/groups treat members as equals, regardless of rank, culture, or other differences.

    • In my organization, teams/groups revise their thinking as a result of group discussions or information collected.

    • My organization gives people control over the resources they need to accomplish their work.

    • My organization considers the impact of decisions on employee morale.

    • In my organization, leaders mentor and coach those they lead.

    • In my organization, leaders ensure that the organization's actions are consistent with its values.

  • Organizational Disempowerment

    • While performing job duties, organizational members are not encouraged to use independent problem-solving skills.

    • I have to follow rules in my organization that conflict with my best professional judgment.

    • I can take little action within my organization unless my superior approves it.

    • I have "freedom within limits" in my organization; I know what is expected of me but I also have freedom to be creative.

Modified dimensions of a learning organization questionnaire dloq scales
Modified Dimensions of a Learning Organization Questionnaire (DLOQ) Scales

  • Organizational Learning from Action & Practice

    • In my organization, people openly discuss mistakes in order to learn from them.

    • In my organization, people view problems in their work as an opportunity to learn.

    • In my organization, people give open and honest feedback to each other.

    • In my organization, whenever people state their view, they also ask what others think.

  • Change in Organizational Learning from last year

    • In my organization, leaders mentor and coach those they lead.

    • In my organization, programs and services are better than last year.

    • In my organization, workers seem more motivated than last year.

    • In my organization, organizational members follow the mission better than last year.

    • In my organization, our responsiveness to community problems is greater than last year.

    • In my organization, client satisfaction is greater than last year.

Problems with empowerment
Problems with empowerment: (DLOQ) Scales

  • Is empowerment too vague, overused, or misused to provide a meaningful & useful basis for research & intervention?

  • Beware political use & cooptation of "empowerment" (for whom? for what? community control can be oppressive: NIMBYism, Berger & Neuhaus: religious or ethnic minorities in Salt Lake can simply move to New York or San Francisco; Empower America; see Perkins, 1995)

  • Review dilemmas for creating empowering settings:

  • Hierarchical vs. egalitarian organizational structures

  • "Challenges of success": Who is empowered?

  • Can empowerment be initiated from the top down?

Discussion questions
Discussion Questions: (DLOQ) Scales

  • What do you think of the following arguments by Riger (1993)?

  • 1. An empowerment orientation raises expectations for real power which are unrealistic & rarely achieved.

  • 2. Empowerment's emphasis on autonomy only increases competition within & among groups & thus overshadows more cooperative or communitarian approaches that women's or other groups might take.

  • Additional questions:

    • a. Do you agree that most of psychology (even CP?) is excessively individualistic?

    • b. Do you agree with Riger that even (especially?) empowerment theory & research are individualistic, anti-communal, or anti-feminist?

    • c. Is there a contradiction in Rappaport’s claim that empowerment can be enhancement of collective as well as individual control? (IE, to the extent that one is enhanced, does the other tend to be diminished?)

General discussion questions
General Discussion Questions: (DLOQ) Scales

  • 1. Have you participated in any organizations or institutions that were empowering? What made them so?

  • 2. Has your experience as a U. student been empowering or disempowering? What about the rest of your personal, family, & community history? (narrative as empowerment: Rappaport, 1995)

  • 3. Over the past two decades, community psychology’s two leading intervention paradigms have been: prevention & empowerment. Which of these two (or what other) is the best paradigm for the field? Why?

  • 4. Do religious organizations tend to be empowering or disempowering?

  • 5. Collective ritual, in general, plays an important role in community solidarity & cultural identity. What role, if any, does it play in empowerment?