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Empowerment is seen by many development agencies as a core aspect of their work, although definitions and approaches are varied. To some, empowerment is a political concept involving the collective struggle of the poor and disadvantaged; to others, it refers to the consciousness of individuals to address issues determining their lives. A definition that broadly incorporates both these views is that, “empowerment happens when individuals and organised groups are able to imagine their world differently and to realise that vision by changing the relations of power that have been keeping them in poverty” (Eyben, Kabeer and Cornwall, 2008).


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​​Stories of Empowerment

From OECD Website

We know that it is people’s own decisions and actions that bring about sustainable improvements in their lives and livelihoods. Inequitable power relations exclude poor people from decision-making and prevent them from taking action. Empowerment of those living in poverty is a critical driver of poverty reduction.
 Despite this, there is still a huge gap between the theory of empowerment and its practice. To help bridge this gap and provide guidance, these stories describe real-life empowerment in the words of those involved and draw upon the practical experience of donors working in different areas of empowerment, which is making a positive difference in poor people’s livelihoods.

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​​Understanding and Operationalising Empowerment, Cecilia Luttrell and Sitna Quiroz, October 2007

Cecilia Luttrell and Sitna Quiroz, October 2007

This paper presents an overview of debates surrounding the different definitions and conceptual approaches to empowerment and explores a number of conceptual issues which have practical implications for the operationalisation of empowerment. These include whether empowerment is viewed as a process or an outcome; whether an ‘agency’ or a structural approach is taken. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of these principles for working with partners and explores the potential of empowerment as a multidimensional approach for poverty reduction.

Understanding and Operationalising Empowerment - Cecilia Luttrell and Sitna Quiroz (PDF, 160 KB)
Empowerment Note 1: Linkages between human rights-based approaches and empowerment - Cecilia Luttrell and Sitna Quiroz, October 2007 (PDF, 160KB)
Empowerment Note 2: The definition and operationalisation of empowerment in different development agencies - Claire Scrutton and Cecilia Luttrell, August 2007 (PDF, 202KB)
Empowerment Note 3: The Power Cube Explained - Cecilia Luttrell, Kate Bird, Sarah Byrne, Jane Carter and Devanshu Chakravarti, November 2007(PDF, 253 KB)

​​Empowerment: A Selected Annotated Bibliography

Sitna Quiroz, November 2006

The annotated bibliography on empowerment compiles a wider range of literature on the theme. It starts with clarification of concepts of empowerment and the different power dimensions. The bibliography then looks at different perspectives of empowerment in terms of gender, ethnic minorities and education. Further it provides resources with regard to policy analysis and the different approaches towards implementation of empowerment.

Empowerment: A Selected Annotated Bibliography - Sitna Quiroy, November 2006 (PDF, 322 KB)

​​SDC’s Performance Towards Empowerment of Stakeholders from the Recipients’ Perspective


SDC Independent E​valuation, February 2007

The main objectives of this evaluation were to a) a​ssess SDC's performance in empowerment of communities by examining SDC’s interactions with implementation partners and, in turn, their interactions with the communities, b) appraise SDC’s approaches to building on capacities and sensibilities of implementation partners' organisations to be responsive to community needs and priorities, and, c) initiate an institutional learning process within the SDC on how to consistently include the stakeholder perspective in its activities. The SDC selected Bolivia and Burkina Faso as country case studies illustrative of significant empowerment strategies of the SDC.

SDC’s Performance Towards Empowerment of Stakeholders from the Recipients’ Perspective (PDF, 1.75 MB)