Workshop on Empowerment

Obstacles, Flaws, and Achievements

Background. Initially the idea of empowerment was used as a critical ideal -- for criticizing top-down development efforts that failed to empower the people they meant to benefit. More recently, however, development workers and organizations have adopted it as a practical goal. As a result, experience has been gained on how empowerment efforts can go well or badly, and this has stimulated discussion on "rethinking empowerment".

Objectives. The May 4 workshop will focus on how attempts at empowerment can go well or badly. It is a "scoping" workshop with two immediate objectives: (1) to identify emerging challenges and obstacles to empowerment, and (2) to identify ways in which empowerment efforts can succeed, fall short, or go wrong. The morning session will draw heavily from the experience of development workers and leaders, while the afternoon session will draw more from the thinking of development researchers.

These scoping exercises will help to shape the next phase of the Ethics of Empowerment research program led by development ethicists Jay Drydyk and Christine Koggel.

Ethics of Empowerment Project. While there is agreement among development ethicists that development, insofar as it is a socially worthy goal, must be empowering, there is considerably less agreement about what this "empowerment" should entail. Some writers focus on the kind of individual empowerment in which people become able to accomplish more for themselves, within their social contexts. This sort of empowerment is often noted as especially important for women in development. Other writers focus more on collective action, in particular the participation of stakeholders in project decision-making. The Ethics of Empowerment project aims to clarify the meaning of "empowerment", to clarify its value from an ethical point of view, to identify potential flaws of empowerment efforts, and to re-articulate an ideal of empowerment that leads forward from this experience.

Speakers: Methodius Kusumahadi (USC-Satunama, Indonesia), Janice Newberry (University of Lethbridge), Patti Petesch (Moving Out of Poverty study, World Bank), Shirin Rai (University of Warwick), Naila Kabeer (University of Sussex), David Crocker (University of Maryland).

Venue: Carleton University, Dunton Tower 2203

For more information email .