HOW DO COMMUNITIES BECOME EMPOWERED?
There are many different ways in which communities can become more empowered. There is no one model which would fit every circumstance. For some communities empowerment will involve owning assets, and controlling budgets, or generating their own income to re-invest. In some cases, communities will want to take action around an injustice or to protect a valued resource. Others will want to have an enhanced role in shaping the services delivered on their behalf by others.
All of these approaches can be empowering depending on the circumstances. Whatever models work for different communities, they must provide an explicit and real increase in the level of power and influence that local people have. The key thing is that empowerment cannot be given to communities by others. Communities must decide the level of empowerment they want and how to get there themselves.
Most often a critical characteristic of communities which are empowered is the existence of locally owned, community led organisations which often act as 'anchors' for the process of empowerment. These organisations, which may be the local housing association, church group, community association, development trust, community council or any combination of these, often have a range of characteristics that enable them to provide a local leadership role and a focal point for other local services and groups. Some of these characteristics include: that they are multi-purpose, usually operate from a physical hub, and will often own or manage other community assets. The confidence and ability of these groups is closely linked to the confidence and ability of the people who are involved in them. Individuals who feel empowered can bring a dynamic and enterprising approach to the work of their groups.
Storytelling Session, Glenshee