“Alone We Can Do So Little. Together We Can Do So Much.” Hellen Keller
This quote sums up the essence of a community.
Human beings are social animals. We are born into a family with parents, grand parents, uncles, aunts and cousins. All through our life we identify ourselves as part of this family structure.
No matter how far away from home we travel, and no matter where we live, we always try to replicate this family structure, by finding like-minded people whom we can connect with, and with which to interact.
These groups or communities help us tremendously by being a sounding board, by becoming a support group, and by being our family away from home.
We begin to share our happiness and concerns with them, and we learn from each others’ experiences.
A community is defined as a group of people living in the same place, or as a group of people having a certain characteristic in common.
So, we are a part of a community depending on where we live. We are also a part of different communities depending on where we come from (our place of origin), our interests, goals, attitudes, and the like.
We have all heard of communities of musicians, communities of people who belong to a certain religion, community of people who play a certain sport, community of people who work towards a social cause, and such lists.
Community Empowerment Definition
Community empowerment is the process of helping and enabling a group of people to have better control of their lives. It is a process of giving them the power to make their decisions for the betterment of themselves and their community.
Theories On Empowerment
Since every nation and the world itself is a conglomeration of so many such communities, community empowerment serves in the larger interest of the nation and the world.
Community empowerment involves facilitation for the active participation of the community members in causes that they care about. Theories on empowerment are explored.
It engages the members in discussions, debates and negotiations amongst themselves, and with agencies outside, to make others aware of their viewpoints and perspectives.
A lot of community activities have become movements that grew far beyond the community.
Some of the community initiated and suggested proposals became policies and rules that got included into the laws of the land.
Hence we cannot undermine the influence and the reach of an empowered and vigilant community.
Innumerable leaders of our nations and the world were nurtured and groomed by various communities around the world. A cause that they identified and became a part of, gave them the confidence to take on bigger causes.
The grooming that happened in their community activities, the empowerment that happened as a part of the community empowerment, have helped produce a lot of these political and national leaders.
Communities that were restricted by demography and were cut off due to lack of modes of quick and easy communication, are now truly reaping the benefits because of the internet and social media.
Like-minded people from across the world can come together for a cause. Communities on social media are so powerful that they can start movements across continents to show solidarity and support for a common cause.
Empowerment strategies are considered and brought about to benefit local communities that make up our global society as a whole.
Empowerment Of Individuals
A community is made of individuals. Individuals could be from different parts of the world, with diverse cultures, food habits, following different religions etc. It could even be a group of closely knit individuals.
It is individuals who work for the community. It is each person’s efforts that brings forth results.
Hence an empowered community is either:
The coming together of empowered individuals,
The coming together of individuals who even though don’t feel empowered while working alone, feel the synergy of togetherness while working for a greater cause of the community.
In the first case, the individuals already have the ability to voice their opinion and work for a cause. They have the skills required and know what has to be done to achieve the goals of the community.
In the second case, individuals who have the willpower to step beyond their own self needs and spend time and effort for people in the community, feel empowered by being able to achieve community goals that are beyond their personal abilities. They understand the power of many.
As an example, when a person who is new to a place, meets people who follow the same artist as him or her does, finds common grounds to talk about, and hence finds it easier to mingle and make friends.
They participate and visit the artist’s online galleries together, and work towards raising funds for a charity organization run by the artist.
This person slowly feels settled down and empowered to live his life in the new place. This is a small example of how being a part of a community can make an individual feel empowered.
Groups can be empowered by giving the groups of the community the authority to make decisions and execute them.
Empowering groups requires that there are resources allocated to the groups and that there are leaders and members who are completely in sync with the objectives of the group.
Empowering groups also requires that the individuals of the group are skilled enough to perform their respective jobs.
- A grievance-handling group in an organization is a group of people who are working towards a common goal of making sure that the grievances experienced by the employees are addressed.
- The leader and the group members should know the rules and regulations of the organization, the rights and the duties of the employees, etc., in order for them to be able to take the appropiate actions.
- This group should further have the authority to suggest actions and changes as per the issues faced by the employees.
- These groups further empower the members by giving them rights and privileges.
As another example
- A member of a classical music community or group has free access to the concerts held by the community.
- The members can also vote to select the musicians to be called for concerts, and can sit in the privileged seating area during the concert.
- In this case, there could be a membership fee to be paid by in order to become a member of the group or community.
Community Empowerment Resources
The members of a community are the most important resources of the community.
Those who spend their time and effort working selflessly so the entire community could reap its benefits, are the actual treasures of the community.
For community empowerment, we further require financial and non-financial aids to keep up the work of the community.
- Financial aids are supplied by sponsors or corporations that align with the values for which the community stands.
- Sometimes, it requires the members of the community to donate or pay a membership fee in order to join the community.
- Non-financial aids are also provided by various organizations or individuals.
- For example, if the residents of a town want to build a library for the community, they need space, books, a librarian, and a system to run the library.
- For all of this to come together, the residents will have to work together, trying to find sponsors, finding space, buying books, finding a librarian, establishing a system to lend books, etc.
- The residents also have to then avail of the services of the library thereby reaping the benefits of a community initiated activity. This library, through the treasure of knowledge in the books, can empower the members of the community.
Community empowerment resources that are invested in the empowerment of the community, in turn serves towards the betterment of the community. The return on investment in any such community activity is manifold, in terms of the good blessings and good karma earned.
Community Empowerment Programs
Every community runs various community empowerment programs. Some of them through workshops and seminars or webinars, and others through hands-on service activities.
Community empowerment programs are conducted to spread awareness and knowledge about the causes it supports and for which it stands.
For example, communities that have come together to help raise awareness about a particular health condition can either conduct sessions about it in community halls, or go house to house and help the occupants understand the ways to inculcate better health habits.
Communities that have come together to fight for environmental causes can educate people in the community by talking about the do’s and don’ts, or work together and plant trees in the community in which they live.
Community empowerment programs for the community of parents teach them the art of better parenting.
These function more like support groups, sharing experiences, and tried and tested practices to enable their children to become the best version of themselves.
These communities play a very important role especially for parents with children who have special needs. The programs run by these communities actually empower the parents to understand and deal with the child and his or her special needs.
Community empowerment programs mean different things to different people depending on the goal of the community that they are part of. For some, it becomes life changing and, for others it is a way of life.
Being a part of a community that works to help those in need is a blessing and a privilege. May each of us be able to work for some more people other than just ourselves.
Contributors: Kazim Abasali and Deepa K.