There’s a nice word. Presumably no one is against it. But the term does not readily lend itself to verification, especially if gradations are involved. Just how will we know if a person is more “empowered” as a result of this or that program? Or is the question irrelevant? Could empowerment be an all or nothing proposition?
The question I like to ask of this word and other nice but abstract terms such as “collaboration” and “self-esteem” is just what is it that an empowered person does and achieves that an un-empowered one cannot? I often take this further to ask what you see and hear that reflects empowerment in a person or team.
An example of a great response comes from a nonprofit with which I worked at the request of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The group wanted money for its program to empower at risk youth. I asked my questions and a program leader said that empowerment to them meant that a person had and made choices. I liked that. Nothing much happens without intentionality. We rather quickly looked at the areas where they wanted to see a sense of choice and of choosing and devised two questions for each of their programs:
- I see that you did ______ (a behavior related to program goals). Why did you do that?
- What other choices, if any did you think you had?
The nonprofit found that it took little time to establish the extent to which empowerment by this definition was present. The young person either said that they could of done x or y and chose x. Or he or she said “What else was I going to do?” Sometimes we make things too complicated.