Ch 5: The emergence of community empowerment
Richard K. Moore
Last update: 26 July 2010
Table of Contents: 2012: Crossroads for Humanity
My dictionary suggests these usages of ‘empower’:
I empowered my agent to make the deal for me. The local ordinance empowers the board of health to close unsanitary restaurants.
In this same sense, in our political system, local elections empower the local government to make the decisions for the community. It is the government that is empowered, not the community itself. In an empowered community, if such a thing is ever to exist, the people themselves make the decisions for the community.
In ancient Athens they did have a system where the people themselves — at least the property-owning males — made the decisions. Hundreds of people would gather in the amphitheater, anyone could speak up, and eventually a vote would be taken on the issues of the day. In New England they used to have town hall meetings, that operated similarly.
Whether an empowered community would make sense in our modern societies is an open question. Most people would probably dismiss the idea out of hand, as being impractical, unworkable, and unwise. How could ordinary people possibly reach agreement and do a competent job of governing themselves? How could they even be motivated to participate in making decisions?
I do not think we can answer such questions. We don’t know whether direct democracy makes sense at the community level, or exactly how it would work if it does make sense. However, in the context of localization, there is some hope that a process of community empowerment might evolve, if local people increasingly participate in managing localization programs.
In the previous section I suggested that involving people in the envisioning process could be a way to help localization to escape from marginalism. We will also be looking at other synergies that would also make localization more successful.
The more successful the programs become, the more people will want to get involved in the programs. And the more people do get involved in the programs, the more successful the programs will be. Enabling people to get involved, so that their voices matter, is where participatory processes, ‘wise democracy processes’ if you will, come in to play.
If people increasingly participating in such processes, we can expect that the processes themselves will evolve and become more effective over time.
Taken all together, there seems to be a natural feedback loop that could be expected to push communities toward the realization of empowerment, once they begin to tap the synergies that are latent within the threads of localization.
Community development: a unifying focus for localization
this section is under development