We first needed to develop an “empowerment culture” for both individuals and the community to recognize the need to promote mutual help. By an “empowerment culture”, we mean a social and value context for developing empowerment. Existing cultural values are often a big impediment to overcome, and the idea of individual empowerment certainly was somewhat foreign to seniors in a culture where interdependence and family had been the foundation of society for their entire lives. But when shifts in cultural values are achieved, this can provide a strong means of influencing people. To alter the existing unsatisfactory situation, we needed to change the cultural attitudes that were perpetuating the unfulfilling circumstances.As a result, more community members at least started the process with a more positive attitude of “let’s see how it goes.” First developing an “empowerment culture” helped to begin the process of promoting the community goals of self-care and mutual-care.
１．Tools for Empowerment :CASE Model
２．Tips for Community Empowerment
Tips for Community Empowerment
From a much broader perspective, though, there are several issues and factors that will affect the success of any empowerment efforts, no matter the cultural context. We outline these here, in the form of probing questions, in the hopes that those involved in this work can be aware of them from the start of any process and can intentionally address them as best as possible to ensure the greatest success for all.
1. Is there an existing foundation for an “empowerment culture?”
In other words – do the cultural values support empowerment efforts, as in the social democracies of Sweden, Israel, and Australia, or a capitalist society such as the United States, or is there work to be done on this fundamental level, as discussed in the chapter on Japan? A related issue is whether cultural values are in a steady state (as in the U.S. or Israel), or in a process of major change, as in Japan, or even some slight modification, as in Sweden, to some extent. We believe that the CASE Model demonstrates that in order to develop an empowerment model in the community, the effective development of a supportive culture is indispensable (see Figure 1). “Communication,” “Motivation” and “Scientific Evidence” are important elements to make real such a supportive culture. “Communication” must come with acceptance and understanding of each person and what they are bringing to the empowerment process, as well as communication of important information to people about what is happening during the empowerment process; “Motivation” must be encouraged through active participation and the development an attitude that “we-can-do-it-ourselves”; and “Scientific Evidence” can capitalize on the respect for logical analysis and clear expectations which all make it easier to understand the factors and effects involved in empowering people in the community.
Figure 1. How to Empower the People in the Community?
|1 Communication: Acceptance, Understanding
|2 Motivation: Attendance, Decision Making
|3 Scientific Evidence: Logic, Validity
2. What is the cultural context within which work is being done?
This was very well illustrated in Chapter 4 on Japan, which noted that a sense of personal empowerment was not a familiar one to Japanese elders, but one which could be discovered and nurtured through good communication and patient work. In contrast, the chapter on Israel documented clearly the long-standing national positive attitude towards empowerment of older persons, and that the current work was simply a focusing of those cultural values on the group of caregivers in their society. An interesting challenge was also discussed in the chapters on Sweden (5) and Australia (7), where the authors noted that there were changes in national attitudes about empowerment or the understanding of how that affected a particular group or issue, such as the social isolation of elders in Australia. Having a clear sense of where a culture or society is at any given time can help develop appropriate methods for working in that setting.
The role of cultural values and basic human values is critical in guiding human actions. It is the things that we value that motivate us to participate in various aspects of social and community life, and that gives us each purpose to our days. Keeping a focus on what people value, within their specific cultural context, will ensure the success of empowerment activities. This is important not just for the short-term goals and stages of empowerment, but the longer-term work as well. Maintaining a clear sense of the values incorporated into empowerment activities will help sustain interest and involvement over time.
3. Is there intentional promotion of inclusive and representative participation at all stages of empowerment?
It is fundamental to empowerment processes to engage various groups of people in participation. One model is to think of there being five kinds of members involved in empowerment processes (see Figure 2). These would include:
a) Coordinator: A person who takes the role of coordinating/managing the process.
b) Core member: A person who is closely involved with the plan and activities.
c) Reference member: A person who offers professional information and technology if necessary.
d) Active member: A person who is routinely involved and active.
e) Surrounding member: A person who has not yet or rarely participated, but participates at times with interest or who may participate at some point in the future.
It is important to create an open and welcoming environment where all the members of any level consider they can have a central role anytime, anywhere and move through roles as seems appropriate for them at any time. It is crucial not to force participation or belonging, but to make the atmosphere pleasant and naturally attractive. In addition, all members must feel that they can maintain a flexible participation style so that anytime if they want, they can take the role of as the core/active member.
Figure 2. Flexible and open roles for participation over time.
4. Are programs/policies designed specifically and appropriately to address targeted outcomes?
When engaged in empowerment processes it is crucial that the new programs and policies being developed be specific to the needs/concerns of the identified community, and not be drive by political or financial motivation. One danger of good intentions is that “professionals” arrive in a community and decide for them what is “best.” This must be guarded against and the conscious evaluation of needs can assist in keeping focused on the needs at hand. For example, in Israel, initial policies for elders needed to be modified when there was an increase in the immigration of other older persons and some of the existing programs did not most appropriately meet their needs. In Australia, while initial evaluation indicated very positive outcomes, there appears to also be information that will help in refocusing efforts to be most appropriate. In the U.S., housing for Deaf seniors must be designed very specifically to meet their physical and social needs – without their input, most architects would be unable to imagine what those needs might be or how they could be addressed through the physical environmental design.
5. Is there effective utilization of information technology?
Communication and keeping people informed throughout the empowerment process is essential to its success. For each specific cultural context, there may be variations in the manner of communication, but the fundamental need for clear and consistent and accessible communication of information is the same. For some local contexts, such as in Japan, Sweden, or some of the projects in Australia, local newspapers and flyers may be the most appropriate way to share ongoing information and activities related to the empowerment process. In other circumstances, such as the U.S., the use of technologies such as the internet and web pages might be more appropriate. In the case of Israel, where changes and activities are occurring on a national level, broader information systems such as television, print media, and the internet may be the most consistent and efficient way to share information. But for each setting, some consistent method must be chosen, so that citizens have a clear sense of where they can go to get updated and ongoing information.
6. Are comprehensive evaluations using multiple empirical methods conducted regularly?
Empirical evidence makes it easier for people to accept the projected benefits of the project. Comprehensive scientific data, analyzed by well-established methods, confirm for people the merits and limitations of the project. Evidence-based results will give people security and confidence in the programs and, therefore, encourage continued investment in the project. Evaluation helps to clarify the effectiveness and value of various empowerment activities, which clarifies the meaningfulness of the relationships and work being developed. Evaluation may be a series of processes producing the desired goals, as specified by an activity outcome, information about costs or cost-savings, etc. It is vital that members clearly know about and understand the value of community efforts and outcomes continuously, so that consistent efforts are made along the way. Evaluation can also help clarify the actual status of progress towards Targeted Outcomes and the prediction of future Targeted Outcomes and programs needed to address problems in an objective manner. And, it is necessary to have evaluation not only by internal persons, but also by outsiders who can see more clearly the progress of the community in evaluation.
7. Do the new systems created provide both consistency and flexibility in responding to needs?
System consistency promotes confidence by community members in the function of the new programs and policies. Working toward consistent and common goals through mutual support expands the empowerment of people in the community, because it requires their participation to realize their goals. With consistency, people can plan for ways in which to become involved. In addition, consistent evaluation makes clear the distinction of various goals and the ways to reach them in a systematic manner. Realistic prospects for project outcomes, based on evaluation research, provide guidelines to people as to what to choose and what not to choose. On the other hand, system flexibility cultivates greater support in the community for the projects as it allows for better responses to individual needs. Flexibility includes adaptability to various individuals, issues, methods and timing. Effective utilization of services depends on system flexibility, because people are more likely to use such a system. Flexibility prevents the stagnation of a single type of system and will promote ongoing interest in continued project development.
8. Is there a clear commitment to continuous development and sustainability?
As noted previously, empowerment is not just a goal, but a process, and hopefully a lifelong process. As new members enter a community system – either locally or nationally – there must be an ongoing system of continuous development of empowerment activities and understanding by all, so that people can be empowered throughout their lives. This calls for ongoing flexibility by all involved in empowerment work as it continually adapts to changing circumstances and contexts and individuals. To sustain such efforts over time also calls for a commitment across multiple levels – personal, community, and systemic. Appropriate resources – staff, space, financial – must be committed to these efforts for them to continue. Eventually, such practices will become institutionalized and the “standard operating procedure” for individuals, systems, and societies.
9. Has a friendly and stimulating environment been created?
It is possible to create in the community both a friendly and stimulating environment, namely the relaxed security feeling of being connected to and empowered by and with others, and the stimulating aspects of problem-solving and working together collaboratively. People want to feel connected to others, but also to feel actively engaged in meaningful pursuits. If the personal relationships of individuals are strong then the whole community becomes stronger, as well. It is reasonable to expect a bidirectional effect of personal relations and community activities, all leading to greater empowerment on different levels.
10. Is there an underlying empathic orientation to people and mutual cooperation with goal of self-actualization?
The most fundamental aspect of human experience, if we are to live together in a society is empathy. Without empathy we cannot create a social system that appropriately supports people at all stages of life; we would simply be motivated by our own unique experience. Thus, empathy for others as other human beings is the final, yet most fundamental requirement for successful empowerment efforts.
Through individual empathy for one another, we can begin to build mutual cooperation, which is another activity that directly contributes to empowerment and increases public responsibility for a project. Mutual cooperation toward common goals requires good interpersonal communication, which will also contribute to empowerment within the community. Community discussion is one of the important methods for enhancing empowerment, promoting the notion of empowerment as a social process and as an interdependent balance, according to Clark (see Chapter 1). Through this mutual support, the environment of reciprocity will develop the confidence of each person to feel that they have someone to help and they are not alone. Confucius told us, “One who only knows it is no match for one who likes it. One who only likes it is no match for one who enjoys it.” Thus, we hope that all who participate in empowerment processes can truly enjoy the relational aspect of the experience, which will enhance all our lives and move us toward the self-actualized society we aspire to.
Kukai, a Japanese Buddhist, 1200 years ago, said all the five components of the universe – earth, water, fire, wind, and sky – have rhythms. Understanding, accepting, and working with various rhythms is the essence of promoting empowerment in various contexts. In terms of empowerment, it may be useful to think of two types of rhythms. One is the “rhythm for change” – the need to innovate, to grow, to develop and expand. We see this everywhere in nature – each annual season and over the entire existence of the universe. The other is the “rhythm for order” – the need for consistency and predictability, which allows us to adapt to our context and environment. We believe that both rhythms are necessary and are encompassed in the CASE Model of empowerment, which delineates the steps necessary to allow every person, community, and system to achieve the goals of self-actualization and true empowerment.
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