Advancing the theory of collective empowerment: A qualitative study

Belinda Matteson Reininger, The University of Texas School of Public Health


In order to fully describe the construct of empowerment and to determine possible measures for this construct in racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods, a qualitative study based on Grounded Theory was conducted at both the individual and collective levels. Participants for the study included 49 grassroots experts on community empowerment who were interviewed through semi-structured interviews and focus groups. The researcher also conducted field observations as part of the research protocol. The results of the study identified benchmarks of individual and collective empowerment and hundreds of possible markers of collective empowerment applicable in diverse communities. Results also indicated that community involvement is essential in the selection and implementation of proper measures. Additional findings were that the construct of empowerment involves specific principles of empowering relationships and particular motivational factors. All of these findings lead to a two dimensional model of empowerment based on the concepts of relationships among members of a collective body and the collective body's desire for socio-political change. These results suggest that the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs that foster empowerment must be based on collaborative ventures between the population being served and program staff because of the interactive, synergistic nature of the construct. In addition, empowering programs should embrace specific principles and processes of individual and collective empowerment in order to maximize their effectiveness and efficiency. And finally, the results suggest that collaboratively choosing markers to measure the processes and outcomes of empowerment in the main systems and populations living in today's multifaceted communities is a useful mechanism to determine change.

Subject Area

Public health|Welfare|Social psychology|Social work

Recommended Citation

Reininger, Belinda Matteson, "Advancing the theory of collective empowerment: A qualitative study" (1994). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9528253.