, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 677-697

Using empowerment theory in collaborative partnerships for community health and development

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Models of community empowerment help us understand the process of gaining influence over conditions that matter to people who share neighborhoods, workplaces, experiences, or concerns. Such frameworks can help improve collaborative partnerships for community health and development. First, we outline an interactive model of community empowerment that describes reciprocal influences between personal or group factors and environmental factors in an empowerment process. Second, we describe an iterative framework for the process of empowerment in community partnerships that includes collaborative planning, community action, community change, capacity building, and outcomes, and adaptation, renewal, and institutionalization. Third, we outline activities that are used by community leadership and support organizations to facilitate the process of community empowerment. Fourth, we present case stories of collaborative partnerships for prevention of substance abuse among adolescents to illustrate selected enabling activities. We conclude with a discussion of the challenges and opportunities of facilitating empowerment with collaborative partnerships for community health and development.

This work was supported by Kansas Health Foundation Grants 9206032B and 9206032A to support and evaluate community partnerships to prevent adolescent substance abuse. Thanks to Tom Wolff for sharing his wisdom about community coalitions so generously, and to Bill Berkowitz and anonymous reviewers for thoughtful comments on an earlier version of this manuscrpt. We also thank our colleagues from the Kansas Health Foundation, Mary K. Campuzano, Steve Coen, and Marni Vliet, and those from collaborating communities, who continue to teach us about ways to enhance community capacities to address local concerns.