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I’m currently writing a paper on how governments can promote the empowerment of poor people. Empowerment happens when individuals and organised groups are able to imagine their world differently and to realise that vision by changing the relations of power that have been keeping them in poverty.
The current literature suggests a neat fit with a ‘three powers’ model first proposed by our own Jo Rowlands (I think). In addition, states play an important role in curtailing ‘bad power’, in the shape of excessive concentration of power and influence, and its use against the interests of excluded groups and individuals. Of course in many cases, as recent developments in North Africa, Turkey and Brazil have shown, states are not in total control. States therefore are unlikely to succeed simply by setting out, in advance, a blueprint for empowerment and then implementing the plan.
Creates the enabling conditions required by excluded groups and individuals to empower themselves.
Learn to ride waves of empowerment-related change, developing a process through which all parties come together to search for solutions to collective action problems, for example testing different options and discarding the least successful options.
Recognize that change is likely to be discontinuous, and respond to the importance of ‘critical junctures’, such as economic and political shocks, that are likely to create particularly fertile conditions for both empowerment and disempowerment. All comments welcome, but what I’d really appreciate is your suggestions for case studies (with links or references) and where they fit within this framework. Finding out how governments can empower people presumes that governments would chose to do so if only they knew how. But how many governments actually want to empower citizens (in terms of association, accountability etc.) yet are not doing so due to this information deficit?
A bigger question for me is slightly different, under what circumstances do governments want to cede (various sorts of) power to the people? Moreover, the answers that you get to the first question are likely to reflect the background politics relating to the second. In essence, this posits that governance is not an activity that is privileged to state governments only but that there are many nodes of governance at every level, and governance is thus a shared process. The Zwelethemba model grew out of their exploration of what happened when people in townships empowered themselves to solve problems in their community. This perpetual dev-wonkery on power sometimes drives me nuts – long discussions about power asymmetries – studies that conclude that poor people are lacking power!
With my Publish What You Pay hat on: The global extractive industry transparency movement aims to make states accountable to their citizens for natural resource revenues. You know, I would also look at what has been done well at home: the Citizens Advice Bureau, set up by the UK govt in 1938 and now with 3,500 offices open to the public, and excellent website manages to assist over 7 million each year with legal, financial and especially access to social welfare issues. Yet, it is still largely funded by government, in it’s varied forms (mainly local govt, but also Ministries). Are you seriously arguing that nothing has changed in Brazil wrt empowerment of poor people as a result of govt decentralization, participatory processes, social protection etc, or that progress on health, poverty, hunger is unrelated to that?
You might want to have a look at communal area conservancies in Namibia, which have not only had a positive impact in terms of conservation (which gets most of the coverage), but also in terms of development, and economic and political empowerment. Proposed and implemented first time around 1992, it has gone through its usual ups and downs.
Together, the films are a remarkable history of the very long struggle (1970s to present – the third film ends at 2000) by the Cree nation against the Quebec and Canadian governments to assert treaty rights over huge geographic territory in northern Quebec (and vast natural resources). The genius of Afghanistan’s national solidarity program, which gave away state control of resource decision making to more than 22,000 villages in block grants, (who could pick from a menu) is that it understood the internal battle for power within the state. There is a constant battle going on in every state between those policy makers (mostly technocrats who we like) who gain political power by empowering constituents and providing services, and those policy makers (think former warlords) who have little interest in the empowerment agenda.
The second link is an AusAID document but my research is also concerned with the role of the Indonesian government in running this program.

The second point I would like to make is that one way of empowering communities is to ensure that the State does not control everything. The Task Team on CSO Development Effectiveness and Enabling Environment – Minimum Standards will further spell out the dimensions of the essential political rights and freedoms that are key to ensuring space for CSOs, and the latest State of Civil Society Report 2013 by CIVICUS will give some practical examples of where some countries are moving forward on this. The overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua in 1979 resulted in a national social project which is a wonderful example of people empowerment.
En las empresas modernas, el Empowerment es un medio para eliminar burocracias, ganar flexibilidad y aumentar la productividad y competitividad. Por Empowerment se entiende a la facultad de dar poder a la gente para decidir y actuar con responsabilidad y compromiso, lo que constituye una herramienta gerencial de fundamental valor para romper los viejos modelos mentales de liderazgo autoritario orientados a dirigir y controlar a la gente. Facultar a las personas, entendiéndose por ello a valorarlas y comprender las contribuciones que pueden hacer, asumiendo la responsabilidad de las decisiones y del trabajo.
Aportar los recursos necesarios, verificando de lo que se dispone y determinar si es necesario sumar nuevos recursos.
Aprovechar al máximo las habilidades y experiencias del equipo, ayudando a las personas a tener confianza en sus propias habilidades.
Capacitar a los gerentes como coaches, facilitadores y entrenadores de sus respectivos equipos.
Aumento de la responsabilidad, autoridad y compromiso en la satisfacción del cliente.
En las empresas modernas, el Empowerment es un medio para eliminar burocracias, ganar flexibilidad y aumentar la productividad y competitividad. Ahora es el momento para demostrar la inocuidad y seguridad de los alimentos que produce su empresa. Es muy importante demostrar que sus productos proceden de fuentes que no destruyen los valores de biodiversidad del bosque.
Controle el impacto ambiental de sus actividades y productos Demuestre su compromiso con un desempeño ambiental correcto. Scientists Discover That Bacteria Have a Collective Memory Plastic Waste in the Ocean Will Outnumber Fish by 2050 When I Dream of a Planet in Recovery… Environmental Research Reveals Seattle Salmon are on Drugs — Thanks, Humans! Full Moon in Scorpio – Revealing Reality and Changing Our Core Beliefs New Moon in Aries – Giving Life to Our New Inner Reality Full Moon and Lunar Eclipse in Libra – Changing Our Minds to Change the World New Moon and Solar Eclipse in Pisces – Removing the Boundaries to Our Sacredness The Full Moon Virgo – You Are The Universe! Matt Andrews calls this approach ‘Problem-driven iterative adaptation’ or (more memorably) ‘purposive muddling’. In particular, because it seems to be the least well-documented, examples of where governments have built ‘power within’. Drivers include political transitions (eg democratization in South Africa or Brazil), responses to corruption scandals and financial crises, pressure from civil society organizations, aid donors or global markets. I’d hope my former employers Minority Rights Group International might have some helpful case studies of state action to empower disadvantaged groups and communities.
They also effectively use the information gained in their work to advocate changes in government policy that adversely effect their clients.
I can think of one example from India where State action has actually empowered citizens in a significant way.
No significant impact on quality of decision making just because inexperienced politicians are in charge. Significant too is reason they have been screened in my community: the predominantly non-native, affluent population has been hugely impressed and inspired by a small group of Cree youth (the Nishiyuu walkers) who walked from the far north (James Bay) to Ottawa in the dead of winter, as part of the Idle No More movement. When communities had set up community run micro hydro units running in 180 villages reaching over eighteen thousand people, i got an interesting comment from an American tourist whether they had got permission from the government to do so. Reality is that parliaments must be able to hold governments to account and to ,for instance, scrutinise budgets . However, one excellent way to really empower the poor is to actually provide them with resources directly through community ownership of successful and growing local businesses.

There are just too many people in the reproductive age group who are contributing about 18 million people per year. Esta filosofía genera un fuerte contraste con el tradicional modelo del gerente que controla y los empleados controlados el cual, considerando el actual entorno de negocios tan cambiante y competitivo, ya no funciona. Asignar autoridad y responsabilidad sobre las actividades, y definir en conjunto estándares de excelencia.
El sistema debe trabajar con datos compartidos e interrelacionados, lo que permite que la información fluya entre distintas dependencias en tiempo real. For governments, reshaping the social norms that perpetuate the exclusion of groups and individuals is a crucial aspect of empowerment. Governments need to create and maintain channels for such influencing, and facilitate access to them by excluded groups and individuals.
Most are scared of their own citizens and are rather keen on controlling and watching them (hi there NSA & GCHQ!). Yes it enfranchised them but poverty reduction post-Mandela was minimal, with many claiming it actually got worse owing to Mbeki’s disastrous economic policies.
Here in Colombia (as in many other Latin American countries) local governments very often own and efficiently manage one or more local firms which they use to fund local services. In recent years, the central government and multiple state governments in India have enacted Right to Information and Right to Services – all of which are opportunities for citizens to hold the state accountable.
And not state-as-problem: here I’m looking at where state action has achieved positive impacts.
The interesting Q for me at least is to try and understand better why and when such steps occur, not to have a theological debate along lines of ‘I can see it works in practice, but does it work in theory?’! Many of them have been able to get endowments from government which have addressed their long terms issues of sustainability. All the villages in the valley which were supplied by government run power houses were in darkness because they did not function or were inefficient and those run by the communities had light.
Rather than try and extract tax from the local elites, which is enormously difficult as the figures and experience show, the community simply owns a successful company and pockets the dividends and profits for use by the community and its citizens. The politics are mixed, but the ruling government is here sometimes on the right side of the fight from an empowerment point of view.
The idea is to collect examples of success and failure in state action, as well as build some kind of overall narrative about what works, when and why. In this way, it is possible to fund important services and promote local development which the poor can then influence in many important ways.
There was lots written on this during the time, showing it as an example of a pluralistic, grassroots oriented governance structure built on principles of empowerment and self determination. These funds can be used to stimulate development through a variety of enterprise development initiatives for example.
While philosophically they are very committed to working with government, they have none the less preserved their independence and have survived many battles to control them. The city owns the local utility provider (EPM), quite un-problematically manages it, and channels 30% of its surplus into local budgets, thus affording the poor real power (money) to do things the community thinks are important, such as social programs, enterprise development, etc. This is an interesting example of government funds being used to empower people without the government controlling the institutions that do so.
Of course local elites resent this genuine form of empowerment, thinking that if big profits are made locally, then local entrepreneurs should pocket them as is the norm.
Accordingly, very recently 20% of EPM was privatised by the new Mayor, who was apparently under pressure to dismantle a successful model of empowerment and entrepreneurial DIS-empowerment, and return control of a successful business to private business elite control.

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Comments Empowerment of self

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