, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 631-656

Organizational characteristics of empowering community settings: A multiple case study approach

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Although empowerment is often cited as a major guiding construct for community psychology, relatively little is known about the characteristics of empowering community settings. The current paper uses a multiple case study methodology to generate a number of key organizational characteristics of empowering community settings to guide future work in the area. In-depth, multilevel, longitudinal research was conducted on three empowering community settings: a religious fellowship, a mutual help organization for persons with severe mental illness, and an educational program for African American students. The organizational features found to characterize all three settings were (a) a belief system that inspires growth is strengths-based, and is focused beyond the self; (b) an opportunity role structure that is pervasive, highly accessible, and multifunctional (c) a support system that is encompassing, peer-based, and provides a sense of community; and (d) leadership that is inspiring, talented, shared, and committed to both setting and members. Limitations of the research are discussed, and directions for future research suggested.