Empowerment is the practice of sharing authority, information and rewards with others. When we connect empowerment to the context of community, it means enabling people to solve community-based problems by making decisions and taking initiative at the community level.

Empowerment emerges when community members have the skills, resources and opportunities to contribute solutions. Empowerment is not without accepting responsibilities. It builds from promoting a sense of ownership by the members of the community toward a goal of increased satisfaction as a result of achieving better outcomes.

Empowerment can also be thought of as a personal philosophy tied to strategy. Empowered community members who operate within the framework of a common vision, mission and goals can increase their productivity and their effectiveness as they relate to community objectives. In other words, people become more responsible and accountable for the actions they take as individuals. To be clear, as member-owners of the community, trash is not simply discarded in the moment; it is deliberately deposited in appropriate receptacles. Taking ownership of one’s garbage helps keep the community tidy.

Empowerment is, indeed, a process of encouraging people to think, take action and make decisions toward common community goals. Being empowered means feeling in control of your environment and knowing you are trusted to make decisions within your realm of responsibilities.

Also, empowerment can be contagious. As an organic, grassroots, bottom-up process there are ways to empower others in your community. The most important ways are to build trust, ask for feedback, offer instructions, simplify discovery, show your appreciation and recognize limits. All methods should be applied in the appropriate scenarios to obtain the best results. Empowerment cannot be given or taken; it has to acquired.