Empowerment is defined as a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. It is a process that fosters power in people for use in their own lives, their communities and in their society, by acting on issues they define as important.
Contemporary times are characterised by complexity, globalisation and high stimulation of from the outside world. Empowerment efforts towards people who are unaware renders futile efforts because renewal even within an organisational context requires the removal of obstacles. Too often a time these obstacles are in the individual’s own mind.
For me empowerment in contemporary times is more about the beneficiary finding their “why” as Simon Sinek puts it in his Ted Talk on how great leaders inspire action. It seeks to give people autonomy, be it in the work place or their personal lives and the starting point is self-awareness.
It is found that sociological practices of empowering our marginalised groups have been unsuccessful because they lack self-awareness. To paraphrase Steven Covey; empowerment yields great results only when it has been deeply understood and internalised. Existing boundaries will fail and fear will disappear with the resulting quality in processes and products showing a remarkable improvement.
This brings to mind the NLP levels of change model. It states in short, that true change takes place when it’s made from a higher level as it would change everything below it in order to support the higher level change. This suggests that empowerment efforts need to address the beneficiary’s mind as modelled in the levels of change. The highest level being spirituality addressing for whom is the change taking place and for what purpose. This is followed by addressing identity addressing does the change reflect who I am? The following level is about understanding one’s values and beliefs which answer the question why make this change?” Skills and capabilities is the next level, here you examine what in this area can be changed.
This level is followed by the behaviours level, addressing the question “change what?” Lastly, change is addressed in the environment which is the “change where?” question.
It was Wayne Dayer who said once you see a child’s self-image begin to improve, you will see significant gains in achievement areas, but even more importantly, you will see a child who is beginning to enjoy life more.