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Empowerment Strategies: Theory and Action By Douglas D

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1 Empowerment Strategies: Theory and Action By Douglas D
Empowerment Strategies: Theory and Action   By Douglas D. Perkins, Program in Community Research & Action Dept. of Human & Organizational Development Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, USA

2 Four Dimensions of Individual-level Social Capital (from Perkins & Long, 2002)

3 Collective efficacy (or empowerment; formal-cognition cell of Figure 1)
“trust” in the effectiveness of organized community action an extremely influential concept in community psychology & beyond represents a new approach to social capital by focusing on the cognitive attributions & motivations that lead community members to engage professionals as collaborators rather than as authoritative experts.

4 Empowerment defined: Must mean more than the individual psychological constructs with which it is sometimes compared or confused (e.g., self‑esteem, self‑efficacy, competency, locus of control) "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 valued resources gain greater access to and control over those resources" (Cornell Empowerment Group, 1989) or simply a process by which people gain control over their lives, democratic participation in the life of their community (Rappaport, 1987), and a critical understanding of their environment (Zimmerman, 1992). I.E., it is at core a collective construct

5 Empowerment levels, processes & outcomes (based on Perkins & Zimmerman, 1995)
community collective action to access resources pluralism, coalitions, community resources organization collective decision-making, shared leadership organizational development, networks, policy leverage individual participation in community organizations perceived control, resource mobilization skills

6 Characteristics of Empowering Settings (based on Maton & Salem, 1995)
Resource Cultivation: Activating of personal resources Opportunity role structure, participatory niches Increasing benefits, reducing costs of member participation Mentoring Belief System: Group-based belief system, transcending self-concern Focus on strengths of members Fostering of critical awareness among members Group Climate: Shared events, celebrations Inspiring leadership Peer-based social support systems Appreciating interdependencies Boundary spanning Appreciating and managing conflict Task Functioning: Inclusive efforts to define community issues, resources Structured, clear goals & tasks Inclusive, democratic decentralized decision-making Shared leadership Subgroups for specific tasks or sectors of community

7 Organizations studied for their empowering ways (from Perkins, D. D
Organizations studied for their empowering ways (from Perkins, D.D. (1995). Speaking truth to power: Empowerment ideology as social intervention and policy. AJCP, 23, ): self-help groups, educational programs religious congregations other faith-based community action, service, & advocacy organizations substance abuse prevention & health promotion coalitions environmental organizations large companies community development organizations school-based associations citizen advisory boards of government agencies youth sports & recreation groups community crime prevention groups resident associations & many other contexts

8 10 recommendations to policy-makers, program planners & empowerment researchers (Perkins, 1995) :
1. Greater attention should be paid to different levels of empowerment... look beyond individualistic conceptions... to collective conceptions... that are commensurate with solving group, organizational & community problems. 2. Smaller is better. Beyond the community & organizational level... higher levels of policy-making...result in progressively more ambiguous conceptions of empowerment & diminishing returns... local grassroots efforts may work best.

9 3. The paradox implied in 1 & 2 illustrates a dialectic of empowerment
3. The paradox implied in 1 & 2 illustrates a dialectic of empowerment. Other possible dialectics include (a) emphasizing both personal & collective (and, for some, spiritual) control, (b) the paradoxical requirements of leadership, order, & organization in helping others to help themselves, (c) people's needs for both individual & community identity & (d) for both change & stability (Brown & Perkins, 1992), (e) the personal & organizational benefits of empowerment along with its risks & challenges, (f) a political orientation of both populism & progressivism, & (g) an approach to theory & research that allows for both deductive & inductive logic & both specific & general info... pay more specific attention to what models of empowerment work with what populations in what settings & why. 4. The relationship between empowerment cognitions, person-env. transactions, & behaviors must be explored... In particular, because many vague descriptions of "empowering thought patterns," emotions & other intrapsychic constructions have clouded the... concept, greater emphasis on empowering behaviors-- such as citizen participation in the community, workplace, & government-- is needed.

10 5. Researchers need to become more familiar with the policy-making process... & more comfortable disseminating & directly applying their research, not just in a particular organization, but by working with executive, legislative, & judicial bodies & advocacy organizations at all levels, from local to federal & international agencies. 6. Follow Coleman's 5 steps to planning effective policy research: "1) identify the parties in policy outcomes & with some power... to affect policy; 2) determine interests of these parties; 3) find what kinds of information are relevant to their interests; 4) determine the best way to obtain this information; 5) determine how to report the results." 7. Policy researchers must become more proactive, not only in the planning & evaluation stages, but throughout the process, from agenda formation & policy adoption to policy implementation & review.

11 8. Researchers should play the role more of learner/collaborator than "scientist". ...graduate programs in community psychology & related disciplines should do a better job of training for such a role. 9. Learn to disseminate more practical information & to deliver it in (more user-friendly) ways... cultivate information channels within the policy-making bureaucracy. may include choosing multiple target audiences (e.g., legislators, voters, other interest groups), understanding each one's unique orientation, & tailoring the focus & style of presentation accordingly. It requires the ability to present complicated theories & data concisely, in plain but accurate terms (i.e., without overgeneralizing or overstating the case)... 10. Both theory & research would be more practical if more psychologists carefully examined & tried to understand the qualitative knowledge about real-world empowerment processes that practitioners bring...The clearest definitions & descriptions of empowerment may come more from voices on the front lines of movements for social change than from the policy or even research literatures...

12 Social Capital at the Organizational Level: The “Learning Organization”
A “learning organization” helps staff & volunteers engage in critical analysis of: (a) the organization’s demonstrated goals & values (not just its mission statement), (b) power relationships in decision-making practices, (c) the interdependent role of participant stakeholders & organizations as part of a complex, community-wide (or larger) system, & (d) how to work toward fundamental change of all the above.

13 Organizational learning only happens with opportunities for critical reflection, collaboration, & effective communication. The lit. suggests that “learning organizations:” include all affected staff and clients in program planning, which will enhance individual learning & development, & organization effectiveness. facilitate critical reflection, open communication, & team learning. focus on both an organization’s development & its managers’ & staff’s professional development AND (we add): facilitate participants’ development, not only as workers (e.g., skills), but also as citizens (empowerment & participation) encourage participants to respect differences, value justice, fairness, & community, take active roles in society

14 Learning Organizations & Social Capital
Learning & other psychological bases of social capital largely untested “Learning organization” processes & outcomes in small non-profit & voluntary organizations & communities not well established or studied as they have been in larger for-profit corporations Values, norms, beliefs, & aspirations of civic responsibility are learned through child socialization & adult learning in communities Learning communities linked to social capital in educational reform & community development

15 Orders of Change & Levels
1st-order change: effects just part of system vs. 2nd-order change: systems-level change in the basic goals, structure or processes of the org. Community Change 2nd Order 1st Order Systems Incremental Organizational Learning Organization/Civic Role/Task Individual Learning or Development

16 “Learning Communities & Learning Organizations” Pilot Study (Center for Community Studies, Vanderbilt University) focuses on structures, processes, & cultures in community and nonprofit organizations that promote individual, team, & organizational learning how community organizations create learning opportunities & empowering settings Organizational learning practices positively affect group & organizational communication, culture, job satisfaction, & performance Dewey: democracy depends on the creation of a “civil society” by the education & participation of its citizens

17 Decision-Making Practices, Participation, and Learning in Non-Profit Organizations
Kimberly Bess, Douglas Perkins, Dan Cooper, Diana Jones Organizational Change Work Group, Center for Community Studies Peabody College of Vanderbilt University Prepared for: Prepared for the10th Biennial Conference for the Society for Community Research & Action University of Illinois Urbana Champaign **Research funded by Learning Sciences Institute, Vanderbilt University

18 Presentation Focus Study Background Theoretical Framework
Working Model Research Methods Case Study Comparisons Lessons, Limitations & Future Directions

19 Study Background Part of a larger two-year exploratory project using mixed methods to study community organizations as contexts for multi-level learning Phase 1: Compilation, from multiple sources, of a comprehensive database of all 2,361 community-based, nonprofit human service, volunteer, and member organizations throughout mid-size southern city. Phase 2: Brief telephone survey of 270 organizations, measuring such organizational characteristics as staff/membership size, use of volunteers, the nature and extent of their activity, organizational type and goals Phase 3: Case studies of 16 organizations, stratified by organizational type, were selected for in-depth qualitative case studies. Current examination of decision making will focus on data from 2 grassroots neighborhood-based community organizations from qualitative study

20 Exploratory Research Questions
What is the relationship between participation, decision making, and individual & organizational learning & empowerment? What is the nature of external influences on how decisions are made in community-based non-profits? What is the impact of organizational learning and of how decisions are made on the organization’s capacity to fulfill their community change goals?

21 Theoretical Framework: Participation ->Decision-Making -> Goals Attainment & Learning
Organizational Learning Theory Senge (1994) Marsick & Watkins (1993, 2000) Organizational Empowerment Theory Peterson & Zimmerman (2004) Mathews, Diaz, & Cole (2003) Riger (1984)

22 Theoretical Framework: Learning Organization Characteristics, Practices, and Foci (based on Marsick, 2000) Learning Organization Characteristics Learning Organization Core Practices (Watkins & Marsick, 1993) Foci for enhancing organizational learning Systems thinking capacity Providing strategic leadership for learning Critical reflection: “provide people and systems with the ability to enhance what is an otherwise tacit, experiential learning process” Connecting the organization to its environment Continuous learning at the systems level Creating continuous learning opportunities Greater participation and accountability by a larger percentage of employees Encouraging collaboration and team learning Collaboration: “can provide avenues for building joint knowledge” Empowering people toward a collective vision Culture and structure of rapid communication and learning Promoting inquiry and dialogue Communication: “provides for feedback loops across the system” Knowledge generation and sharing Creating systems to capture and share learning

23 Working Model of Organizational Decision Making
External Influences on Organizational Decision-Making in Non-Profit Settings Impact/ Outcome Forces driving decision-making process: Crisis Maintenance Growth External environment factors that influence the decision-making process: Funding organization demands Resource environment Umbrella organization relationship Community Needs/Issues Community Level Change Mediating Factors Individual Level Change Stated Mission and Goals Internal Organizational Decision-Making Practices Based on Learning Organization Theory Impact of decision-making practices on: individual learning organizational learning Employee/volunteer morale Employee/volunteer ownership accountability for outcomes Culture of decision making: Members invited to contribute to the organization’s vision Members are viewed as resources for decision making Client’s/community’s views brought into the decision making process Members given responsibility for decisions related to work Decision-Making Processes and Structures : Process for getting input from members to inform decisions Process for building alignment across different levels and work groups Structures for communicating decisions across the organization

24 Qualitative Methods Triangulation of Methods: Participant Observation, Interviews, Public Documents Triangulation of Sources: Semi-structured Interviews with staff, leaders, volunteers, & board members Interview data content analyzed using NVIVO by 2 raters Content categories based on a framework developed by Peterson and Zimmerman (2004) of intra-, inter-, and extra-organizational themes.

25 Decision Making in Grassroots Community Organizations
Radcliff Community Org. Community-based HSO serving defined geographic area 20 years old Serves rapidly changing, working-class, most ethnically diverse area of city Multi-level change mission: individuals, families, community Programs incl. ESL, housing & job assistance/development, youth/mentoring, WIC/food, clinic, literacy, immigrant svcs. United Neighbors Neighborhood-based, community decides issues to focus on Started by organizing around urban renewal in ’60’s Currently focuses on housing and development, education, crime Community level change focus

26 External Influences on Organizational Decision Making
United Neighbors Crisis & Maintenance Ongoing Struggle with funding Maintaining participation from members and partners Neighborhood problems Community Needs/Issues Development pressures; affordable housing Crime Lack of amenities Radcliff Community Org. Crisis & Maintenance Financial Crisis: from $50K to $1.5M budget in 4 years; accounting expertise did not keep up, causing a problem w/ biggest funder # & variety of programs expanded rapidly Funding Organization Demands Funding more indiv. svcs. Vanderbilt U. volunteers also more svc.-oriented Diverse community needs & constituencies

27 Organizational Decision-Making Structure, Practices, Culture
Radcliff Community Org. Mix of top-down management & participatory 3 or 4 paid senior staff (incl. strong Ex. Dir.) make most decisions Others w/ some input: volunteers/participants used as collaborators & source of expert knowledge board members (mostly residents from neighborhood) volunteer staff (many who live outside of the neighborhood) other outside organizations (funders, university) persons served by programs United Neighbors Bottom-Up: Neighborhood resident input informs decision of what issues to focus on. Residents volunteer to serve on issue related committees; gather research. Top-Down: Board decides action steps and strategies without much resident (volunteer) input Formal structure for soliciting resident participation and input in org. decision making; however, not continuous across all levels of org. decision making

28 Outcomes & Impact of Decision Structures, Practices, Culture
Radcliff Community Org. Good learning/human capital development opportunities w/in programs Some [limited] participatory mgmt. opportunities for individual learning & empowerment But big decisions made at top, thus hurting: role clarity for staff, bd., volunteers diversity of input on big decisions fiscal planning & responsibility reputation of org. w/ funders, some neighborhood residents Gravitation toward individual services & away from grassroots community change United Neighbors Opportunities for individual learning and empowerment related to neighborhood / community level change Top-down decision making in regards to actions/strategies limits: Potential to organize more residents Civic learning in residents Potential Collective efficacy Actions/Strategies tend to focus on ameliorative community change More inclusive participation and organizing could help generate more collective power; transformative change

29 Benefits and Challenges of Rapid Growth
Radcliff Community Org.: “What happened to us is we were a little sleepy community organization up to about four years ago, and we went from a probably $50,000 budget to a $1.5 million budget and…I mean we were all just doing everything we could… [but] we didn’t do the things we needed to do to grow effectively. We just service people, which is probably one of my worst traits… I didn’t back up to make sure everybody was on board…so I mean it was a great learning tool for me and it was a great learning tool for my board and it was a great mending and direction setting period for this organization. So it was a good thing.” Executive Director

30 Lessons, Limitations, Future Directions
Analysis of organizational decision-making provides insights into learning, power, and org. development Org. learning largely ignored in nonprofit and voluntary organizations but may be key to survival in funding environment Great diversity of organizations (size, type/mission, budget, structure, culture, role of volunteers) requires mixed methods: Large samples of orgs to capture diversity (quantitatively) In-depth case study analysis to capture subtle differences in culture/climate, leader style, observed (as opposed to "official") practices

31 New SPECs Action-Research Project Organizational Change Work Group Center for Community Studies Vanderbilt University 2005 SCRA Biennial Conference, Urbana Vanderbilt New SPECs Team (currently): Kimberly Bess, Leslie Collins, Patricia Conway, Scot Evans, Diana McCown, Bob Newbrough, Doug Perkins, Isaac Prilleltensky (P.I.), Courte Voorhees + other student volunteers [for more info:

32 NewSPECs is an action-research project, in consultation & collaboration with human service organizations & the local branch of a national funding agency, whose aim is to create a new intervention paradigm that focuses… Less on: Deficits Reactive intervention Expert decisions Changing Individuals And More on: Strengths Primary Prevention Empowerment Changing Community Conditions

33 Principles of New SPECs Ownership by workers and community members
Participation of workers and community members Home grown solutions Practice and reflection Learning and taking risks together Goals of New SPECs Develop policies & practices in line with SPEC Institutionalize SPEC in the life of the organization & community Create new practical knowledge for the org. & research team Challenges in New SPECs Process-outcomes tensions: Some uncomfortable w/ so much focus on process; want outcomes Others jump to action for outcomes w/out a good process Marriage, not “rug sale” [institutionalize SPEC in life of the orgs] Ownership for sustainability; avoid “colonizing” client orgs. “Power before program” Opportunities Create in partnership a new model for health & human services Help people who are currently suffering because the conditions are too overwhelming for them to overcome on their own Educate health and human service providers across the city, U.S., and internationally on the benefits of a SPEC approach Isaac: are the 2 small bullets here what you meant by… Too much process without outcomes * Too many outcomes without a good process BOB Re: “Create in partnership a new model for health & human services”: THE COLONIZATION ISSUE IN VIEWED TRANSACTIONALLY IS WHETHER THE MODEL IS BROUGHT IN BY THE PROJECT OR WHETHER THE PROJECT AND THE COMMUNITY MUTUALLY DEVELOP THE MODEL.  I THINK THAT THERE IS AN IMPLICIT ASSUMPTION OF THE SUPERIORITY OF THE GOALS AND PROCESS OF THE SPEC APPROACH. BOB: IN THE MIDDLE EAST, IT IS SAID THAT THERE ARE ONLY TWO BASIC SOCIAL INTERACTIONS; ARRANGING A MARRIAGE OR SELLING A RUG.  I GET THE SENSE THAT THE PROJECT COULD BECOME MORE OF A RUG SALE THAN A MARRIAGE.

34 Our own team structure: part circle (decision-making, reflection), part pyramid (tasks)
Principal Investigator (Faculty) Process Consultant (Emeritus Faculty) Research Consultant/ Co-PI (Faculty) Org. Consultant/Research Associates (PhD students) Research Coordinator (M.Ed. student) Research Assistants (M.Ed. students) Research Interns (B.A. students) Org. Intern (Med. student)

35 Methods Data Collection Methods Survey Focus groups Interviews
Key staff members Snowball sample Observational field notes Archival Data Organizational records and documents

36 Our own team processes:
In add. to frequent mtgs. w/ partner orgs., meet as a team at least 2X weekly: Once for business Once for reflection & mutual support Also held overnight retreat for reflection & team bldg. Exploring “critical friend” role w/in team, which is also our hoped-for role w/ org. partners as they take and shape the changes for themselves

37 Inter-team Relationships (Meso-system)
The main issue is whether the main effect of the Project in the community is the colonization of the neighborhoods.  Status differential conferred on the Project Team members. Takes the form of: More education Better spoken More social skills Has a plan based on theory, experience and ideology Has resources Takes initiatives Controls the agenda This may be much more difficult than planned.

38 With-in Project Team (Micro-system) Issues
The main issue is whether the power is distributed internally so that the team is prepared and functions to carry out the Project (status, age/experience, degree/program, gender, methodology/interests differences influence roles, opportunities, intervention approaches, & team process). The team culture is one of equality and open communication, yet the press of business pulls time away from adequate communication and learning. Have a consultant (JRN) to represent these issues and a structure/procedure is evolving.

39 Key team power management questions:
How do we harness power in the team? Management style, lot’s of staff participation & responsibility Who has the power and how do they use it? Project Staff to T-Team, indirectly as much as possible Internal to T-Team. There is a status differential conferred by (experience, personality, location) When is it used and how does it become salient? Implicit structure operates whenever there is a social interaction. It can be observed in the speaking-up patterns in the meetings. Explicitly, directive power occurs when there is pressure to get something done.

40 Organizational Survey Demographics

41 SPEC Work & Support Measures
Empowerment 1a. Regardless of why this may be the case; to what extent does your work give co-workers voice and choice in decision-making processes at the organization? 1b. I feel I have enough opportunities in my job to give co-workers voice and choice. 1c. I feel I have adequate time to give co-workers voice and choice. 1d. I feel I have adequate preparation and skills to give co-workers voice and choice. 1e. I have adequate organizational support to give co-workers voice and choice. [1f-i: same items asked re empowering clients and community members] Changing Community Conditions What percentage of work time do you engage in changing community conditions such as pollution, access to health care, lack of transportation, affordable day care, living wage, and others? 1a. I feel I have enough opportunities in my job to work on changing the conditions that affect our clients and communities 1b. I feel I have adequate time to engage in work to change community conditions 1c. I feel I have adequate preparation and skills to engage in community change activities 1d. I have adequate organizational support to engage in community change activities

42 Modified Dimensions of Learning Organization Questionnaire (DLOQ) Scales
The following questions that were asked on a 6 pt. Likert Scale. They have been scaled together to create new variables. Organizational Cohesiveness My organization builds alignment of visions across different levels and work groups. My organization encourages people to think from a community perspective. My organization considers the impact of decisions on employee morale. My organization works together with the outside community to meet mutual needs. My organization encourages people to get answers from across the organization when solving problems. In my organization, leaders ensure that the organization's actions are consistent with its values. Organizational Skills In my organization, leaders generally support requests for learning opportunities and training. In my organization, investment in workers¹ skills and professional development is greater than last year. In my organization, the number of individuals learning new skills is greater than last year.

43 Modified Dimensions of Learning Organizations Questionnaire (DLOQ) Scales
Organizational Climate In my organization, teams/groups treat members as equals, regardless of rank, culture, or other differences. In my organization, teams/groups revise their thinking as a result of group discussions or information collected. My organization gives people control over the resources they need to accomplish their work. My organization considers the impact of decisions on employee morale. In my organization, leaders mentor and coach those they lead. In my organization, leaders ensure that the organization's actions are consistent with its values. Organizational Disempowerment While performing job duties, organizational members are not encouraged to use independent problem-solving skills. I have to follow rules in my organization that conflict with my best professional judgment. I can take little action within my organization unless my superior approves it. I have "freedom within limits" in my organization; I know what is expected of me but I also have freedom to be creative.

44 Modified Dimensions of a Learning Organization Questionnaire (DLOQ) Scales
Organizational Learning from Action & Practice In my organization, people openly discuss mistakes in order to learn from them. In my organization, people view problems in their work as an opportunity to learn. In my organization, people give open and honest feedback to each other. In my organization, whenever people state their view, they also ask what others think. Change in Organizational Learning from last year In my organization, leaders mentor and coach those they lead. In my organization, programs and services are better than last year. In my organization, workers seem more motivated than last year. In my organization, organizational members follow the mission better than last year. In my organization, our responsiveness to community problems is greater than last year. In my organization, client satisfaction is greater than last year.

45 Frequencies - Empowerment and Changing Community Conditions

46 Correlations - Empowerment

47 Regressions – Empowerment

48 Problems with empowerment:
Is empowerment too vague, overused, or misused to provide a meaningful & useful basis for research & intervention? Beware political use & cooptation of "empowerment" (for whom? for what? community control can be oppressive: NIMBYism, Berger & Neuhaus: religious or ethnic minorities in Salt Lake can simply move to New York or San Francisco; Empower America; see Perkins, 1995) Review dilemmas for creating empowering settings: Hierarchical vs. egalitarian organizational structures "Challenges of success": Who is empowered? Can empowerment be initiated from the top down?

49 Discussion Questions:
What do you think of the following arguments by Riger (1993)? 1. An empowerment orientation raises expectations for real power which are unrealistic & rarely achieved. 2. Empowerment's emphasis on autonomy only increases competition within & among groups & thus overshadows more cooperative or communitarian approaches that women's or other groups might take. Additional questions: a. Do you agree that most of psychology (even CP?) is excessively individualistic? b. Do you agree with Riger that even (especially?) empowerment theory & research are individualistic, anti-communal, or anti-feminist? c. Is there a contradiction in Rappaport’s claim that empowerment can be enhancement of collective as well as individual control? (IE, to the extent that one is enhanced, does the other tend to be diminished?)

50 General Discussion Questions:
1. Have you participated in any organizations or institutions that were empowering? What made them so? 2. Has your experience as a U. student been empowering or disempowering? What about the rest of your personal, family, & community history? (narrative as empowerment: Rappaport, 1995) 3. Over the past two decades, community psychology’s two leading intervention paradigms have been: prevention & empowerment. Which of these two (or what other) is the best paradigm for the field? Why? 4. Do religious organizations tend to be empowering or disempowering? 5. Collective ritual, in general, plays an important role in community solidarity & cultural identity. What role, if any, does it play in empowerment?

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