Approaches to Community Empowerment

Approaches to Community Empowerment

1.     A Utopian Approach oriented to a vision of a future community whose members will be able to fulfill their human and social potential. This approach draws its inspiration from the utopians of the 19th century. Although it is far from the idyllic scene of adults and children who are cultured, educated, strong, healthy, and possess high moral qualities, who group together in a rural setting to grow vegetables and weave clothes, it too preaches egalitarianism and autarchy. The separation from society at large is necessary in order to realize important social goals of the members (Friedmann, 1987).

2.     A Rehabilitation Approach which focuses on the situation of ethnic minorities, and more recently also of other minorities, such as the disabled (Dolnick, 1993). On this view, the community struggles with life beside a different and sometimes hostile society, and grapples with the dilemma of integration into this society. Here too a utopian vision exists: to revitalize the intimate and supportive community in which, more by necessity than because they want to, people whom the society isolates and discriminates against live today (O’Sullivan, 1984; Friedmann, 1989; Rivera & Erlich, 1984, Cendeluci, 1995).

3.     A Social Approach which redefines community and departs, perhaps too sharply (because quite a few people still live in traditional communities in our time too) from the traditional community as it used to be (Warren, 1975). The new community is a social collective entity, and the image appropriate to it is one of people with common problems and generally a common dependence on service providers. This is a community which does not include all the aspects of existence, but responds to those needs in people’s lives for the sake of which it was created (Reinharz, 1984). Parents of children with Down’s Syndrome can create a community for themselves to deal with all aspects of their lives as parents of these children: the care, the raising and the development of the child. However, they may also have life interests which they do not share with this community (Handler, 1990).

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