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Empowerment and

Citizen Participation

A word that means everything also means nothing distinctive
(Riger, 1993).
A process, a mechanism by which people, organizations, and
communities gain mastery of their affairs (Rappaport, 1981).
Community- Oriented definition (Cornell Empowerment
Group, 1989)
Empowerment is 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 resources gain greater
access to and control over those resources.
Empowerment is a multilevel concept: individuals,
organizations, communities, and societies can become more
empowered (Rappaport, 1987).

The Context and Limits of

Empowerment is contextual.
It differs across all context because of differing histories,
experiences and environment of each (Rappaport, 1981).

A focus on context of empowerment is critical

It leads to ask key questions; Who is to be
empowered? And for what purpose? (Berkowitz,

Thus, empowerment is a complex, dynamic process

that develops in context over time. It can deteriorate
as well as grow, but it is not reversed by small
setbacks (Zimmerman, 2000).
It often occurs through engagement in settings in
which help-giving roles and relationships are marked
by reciprocity, and expertise is widely distributed.

Citizen Participation
A process in which individuals take part in decision
making in the institutions, programs, and
environments that affect them (Wandersman and
colleagues, 1984).
Notions of citizenship
Cultural Citizenship
Global Citizenship
It is not simply volunteering or community service.
Participation involves influence in making collective
decisions in groups, communities or society.
People are hesitant to participate because they are
worried about they myths about engagement in public

Citizen Participation in Action

Acts of citizen participation are more effective when done
collectively with others and when adequately supported over time
(Wandersman, 2009).
Participation: Means or End?
Means- Path to goal
End- A goal in itself
As a means, participation is often encouraged to improve the quality of
plan or because citizens commitment to a decision is of the greater if
they participated in making it (Wandersman & Florin, 2000).
As an end, citizen participation is often seen as an essential quality of a
democracy-regardless of whether it generates the practical benefits, such
as better decision or greater commitment.
Researchers shows that participation by members usually increases the
quality of decision and overall organizational effectiveness. It promotes
effective leadership and attaining goals.

Empowerment and Citizen

Both involves exercising power in collective
decision making.
The principal distinction between them is
Participation is a specific strategy or behavior,
Empowerment is a broader process
Meaningful participation in civic life can be
empowering and the lack of opportunities for
meaningful participation can be disempowering
( Langhout & Thomas, 2000).

Multiple Forms of Power

Power over is the capacity to compel or dominate others- often through control of
valued rewards or punishment (French & Raven, 1959).
Involves a hierarchical, unequal relationship and can lead to injustice. But it can also be
used collectively to promote justice, as when laws compel an end to racial discrimination.

Power to concerns the ability of individuals or groups to pursue their own goals
and to develop ones capacities. This can involve self determination for each
This sort of generative power may be shared, as it is not conceptualized as a limited
commodity or zero-sum game.

Power from is an ability to resist the power or unwanted demands of others. It

can be used to resist a dominant boss or friend or to resist wider forms of
These three forms of power occurs in workplace.

Integrative Power
Boulding (1989) defined it as the capacity to work
together, bring groups, bind people together, and
inspire loyalty.
Sometimes termed as people power, it is a
realization of power to and/ or power from.
Satyagraha- Clinging to truth or the power of
truth; basis of Gandhi
Other forms of integrative power:
Organized citizen group

Three Instruments of Power

Three ways that power operates in community and social life
( Gaventa, 1980)
1. Controlling resources that can be used to bargain, reward and
This resembles power over. It is an organized citizenry that can effectively
threaten such punishments as negative publicity or boycotts or offer
attractive compromise.

2. Controlling channels of participation in community decisions

Through public demonstrations and use of the media.
Expert power- a type of power based on the perceived knowledge, skill, or
experience of a person or group.
3. Shaping the definition of a public issue or conflict
Power of spin, or the ability to shape the terms of public debate on an issue

Social media, social institutions and interest group with money

shapes how social issues are interpreted (Rappaport, 2000).

Summary Thoughts on Power

Power is best understood in relationships
Power is contextual
Power involves the capacity to exert
actual influence on decisions (Riger,
Power is best understood as a dimension
Integrative Power is demonstrated at a
variety of levels-

Personal Qualities for Citizen

Participation and Empowerment
Six Personal Qualities among empowered persons engaged
in citizen participation
1. Critical Awareness- understanding of how power and
sociopolitical forces affect personal and community life
(Zimmerman, 2000).
Emerges from three sources:
1. Life experiences with injustices
2. Reflection on those experiences and lessons learned
3. Dialogue with others
Arising questions:
Who defines community problems?
How are community decision made?
Whose views are respected, and whose are excluded?

Personal Qualities for Citizen

Participation and Empowerment
2. Participatory Skills- a person also needs
behavioral skills, through participatory
competence is contextual, some of the
following skills are more important in one
setting than another.
Sharing leadership and power
Avoiding burnout by finding ways to sustain
Identifying, managing and resolving conflicts
Imagining and articulating visions of a better
Actively listening to others, including opponent
Social resources include shared values and the
shared rituals and stories that illustrate those
values (Rappaport, 1995).

Personal Qualities for Citizen

Participation and Empowerment
3. Sense of Collective Efficacy- This is the belief that
citizens acting collectively can be effective in
improving community life.
Lower crime rates (Snowden, 2005)
Foundation for mental health and wellness in rural
Canadian indigenous communities (Kral & Idlout, 2008)
Suicide prevention and healing efforts

4. Sense of Personal Participatory Efficacyindividuals belief that he or she personally has the
capacity to engage effectively in citizen participation
and influence community decisions.
One can be an effective leader in citizen action

Personal Qualities for Citizen

Participation and Empowerment
5. Participatory Values and Commitment- Spiritual
or moral commitment sustained citizen
participation and empowerment (Moane, 2003)
Traditional Virtue- caring for others, integrity,
persistence and commitment (Berkowitz, 1987)
Commitment to justice, harmony, honesty and
charity ( Colby and Damon, 1992)
Schorrs (1997) found out that many promote a
shared group climate based on spiritual or secular
ideas that provide shared meaning and purpose
related to community change.

6. Relational Connection- Citizen participation

involves a wide variety of relationship with
others, including both bonding and bridging ties
(Putnam, 2000).

Empowering Practices and Settings

Community Psychologist are currently
exploring the role of community
psychologist in empowering practice.
The first Summit on Community
Psychology Practice was launched in

It leads us to an examination of the

opportunities for reciprocal helping,
for mutual influence, for
collaboration, for decision making
and for creating change.

Empowering and Empowered

Community Settings
Empowering setting foster member
participation and sharing or power in group
decisions and actions
Empowered setting exercise power in the
wider community or society, influencing
decisions and helping to create community
and macro system change.

Empowering and Empowered

Community Settings
1. Block Booster Project
2. The Highlander Research and
Education Center
3. Family Resource Centers

Features of Empowering
Practices and Settings

1. Promoting a Strengths- Based Belief System (Highlander

Empowering community settings promote principles or beliefs that
define member and organizational goals, provide meaning and
inspiration for action, develop strengths and promote optimism in
the face of setback.

2. Fostering Social Support (Family Resource Centers)

Empowering settings attend to the quality and nature of
interpersonal relationships in a setting and promote
exchange of social support among members.
3. Developing Leadership (Block Booster)
Empowering settings have committed leaders who
articulate the vison for the organization, exemplify
interpersonal and organizational skills, share power, and
mentor new leaders

Features of Empowering
Practices and Settings
4. Providing Participatory Niches and Opportunity
Role Structures
Participatory niches promoter recruitment and training
of individuals for roles needed by the setting, increase
members leadership skills, and strengthen their
interpersonal ties within the group.

5. Keeping a Focus on Tasks and Goals

More things getting done = more members

6. Making decisions inclusively

Essence of citizen participation: widespread,
genuine power and voice for citizens
7. Rewarding participation
Rewarding involvement = more involved citizen


Features of Empowering
Practices and Settings
8. Promoting Diversity
o Value member diversity through respect
and support
9. Fostering Intergroup Collaboration
o Commitment
oBoundary spanning- relationships that
connect groups within an organization,
helping each understand the other and
building capacity for collaboration.