How does empowerment happen?

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If you ask what ENGAGE, the organization I co-founded with my wife Kalpana, is doing, I would reply that we are in the business of empowerment.

Wow, a strong statement you might think. Indeed you are right:  it is easier to say it than actually get someone empowered.

After all, who are we to say that we do empowerment for people in need?

How can we claim that we are empowering a person living in a status of vulnerability, for example a persons with disabilities like ENGAGE even though the same process  can be extended to any other circumstances, you just name it: someone trying to win over drug addiction, someone who is trying to start a new life after a jail sentence just served and so on.

Michael Rosenkrantz a friend and Advisor at ENGAGE always explains that empowerment is a self development process, internalized and carried out by the person herself rather than a mechanical approach that can be “inserted” in someone. You cannot push a bottom and become empowered.

Yet I believe that it is possible to facilitate and stimulate this self development process, a long pathway towards inner and outer success.

The process starts with a process of self awareness that helps a person living in a vulnerable situation to realize that she, like any other human being, intrinsically embodies an untapped potential.

Many define this process as an “awakening”, the beginning of a self discovery journey, where you learn about yourself and very importantly you start believing in yourself.

You realize that, likewise the most successful persons, you have innate capabilities that, if put at work and properly used, the same can lead you to set new goals.

Even more significantly, you will attain a self consciousness that you will be able to achieve these goals regardless of their level of ambition, as it does not really matter if they are big or small.

In this initial phase, you start realizing that you can have a role and it is just a matter of figuring it out what this will be.

It is not just that you will “have” or you will “acquire” a role, you will be a role. “Being” a role means you matter, you count and must be taken in consideration by the society at large.

For this to happen, for people to consider you as an equal, what you need to find is a meaning in your life.

Finding a purpose means deciding on what you can do best, identifying the area where you can contribute the most and make a difference.

To get there, at this point, after this first self phase is completed, you need what another friend and ENGAGE Advisor Karl Brown defines as “self actualization” drive that will help challenge yourself and discover your capabilities that will lead you to a place in the society, to be your role.

When you discover “what you want, what you can do and what makes you satisfied and happy”, you will become meaningful and unconsciously you will have a personal life “mission” imbedded inside you.

Not everybody goes through this process: in some instances, we do not even realize that we have found our purpose in our life while in others, we just keep carrying on following a set flow that is certainly not what we really want.

Many persons living in vulnerable conditions do not have the chances to undertake this two steps transformational process, self awareness and self actualization but are simply pushed around by life circumstances.

Others instead can have the grit and insights to adjust and find their small niche and at least “have” a role with a sense of agency and purpose.

For example almost daily I see a very old man, dressing an orange color safety jacket, cleaning the streets around Jhamsikhel.

This old person probably might hate his job but it seems to me that he is fully dedicated and focused on making the street looks decent and he is indeed doing a good job.

To me this person, despite the age and small stature, is fulfilling a role in the society.

Maybe he might regret what brought him doing this kind of job or maybe had never had any other choices at life.

Whatever the reasons that pushed him on cleaning the streets, he seems in peace with that and actually quite happy in doing what is doing.

He is doing the job with dedication and attention and very importantly, with dignity.

If I am right and this is the case, this person is fulfilling a purpose in the society, serving his fellows citizens, making the streets better and cleaner.

Social purpose organizations, either for profit or not for profit, in the “business of empowerment” should be able to reach as many persons living in vulnerable status and facilitate their dual self awareness and self actualization process.

Establish a high level of trust will be essential as an organization can be effective in facilitating this empowerment process only if a true and honest partnership is created, encouraging and supporting the client or beneficiary in understanding potential lying ahead and support her in finding  ways to achieve it.

The empowerment process starting with self awareness and followed by self actualization ends when the person, after discovering what she can do and can be, is guided by a strong sense of hope leading her to achieve hers life and personal goals.


This is the only way towards real success, the one that starts within yourself and where, acting on yourself and independently, under inspiration of your purpose, you make the best of your capabilities, winning or losing, it does not really matter. I call this empowerment.


Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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