The objectives of this study are to investigate (1) whether participatoryinterventions really make a significant contribution to the empowerment ofeconomically marginalized groups, and (2) whether any improvement in theirliving conditions will result from this empowerment. This research willapply a methodology that can measure changes in non-physical conditions,such as empowerment, and integrate the results obtained into a systemmodel, in order to monitor the differences between the decisions made by“more empowered” and “less empowered” people and the consequences of thosedecisions (in terms of changes in their socio-economic conditions).
Background and Justification
Poverty continues to pose a challenge in both the political and scientificarenas.
However, poverty is no longer defined in terms of whether an individual orfamily lives above or below a minimum level of income or consumption, orwhether they are deficient with regard to one or more aspects of the“basic needs approach”. The freedom to make decisions and the capabilitiesof the individual are also recognized as being essential, to anydefinition of poverty (see Sen A., 1999). It is also recognized thatcertain important factors undermine human development, for example a lackof power, confidence and/or influence, as well as social and physicalinsecurity, dependency, social exclusion, etc. Often, the influenceexerted by these factors does not show up in poverty assessment studies ina direct way, as they are not physically measurable and are oftensubjective in nature. However, it should be recognized that these factorshave a real and concrete effect on the lives of the poor. In fact theyare, simultaneously, both preconditions for poverty and side-effects ofpoverty.
For many years, therefore, participatory methods of intervention have beenapplied in many development projects. Such application is based on theconvictions (1) that active participation empowers the people involved ina project and (2) that a project is not sustainable if the target groups,end users, beneficiaries, etc. are not appropriately involved in theproject. Recognizing this recently even the World Bank (Narayan D., 2000)mention empowerment as an important factor in poverty alleviation.
But, is there any evidence to support the assumptions made aboutparticipation and empowerment? Oakley, for instance, wrote: “the wholearea of qualitative indicators has not progressed much in the last yearsand most development agencies that promote empowerment and wish tounderstand the effect or impact of this work have not made any substantialbreakthrough” (Oakley P., 2001).
Many development initiatives base their projects on the above convictions,an approach for which there is actually a lot of sympathy though not muchscientific evidence. In order to confirm and defend these assumptions,empowerment must first be measured, and then a significant relationshipbetween empowerment and an improvement in living conditions must beproved. This study aims to do just this.
Q-methodology is used for measuring empowerment and systems-models areused to track socio-economic consequencies of empowerment