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Measuring empowerment in practice: structuring analysis and framing indicators

  • Alsop, Ruth
  • Heinsohn, Nina
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    This paper presents an analytic framework that can be used to measure and monitor empowerment processes and outcomes. The measuring empowerment (ME) framework, rooted in both conceptual discourse and measurement practice, illustrates how to gather data on empowerment and structure its analysis. The framework can be used to measure empowerment at both the intervention level and the country level, as a part of poverty or governance monitoring. The paper first provides a definition of empowerment and then explains how the concept can be reduced to measurable components. Empowerment is defined as a person's capacity to make effective choices; that is, as the capacity to transform choices into desired actions and outcomes. The extent or degree to which a person is empowered is influenced by personal agency (the capacity to make purposive choice) and opportunity structure (the institutional context in which choice is made). Asset endowments are used as indicators of agency. These assets may be psychological, informational, organizational, material, social, financial, or human. Opportunity structure is measured by the presence and operation of formal and informal institutions, including the laws, regulatory frameworks, and norms governing behavior. Degrees of empowerment are measured by the existence of choice, the use of choice, and the achievement of choice. Following the conceptual discussion and the presentation of the analytic framework, this paper illustrates how the ME framework can be applied, using examples from four developmentinterventions. Each example discusses how the framework guided analysis and development of empowerment indicators. The paper also presents a draft module for measuring empowerment at the country level. The module can be used alone or be integrated into country-level poverty or governance monitoring systems that seek to add an empowerment dimension to their analysis.

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    Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 3510.

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    Date of creation: 01 Feb 2005
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    Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3510
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    1. Mick Moore, 2001. "Empowerment at last?," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(3), pages 321-329.
    2. Fox, Jonathan, 1996. "How does civil society thicken? the political construction of social capital in rural Mexico," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 1089-1103, June.
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