Community Coach Blog, Dan Rous, 7 October 2021
What does it mean to be empowered?
Is it something that is done to you? Something you can learn to do? Or something you grow within yourself, for yourself?
Your view on those questions could determine whether or not you’re going to like this blog!
Empowerment has become a real buzz word of late. It’s the new big thing in so many circles of life but especially in community work. But have we all understood it properly or are some of us using it as a way around things? Will it make your project look better if you talk about empowerment. If you give this opportunity/activity/programme/facility/building to the community you’ll be empowering them. It’s time to think again.
I promised myself that this blog would not become a rant and I will stick to that, but you’ll maybe pick up the sentiment in that last paragraph as a sense of my feelings. So let me be very clear. Just passing something on to a community or individual is not empowering them. It is passing the buck and potentially, setting them up to fail.
So what really is this empowerment thing. Quite simply, it can only be done to you, by you. No one else can empower you and while we’re on it, no else has the right to dis-empower you. You, as an individual have to feel empowered. And that comes by increasing the control you have over your own life. People can help you to do that, but ultimately you are the only person who can empower you. So, if you’re sitting there waiting to be empowered – STOP! Start working at feeling empowered.
It has been said that this empowerment thing is about what matters to you, not what is the matter with you. Can you hear the difference there? This is about your desires, not your issues. Cormac Russell, Managing Director of Nurture Development and the oracle on Asset Based Community Development that I’ve spoken of many times before, says it is about “what you have, rather than what you don’t have – what you can contribute rather than what you can receive.” He says this is about individuals using their head, hearts, hands etc – their talents, skills and passions. So in other words, rather than sitting back and waiting for others to do things around you, what can you do to contribute? It may not be huge and it doesn’t have to be, but as a place you probably know well says regularly: “Every little helps”.
One crucial point I need to make here. We often see government – both local council and national government – doing what communities can do. Cormac Russell simply says “get out of the way and let [the community] do it, but resource them where necessary – don’t just pull out without checking they can actually do it sustainably.” So this brings me back to my point earlier. Those who think they are in positions of authority (Maff Potts of Camerados reminds me that we are all in authority) should not just think they can walk away and leave communities to get on with stuff. They need to check that the skills exist in the community. That the desire, longevity and sustainability can be found in the community. Where support is needed – provide it, whether that be in person or financially. Where guidance is needed – supply it either directly or through signposting and partnership. Where things are needed to be brought up to a workable standard before they can be passed on – do whatever is needed.
This all centres around stuff I’ve been banging on about for ages. Work with communities. Work alongside individuals. Involve people.
So how can you begin to feel this empowerment for yourself? Well that’s a very good question and one that I would love to help you answer because the process and destination will be very different for each one of you. Would you let me have the honour of sitting with you to help you find answers to the questions you are posing, and help you to begin to feel empowered within yourself and move further towards your potential? How do we do this? I’m glad you asked! Contact me about 1 to 1 coaching sessions and I will tell you all you need to know. For now, there’s some info through that link and on the flyer below. I look forward to working alongside you in this.
Until next time…..