What really is empowerment?

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Empowerment is defined by the dictionary as:

  1. To invest with power, especially legal power or official authority. See Synonyms at authorize.
  2. To equip or supply with an ability; enable: “Computers... empower students to become intellectual explorers” (Edward B. Fiske).

I realize that the word empowerment often is overused and misused. Therefore, I have redefined what empowerment means so that there is no confusion or misconceptions about how I use this word. Empowerment should be viewed as a process with a strategic intent or expected result rather than just as a single action. Actually, it involves several steps to enable a person to reach a particular goal. The key steps in the empowerment process should include motivating people, providing them with valuable knowledge and information, training them in relevant areas, exposing them to situations through which their new knowledge can be applied, and creating an overall atmosphere that removes barriers and establishes opportunities for success. The end result is that progress is achieved through the enhancement or improvement of the person and/or situation.

How does this relate to entrepreneurship and business development? Socio-economic factors are significant drivers influencing negative situations that exist within many minority communities, including crime, poverty, homelessness, teen pregnancy, disease, and lack of education, among other things. These environments can only be enhanced or improved as the people within these environments are empowered to do so. One of the key ways to make this happen is through entrepreneurship and business development.

Community transformation is fueled by economic development. Helping people grow and establish businesses is an effective tool to help to economically empower people to improve their standard of living and the communities in which they live. Of course economic empowerment does not happen just because we want it to. A strategic plan must be crafted and implemented, involving all parties that are relevant to this discussion, including corporations, minority business advocacy organizations, governmental agencies, current and aspiring small business owners, and a community’s citizens. Each of these entities has a vital role to play in this economic development and community transformation strategy.

Working together gives us the opportunity to create viable partnerships that can develop practical solutions, resulting in tangible benefits for those in our communities. Together, we can create more opportunities to empower more people.

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