Define empowerment, capacity building and participation

in the context of your research. Describe the dependent and independent variables in your research and justify the relationship between the dependent and independent variables.

The understanding of the concept of ’empowerment’ varies among disciplines. It is a cross-disciplinary term, mainly used in fields of Education, Psychology, Community Development, Economics, among others. Based on this many meanings of the term, it has been seen as a construct easy to define by its absence but difficult to define in action, based on the fact that it takes different forms in different people and contexts (Rappoport, cited in Page & Czuba, 1999). Therefore, how we define empowerment within our projects and programs will depend upon the specific people and context involved.

Best services for writing your paper according to Trustpilot

Premium Partner
From $18.00 per page
4,8 / 5
Writers Experience
Recommended Service
From $13.90 per page
4,6 / 5
Writers Experience
From $20.00 per page
4,5 / 5
Writers Experience
* All Partners were chosen among 50+ writing services by our Customer Satisfaction Team

In the context of community development, a general definition of empowerment was proffered by Page & Czuba (1999) as follows:

Empowerment is a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. It is a process that fosters power (that is, the capacity to implement) in people, for use in their own lives, their communities, and in their society, by acting on issues that they define as important.

From the above definition, three basic components are necessary to any understanding of empowerment, namely ‘multi-dimensional’, ‘social’, and a ‘process’. By multi-dimensional, empowerment is frequently connected to the four development dimensions of equity, capacity building, participation and self-reliance. According to Adams (2002) “these four dimensions are regarded as the common denominators in most definitions of empowerment and debates regarding the role of empowerment in the development process”. It also occurs at various levels, such as individual, group, and community. And it is a social process because it occurs in relationship to others. Embedded in this definition of empowerment is that the individual and community are fundamentally connected. The importance of individual empowerment is such that it is a prerequisite for community and social change and empowerment (Speer & Hughey, 1995), and a bridge to community connectedness and social change (Wilson, 1996).

With specific reference to the current study which looks at Youth development as a strategy for Poverty reduction, empowerment in this case entails the acquisition of power and the ability to give it effect (Swanepoel, 1997). Theron (2005) buttresses this view by looking at empowerment in terms of dual perspectives, namely empowerment as a process of skills and abilities development; and secondly, empowerment as a process that equips people to decide on and take action regarding the issues of concern to them. In the same vein, Burkly (1993) states that empowerment is a process that releases power to the people which they can use to access resources in order to achieve desirable goals.

Although empowerment as a concept can be examined in the context of both individual and collective aspects, the concept as used here is operative at the individual level, rather than collective or organizational. While individual empowerment relates to the way people think about themselves, as well as the knowledge, capacities, skills, and mastery they actually possess (Staples, 1990, p. 32), collective empowerment refers to processes by which individuals join together to break their solitude and silence, help one another, learn together, and develop skills for collective action (Boehm & Staples, 2004). For the purpose of this study, empowerment is defined as a process whereby individuals develop the skills and capacity for gaining some reasonable control over their lives.

From the foregoing, empowerment in the context of this study does not only imply capacity building, by which is meant the building up of people’s knowledge, skills, and ability to enable them take actions correctly, it (empowerment) is also an effect of this process of capacity building where the individual participants of the capacity building process overcome their poverty situation and attain self-determination. Self-determination is consistent with notions of personal control (Greenberg & Strasser, 1991); and it refers to an individual’s sense of control over his or her own work (Wagner, 1995). As a major component of individual empowerment, self-determination is most frequently reported in the literature (Sprague & Hayes, 2000). Fetterman (1996, p.92) believes that “self-determination, defined as the ability to chart one’s own course in life, forms the theoretical foundations” of the components of individual empowerment.

Against this background, the individual participants, who have become self employed and are economically empowered, having acquired skills via capacity building, are enabled to be in control of their lives. Therefore, empowerment here is an outcome of the process of capacity building. Individual empowerment is a development that involves many changes whereby an individual is able to strengthen and exercise the ability to act to gain control over his or her life. Hence, the goal of individual empowerment is to achieve a state of emancipation strong enough to impact one’s power in life.

Capacity Building

As with the concepts of ‘globalization’, ‘development’, and ‘sustainability’, the term capacity building is an ambiguous concept that means different things to different people, groups and organizations. Although many people use these terms, their definitions do not conform to the same, as each puts emphasis on a certain aspect of capacity development (James, 2001). However, definitions of capacity building emphasize that capacity building is a tool to build and improve the skills, resources and ability of people to implement, monitor and assess a project.

The United Nations (UNDP, 1997) sees capacity building as a process by which individuals, groups and organizations, institutions and societies increase their abilities to perform core functions, solve problems and define and achieve objectives; to understand and deal with their development needs in a broad context and in a sustainable manner. Eade (1997) sees capacity building as an approach to development which encompasses all the fields that influence the development sphere. In this approach to development, capacity building identifies the weaknesses that people experience in achieving their basic rights, and finding proper means through which to increase their ability to overcome the causes of their exclusion and suffering.

In the context of this study, capacity building comprises the skills acquisition that the youth undergo in the process of their empowerment. Capacity building here is an intervening variable, which by its nature surfaces between the time the independent variable (participation) starts operating to influence the dependent variable (empowerment). It helps to explain the relationship between the IV & DV. Thus, by participating in the development programmes, youth are equipped with the capacity, skills, knowledge that will enable them become economically empowered, employable and self-employed, thereby reducing unemployment and poverty among them. Capacity building as used in the study is not concerned about implementing a project or enhancing a particular aspect of life; it is a comprehensive empowerment process which builds the capability of people with relevant skills needed to find meaning in their lives.

Consequently, the concept of capacity building as used in the study is a process where people are developed in order to manage themselves. To this end, empowerment of the participants becomes the ultimate output of capacity building process. On this understanding of capacity building as a process, Eade and Williams (1995) elaborate the concept as:

Men and women becoming empowered to bring about positive changes in their lives; about personal growth together with public action; about both the process and the outcome of challenging poverty, oppression and discrimination; and about the realization of human potential through social and economic justice. Above all, it is about the process of transforming lives, and transforming societies.

In this process of capacity building, people acquire the skills, which in turn create an avenue for them as individuals and as members of the community to achieve their development objectives and improve the quality of their lives. Hence, capacity building is a response to community development needs.


Participation is one of the essential aspects of community development associated with empowerment. It is a people-oriented approach to development, where people play an important role by feeling a high degree of ownership; and are subjects rather than objects in the process of their development. According to De Beer and Swanepoel (1998), “participation leads to empowerment and empowerment results in vulnerable people or oppressed groups achieving sufficient power or authority to be able to influence decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods, so that they can attain ownership of their lives”.

Participation in this study is the input variable or independent variable, where, through involvement in youth development programmes like auto mechanics, electrical work, and welding, the participants acquire the capacity (skills, knowledge and training) that enable them to become self-employed and employable.

By participating in the programmes, youth have enhanced their capacity to alleviate poverty. They have also built partnership with others by widening their employment opportunities. As marginalized members of the society, being involved in their development programmes enabled them to voice their concerns, hopes, and grievances. Adams (2008) asserts that participants are able to contribute to their development by giving feedback on programmes that are aimed at them. With empowerment in mind, the youth are able to collaborate with the project providers, thereby paving way for a more active role, having greater choice, exercising more power, and contributing in decision-making and management (Adams, 2008, p.17). Their participation has also broadened their support network, resulting in opening up new opportunities through programme development and social action.

By participating in their development process, youth not only gain skills and knowledge, but also gain self-confidence, pride, initiative, responsibility and cooperation – which without such development components in people all efforts to alleviate poverty will be difficult.

An important attribute of participation is community empowerment, which requires a people-centered approach that culminates in self-reliance. Chambers and Freire (1996, p. 77) envisage that participation and empowerment can enable the poor to express and analyze both their individual and shared multiple realities. According to the World Health Organization (2002), community members should participate in their development because they have a right to have a say about decisions that affect their lives; and will also lead to better decisions being made, which are more appropriate and more sustainable because they are owned by the people themselves.

Dependent and Independent variables of the study

The conceptual framework below illustrates the variables of the study – Youth empowerment as a strategy for poverty reduction in Niger Delta, Nigeria. In a nutshell, ‘participation’ is the independent variable, where youth, through their involvements in skills acquisition programmes in auto mechanics, electrical work and welding develop/acquire the ‘capacity’ in skills, training, knowledge and competence that led to their ’empowerment’ (DV); hence, becoming economically empowered, self-empowered and having a reduction in poverty.

Economic Empowerment
Individual Empowerment
Unemployment reduction
Poverty reduction
Involvement in
youth development programmes
Capacity Building
* Sense of community
Auto mechanics
Electrical work

a. Independent variable: Participation

Based on the definitions and framework given above, the concept of ‘participation’ will be the independent variable (IV) of the study, which will be manipulated in order to determine its influence or effect on the dependent variable (DV). As an input variable which influences the dependent variable, ‘participation’ of the youth in development programmes will constitute the IV of the study, to see their relationship with the dependent variable. In other words, the youth participation in such programmes as auto mechanics, electrical work and welding will be operated to see how they lead to empowerment, which is the DV.

‘Participation’ as employed in the study therefore is the social element whose characteristics or variations shape and determine the dependent variable. In other words, it is through the participants’ involvement in the development programmes that they are eventually empowered. Thus, participation causes the outcome of involvement in development programme – which is ’empowerment’ (the DV).

Economic empowerment

b. Dependent variable: Empowerment Self-employment

Unemployment reduction

The dependent variable (DV) is a variable of primary interest to the researcher, whose task is to understand and describe it (the DV). And it is through the analysis of the dependent variable that the researcher is likely to find answers or solutions to the issues under study – which is done by measuring the dependent variable as well as the other variables that influence this variable.

In this study, ’empowerment’ is the dependent variable (DV) because it is a response to the action of ‘participation’ (the IV). The DV “depends” and responds to the action of the IV. ‘Empowerment’ in this study is the variable that reflects the influence of the independent variable. As illustrated in the framework above, ‘economic empowerment’, ‘self-reliance’ (self-employed), ‘unemployment reduction’ and ‘poverty reduction’ are the effects or outcome of ‘participation’ of youth in development programmes. These outcomes are necessitated by the skills, knowledge, training and competence which the participants have acquired in the process of their ‘capacity building’ via the development programmes. Capacity building therefore becomes the intervening variable that brings about the effect of the independent variable (participation) on the dependent variable (empowerment).

Justification of the relationship of variables

The independent and dependent variables are related based on the dependency relationship, where one variable, the ‘dependent variable’ depends on the ‘independent variable’. It is a cause and effect relationship where the DV is an effect of the IV. In this study, ’empowerment’ resulted as an effect of ‘participation’. Participation (the IV) causes the change (effect) that resulted in the empowerment of the youth. To elaborate further, the relationship of participation (IV) and empowerment (DV) is such that the variation of the IV influences the DV. The dependent variable changes when the independent variable changes – the dependent variable depends on the outcome of the independent variable.

Further, ‘capacity building’ relates to both the IV and the DV as an intervening variable by linking the independent and dependent variables. In this study, capacity building resulted as a function or operation of the IV (Participation) and helps to explain the influence of the IV on the DV. Capacity building here explains the relationship that exists between the action of the IV and the DV. As the diagram shows, the participants’ involvement in the skills development programmes equipped them with the enabling capacity (capacity building – skills, knowledge, and training) that led or transformed them into empowered members of the community.

2. Based on the main concepts of your research, provide a theoretical framework that can best explain the research that you will be undertaking. What are the theory/ies that can be used to support your research? Discuss the rationale for choosing the theory/ies and the strengths and weaknesses of the theory/ies.

With regard to the main concepts of the research, Keiffer’s theory of empowerment as a process was considered relevant and suitable for handling the study. The theory illustrates the elements and stages of empowerment as well as the phases that the individuals undergo in the process of acquiring skills, which translate into full realization of empowerment. The theory was considered appropriate for the study as it has been extensively used in several related study.

Keiffer’s theory of empowerment as a process

The theory applies to individuals in the process of empowerment; where the (empowerment) process passes through several phases in the participants. It shows the patterns and processes of the participants’ transition from a state powerlessness to empowerment. The theory is suitable to this research, which focuses on empowering the youth of the Niger Delta, who are ravaged by poverty and unemployment, coupled with what Keiffer (1984) referred to as a feeling of alienation from resources for social influence, an experience of disenfranchisement and economic vulnerability, and a sense of hopelessness in socio-political struggle.

Understanding empowerment in the light of Keiffer’s theory starts by examining the concepts of power and powerlessness (Moscovitch & Drover, 1981). Power is conceived as “a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their lives” (Page & Czuba, 1999, p. 25). The Cornell Empowerment Group (1989, p.2) define power as the “capacity of some persons and organizations to produce intended, foreseen and unforeseen effects on others”. Underscoring the need to produce these expectations or effects on others, some sources of power were identified as a panacea. Moscovitch and Drover (1981), for instance believe that the class-dominated nature of our society indicates that a small proportion of the people have enormous economic and political power as opposed to the greater number of the people that have little or none. Therefore, power is required to influence the outcome of life events.

On the other hand, powerlessness is seen as an objective phenomenon, where people with little or no political and economic power lack the means to gain greater control and resources in their lives (Albee, 1981). Keiffer sees powerlessness at the individual level as the expectation of the individual that his or her own actions will be ineffective in influencing the outcome of life events (Keiffer, 1984). Lerner (1986) distinguished between real and surplus powerlessness. While real powerlessness emanates from economic inequities and oppressive control exercised by systems and other people, surplus powerlessness derives from an internalized belief that change cannot occur – a belief which results in apathy and an unwillingness of the person to struggle for more control and influence.

Keiffer’s (1984) effort on individual empowerment is one of the prominent studies which examine individual empowerment as a process. He conceives empowerment as a developmental process which consists of four stages: entry, advancement, incorporation, and commitment. These stages are:

era of entry (characteristics: powerlessness, sense of integrity, rootedlessness, sense of attachment, and support within a caring community of peers, experience of injustice); era of advancement (centrality of mentoring relationships, more critical understanding of social and political relations); era of incorporation (developed self concept, increased strategic ability, and matured critical comprehension, improved organizing and leadership skills, and constructed survival skills); and era of commitment (application of new abilities to the reality and structure of everyday life worlds, commitment to adapting recent empowerment to continuing proactive community mobilization and leadership) (Keiffer, 1984).

From the above, the individual is prompted at the entry level by his or her experience of certain disturbing self or family situation, which Keiffer refers to as an act of ‘provocation’. The advancement stage possesses three important characteristics that are necessary to the progress of continuing the empowerment process, namely, a mentoring relationship; supportive peer relationships with a collective organization; and the development of a more critical understanding of social and political relations. While the focal point of the third stage is the development of a growing political consciousness, the era of commitment, which is the fourth stage is such that the acquired participatory competence is applied by participants to ever expanding areas of their lives. Consequently, Keiffer believes that empowerment at the individual level is the experience of gaining increasing control and influence in daily life and community participation (Keiffer, 1984).

A major strength of this theory is that the author worked on the premise that the existence of powerlessness or alienation is a given at the very first step of individual empowerment; and this underscores the need for participation in view of acquiring skills. As with the area under study which requires a ‘source’ of power to alleviate their poverty and unemployment, the author confirms that such a state of powerlessness becomes evident prompting a group of empowerment agents recognizing the alienated and oppressed. In this first stage of empowerment, both the alienated and the empowerment agents have come to true knowledge of the former’s powerlessness, coupled with such social pathologies as disadvantages, oppression, alienation, and stratification. The process of participation, thus, was both empowering and advanced in the process of empowerment for the participants. As participants got involved in development programmes, they see it as a process towards the reduction of their poverty. It is in this way that participation advanced the process of individual empowerment (Keiffer, 1984).

On capacity building, the theory underscores the fact that the transition towards individual empowerment was an exceptionally ongoing process towards skills acquisition. And that the skills which the participants acquired will function as catalysts for the empowerment process, making them become aware of their own capacities and developing new directions for themselves while in the process of emancipating from the experience of powerlessness. Here participants have to gain the skills and the potential to change their circumstance. As participants gain mastery over their lives and learn and utilize skills, which are the skills (capacity) for gaining some reasonable control over their lives, they become empowered.

With the foregoing, individuals become empowered when they develop capabilities to overcome their social obstacles and attain self-determination. Self-determination, “defined as the ability to chart one’s own course in life (Fetterman, 1996) is repeatedly presented in the literature and considered as a sole and vital component of individual empowerment (Sprague & Hayes, 2000). Boehm and Staples (2004) advocated ‘mastery’ and ‘self-determination’ as the components of individual empowerment. Mastery is understood as:

full control over someone or something, and through in-depth understanding or greater skills, can be a variety of types, such as physical mastery, mastery of emotion and behavior, mastery of information and decision making, mastery of social system, efficient mastery of time, mastery as connected to autonomy and individual freedom, and planning mastery, thus enabling consumers to prevent negative situations and to actualize positive ones (Boehm & Staples, 2004).

As components of individual empowerment, self-determination is associated with the power that enables individuals to meet the challenges of different life situations; mastery on the hand is concerned with increased levels of the individuals’ ability to understand reality and the capacity to make decisions that impact the conditions and quality of life.

Conversely, one of the limitations of Keiffer’s theory is the fact that it did not elaborate how the individuals impact their community with their acquired participatory competence. He limited individual empowerment as the experience of gaining increasing control and influence in daily life and community participation. It was earlier noted that sustaining involvement in participation deepens the competence and control of the participants – leading to the advancement of the process of personal empowerment (Keiffer, 1984). Although empowerment can exist at the individual level, yet one would have expected that the theory incorporated how the participatory competence can impact the larger community bearing in mind that community development entails improving the community life in its wider sense.

Another weakness of the theory emanates from a theme which the theorist identified as underlying the movement through all phases of the empowerment process: the view that conflicts and growth are inextricably intertwined (Keiffer, 1984). The suggested dynamics of praxis advocated by the theorist for resolving these conflicts may, after all, be time-consuming and ineffective in the empowering process. Praxis, for him:

refers to the circular relationship of experience and reflection through which actions evoke new understandings, which then provokes new actionsaˆ¦ The building up of skills only progresses through repetitive cycles of action and reflection. In other words, crucial for the building of empowerment is ‘time’ and ‘practice’ (Keiffer).

There is a likelihood that conflict may degenerate and also prove irresolvable by the praxis within a given period of empowerment process; thereby hampering the skills developing process of participants which should have a time frame.

3. Compare and contrast 2 different research methods (qualitative and quantitative) that might be used in your study. For each approach, discuss:

how the research question are formulated/arrived at (what kind of questions are posed)

the approach to data collection;

the approach to data analysis;

how the findings might be triangulated; and

how the findings might be presented and discussed.

There are two broad approaches in the collection of information for research purposes, namely quantitative and qualitative methods. A basic understanding of both methods will be highlighted to show their differences.

First quantitative data: It is an objective, formal, systematic process in which the enquiry is based on numerical data findings. It derives from the scientific method used in the physical sciences (Cormack, 1991). Quantitative method describes, tests, and examines cause and effect relationships (Burns & Grove, 1987), using a deductive process of knowledge attainment (Duffy, 1985). In other words, it tests theories deductively from existing knowledge, through developing hypothesized relationships.

On the other hand, qualitative research differs from quantitative approach as it develops theory inductively. Qualitative researchers are guided by certain ideas or perspectives regarding the subject to be investigated (Cormack, 1991). It is used as a vehicle for studying the empirical world from the perspective of the subject, not the researcher. Benoliel (1985) buttressed this aspect, describing qualitative research as ‘modes of systematic enquiry concerned with understanding human beings and the nature of their transactions with themselves and with their understandings’. The aim of qualitative research is to describe certain aspects of a phenomenon, with a view to explaining the subject of study. Unlike the quantitative method, qualitative research derives from the social sciences such as sociology, anthropology, psychology and philosophy, (Cormack, 1991).

For sampling, both research approaches require a sample to be identified which is representative of a larger population of people or objects. Quantitative research employs random selection of the sample from the study population and the random assignment of the sample to the various study groups. Results obtained from random sampling have an advantage, which is an increased likelihood of the findings being generalizable. Its disadvantage stems from the fact that random selection is time-consuming, with the result that many studies use more easily obtained opportunistic sample (Duffy, 1985). This hampers the possibilities of generalization, especially if the sample is too small.

Qualitative research uses non-random sampling, which is a selective sample, because of the in-depth nature of studies and the analysis of the data required. Hinton (1987) confirms that the strength of this approach is seen when the sample is well defined, for then it can be generalized to a population at large. A disadvantage of this approach can be suspicion that the researcher could have been influenced by a particular predisposition; hence having a tendency of affecting the generalizability of the study.

a. how the research questions are formulated/arrived at (what kind of questions are posed)

Based on the statement of the problem, the research questions were formulated with a focus on what the researcher expects to achieve in the study. They show close relationship to the statement of the problem and arise from issues raised in both literature and on the ground, not deviating from the objectives of the study. The questions were arrived at to establish a clear purpose for the research in relation to the chosen field.

The issue of ‘manageability’ was considered in formulating the questions. This relates to the researcher’s ability to tackle the scope and scale of the project. For instance, the ability to access people and documents from which to collect the data required to answer the questions fully; and whether the data can be accessed within the limited time and resources available to me.

b. the approach to data collection

This study will adopt both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to collect data, through questionnaire survey and in-depth interview. The study will be primarily quantitative, while the qualitative aspect will complement it in order to increase understanding of the study, and to generate richer and deeper research findings. Both approaches will be concurrently undertaken. The research design therefore relies on a mixed-method approach to investigate the topic under study.

The primary method of data collection will be through questionnaires. A Likert scale questionnaire survey will be the major instrument for quantitative data collection; and the questions will be formulated based on the research objectives, as a means of exploring respondents’ views on the topic under study. Likert scale provides researchers a way of measuring the degree of agreement or disagreement of the respondents to a question. It is also very convenient for the respondents due to the non-ambiguous nature of the format of the questions. The research variable will be measured on a 5-point Likert scale, with a score of ‘1’ representing strongly disagree, and a score of ‘5’ representing strongly agree.

A pre-test will be conducted with a convenience sample to ensure the clarity and validity of the questions. Respondents will also be asked to comment on any difficulties encountered in completing the ques

You Might Also Like

I'm Alejandro!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out