In the second installment about power from our research for the Scottish Government on empowerment and engagement in land use and land management we’ll look at how power can be shifted…
Changes of power can occur at three interconnected levels: the personal, group and wider social sphere.
The personal level: At this level, empowerment is about progressively undoing the negative effects of feeling disempowered. This involves building self esteem, self belief, a sense of agency, confidence and capacity for powerful action without disempowering others. At this personal level, empowerment satisfies a fundamental psychological need for self determination and control.
Group level: Group power rests on personal power. When individuals have increased personal power they have confidence for interpersonal empowerment and influence withing a group. The group also takes on and influences decisions in the community or wider social sphere.
Wider power: At the wider, collective level, empowerment is a process where individuals and groups work together to gain levels of power that none can achieve alone. This could be through collective action, community organisation, campaigning or involvement in political processes. In this way, individuals and organisations within an empowered community support each other and gain increased influence and control over the quality of life in their community.
This view of empowerment is that each level of empowerment is connected in a sequential and additive way with the initial focus on building self-esteem, confidence and individual capacity, leading to interpersonal empowerment at group level and in turn the social networks that form the basis for collective empowerment.
The idea of empowerment being an incremental process may apply where there are no professional engagement facilitators. However, where there are, facilitators can design a process and use skills and facilitation techniques that moderate the more powerful voices and enable quieter, less confident individuals to express their views and be listened to with respect. In this way, individuals gain confidence within the process from the outset.