202539 I know it when I see it: Defining empowerment from the perspective of non-governmental organizations

Monday, November 9, 2009: 1:00 PM

Monique Hennink, PhD , Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Mara Pillinger, MPH , Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Ndunge Kiiti, PhD , Department of Intercultural Studies, Houghton College, Houghton, NY
W. Michael Smith, DMin , MAP International, Brunswick, GA
Ravi Jayakaran, DVM , MAP International, Atlanta, GA
The term empowerment is commonly used in development work and research, yet the concept of empowerment remains unclear. Many global health organizations recognize that empowerment is a vital component of community development, but few organizations can clearly conceptualize empowerment or the process by which it is achieved. There is also growing interest in developing indicators to measure the contribution of empowerment towards community health and development projects. This study reports the results of a survey (n=49) of global non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations and private voluntary organizations to identify how these organizations define and operationalize empowerment. The survey consisted of open-response questions; therefore data were analyzed using a qualitative data analysis technique, Grounded Theory. The results identify four types of empowerment: health empowerment, economic empowerment, political/legal empowerment, and natural resource empowerment. The study highlights the complex inter-relationships between all four types of empowerment, and how different types of empowerment overlap and are inter-dependent in contributing to community development. We have also identified a set of mechanisms and processes that may operate to empower individuals, communities, and local organizations; these are applicable across the four types of empowerment discussed. This study provides an important contribution towards both defining empowerment and identifying the mechanisms by which it may occur. These outcomes will contribute to the debate on whether indicators of empowerment are practical and feasible, and may guide organizations that seek to measure empowerment.

Learning Objectives:
1. Understand how empowerment is defined by non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations, and private voluntary organizations 2. Understand how definitions of empowerment shape the health and international development programs within these types of organizations. 3. Outline the four types of empowerment recognized by these organizations (health empowerment, economic empowerment, political/legal empowerment and natural resource empowerment). 4. Identify the processes through which individuals, communities and local organizations become empowered.

Keywords: Self-sufficiency and Empowerment, Community Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I hold a BA in Health & Societies (International Health) from the University of Pennsylvania and am currently an MPH candidate at Emory University. I conducted this research in partial fulfillment of the requirements for that degree, under the guidance of Monique Hennink, PhD, and in collaboration with MAP International, an NGO working in the field of international health and development. Dr. Hennink recieved her PhD from the University of Southampton and is now an Associate Professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.