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With empowerment (of English empowerment "empowerment Empowerment") refers to strategies and measures the degree of autonomy and self-determination should increase in people's lives and communities and enable them, their interests unilaterally, (again) responsible and self-determined to represent. Empowerment here refers to both the process of empowerment and the professional support of the people, their sense of power and lack of influence ( powerlessness ) to overcome and to exercise their discretion and resources and use. Prerequisites for empowerment within an organization are a culture of trust and the willingness to delegate responsibility at all hierarchical levels, appropriate qualification and suitable communication systems.

The term empowerment is also used for a state of self-responsibility and self-determination; In this sense, empowerment is sometimes referred to in German as self-competence .

The term empowerment comes from the US community psychology and is associated with the social scientist Julian Rappaport (1985).

In social work, empowerment is a working approach of resource-oriented intervention. In the context of civic education and democratic education , empowerment is seen as an instrument to increase citizenship. Empowerment is also a key concept in the discussion about promoting civic engagement . Empowerment as a concept that is characterized by a move away from a deficit-oriented to a strength-oriented perception is increasingly found in management concepts, in adult and further education , in narrative biography work and self-help . Empowerment is a central concept in health promotion .

Empowerment in social work

Empowerment in senior work in a nursing home in Munich

The concept of empowerment contrasts the deficit perspective still widespread in social work with a clientele afflicted with deficiencies ( deficiencies ) with an orientation towards the potentials and resources of people. In the foreground of this approach is the strengthening of (still) existing potential and the encouragement to expand these possibilities. Empowerment in the socio-educational field of action tries to support people in regaining their freedom of decision and choice, to support their autonomous lifestyle and to motivate them to develop further. As far as working with elderly people, people with disabilities and people with a mental illness, for example, empowerment can lead to the highest possible degree of autonomy and motivate those affected to go beyond the limits they have experienced and set themselves.

In social work, the main focus is often on the subject-centered or group-related level. With regard to certain groups of people (e.g. people with intellectual disabilities), it is essential to also work on the institutional and socio-political level. The primary concern here is the creation of democratic structures and the dismantling of hierarchies in the institutions (e.g. dormitories for people with intellectual disabilities) and, furthermore, the creation of opportunities for participation and influence on a political level. Professional social work presents itself as coordinating and mediating support in cooperation with those affected.

So far, the topic of empowerment has rarely been explicitly taught as a focus in social work science courses. Exceptions are e.g. B. a certificate course at the Alice Salomon University in Berlin or the master's degree in “Empowerment Studies” at the Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences.

Empowerment in medical treatment / therapy

Empowerment is now widely used in everyday medical practice. However, over 90% of the experts questioned were unable to explain the meaning in the German language in an understandable or correct manner. In order to explain this term more clearly in common usage, the working group “Concretization of Reform Approaches - Specializations - GuK” (BGM) in Vienna created a simple, summarizing definition: “Empowerment is the promotion of the ability to act independently / self-determined” (resource promotion / motivation /Participation).

Empowerment and new civic engagement

In the discussion about the new civic engagement as a modern variant of voluntary work, great importance is attached to promoting the self-competence of the citizens. Voluntary engagement should no longer be defined by unpaid work and "honor" by taking over offices in clubs and associations, but should offer committed fellow citizens a platform to take their concerns into their own hands. After decades of all-round government provision and the expansion of expertise , in which the layperson's freedom of action outside of his or her private sphere has been increasingly restricted, a return to lay skills should now take place and the citizens' contribution to solving social problems should be appreciated become. Civic engagement should offer the individual the opportunity to participate actively in the community again and through this activity to increase his skills, for example through further training .

Empowerment in the workplace

The idea of ​​empowerment is increasingly finding its way into management concepts . In this context, empowerment includes approaches for greater participation and involvement of employees in order to be able to cope with their tasks as independently and independently as possible. As an “empowerment circle”, the strengths-based approach becomes an instrument for organizational development . As a further development of the quality circles, the interdisciplinary organized empowerment teams aim to improve the organizational culture and strengthen the motivation and skills of employees. Through flat hierarchies, participation in decisions, opening of creative spaces, a positive, appreciative team culture, self- evaluation , assumption of responsibility (also for results), more self-determination and constant further learning, a subjective job satisfaction of the employees should be achieved, which an optimal use of the existing Potentials and skills allowed. Here can knowledge management make a significant contribution to employee participation as a guiding principle to realize, for example by creating knowledge communities. A scientific study has shown that employees are the more innovative the more self-determined they can act.

However, it must be ensured that the individual employee also has the skills to live up to the responsibility assigned to him. Otherwise there is a risk of being overwhelmed or lethargy to act. The aim of these activities is, among other things, to save control costs that are eliminated by the employee's independent and self-motivated action.

Employee empowerment requires a culture of trust in the organization and an appropriate information and communication system.

Employee turnover can also be reduced through empowerment.

Community empowerment

Local self-help projects or cooperative forms of local problem solving such as the Indonesian waste banks are increasingly understood as measures of community empowerment .

Information security empowerment

In the information security empowerment is an older approaches to security-related awareness ( awareness following) model for the ability of private users as well as employees and managers in enterprises and organizations, competently handling the risks of IT-based communication and to take responsibility in their sphere of influence here . In this case, empowerment is intended, among other things, to compensate for a lack of experience with threats from the Internet, e-mail and other modern communication channels.


Paradoxically, the finding that a certain group needs empowerment, i.e. that their self-esteem has to be strengthened on the basis of the awareness of their strengths, is always preceded by a deficit diagnosis by the experts dealing with the problems of this group. The fundamental asymmetry of the relationship between experts and clients is usually not called into question by empowerment. It is critical to consider the extent to which the empowerment approach can really be applied to all clients. In particular, the question arises as to whether mentally ill people in acute crisis situations see themselves in a position to make independent decisions. According to Albert Lenz, people behave regressively in acute crisis situations and hand over responsibility to the specialists. It must therefore be assumed that the person concerned needs a minimum level of communication and reflection skills in order to implement the empowerment concept.

See also


  • Robert Adams. Empowerment, participation and social work . Palgrave Macmillan, New York 2008.
  • Meinrad M. Armbruster: Eltern AG - The empowerment program for more parenting skills in problem families. Auer, Heidelberg 2006, ISBN 3-89670-561-X .
  • Kenneth Blanchard, John P. Carlos, Alan Randolph: The new management concept: Employees bring more when they are allowed to do more. Rowohlt Verlag, Hamburg 1998, ISBN 3-498-00595-2 .
  • Thomas Haug: That (doesn't) play a role! Theater of Liberation according to Augusto Boal as an empowerment tool in the context of self-help. ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-89821-486-9 . (Connection of Boal's theater with the self-help idea and the empowerment concept, theoretical discussion, description of methods and concrete practical suggestions for social work)
  • Norbert Herriger: Empowerment in social work. Kohlhammer, 2002, ISBN 3-17-017141-0 .
  • Heiner Keupp : Health Promotion and Mental Health. Life sovereignty and empowerment. In: Psychomed 4/1992, 244-250. 1992.
  • Heiner Keupp: The (re-) acquisition of competence to act. Empowerment in psychosocial practice. In: Behavior Therapy and Psychosocial Practice 3/1993, 365–381. 1993.
  • Heiner Keupp: Psychological action in the risk society. Cape. 7: empowerment and early intervention ; Cape. 8: fetish identity . Quintessence, Munich. 96-127. 1994.
  • Thomas Kliche & Gesa Kröger: Empowerment in Prevention and Health Promotion - A concept-critical inventory of basic understandings, dimensions and survey problems. Thieme - E-Journals, Stuttgart. 2008.
  • Andreas Knuf, Margret Osterfeld, Ulrich Seibert: Promote self-empowerment. Empowerment and psychiatric work. 5. revised Edition. Psychiatrie-Verlag, Bonn 2007, ISBN 978-3-88414-413-8 .
  • Andreas Knuf: Empowerment in psychiatric work. 4., corr. Edition. Psychiatrie-Verlag, Bonn 2013, ISBN 978-3-88414-409-1 .
  • Marfan Foundation Switzerland: Health literacy and empowerment in the case of chronic physical impairments using the example of Marfan syndrome. Bern 2008, ISBN 978-3-033-01587-6 .
  • Sinah Marx: Empowerment. In: Journal for Theater Education. Correspondence. Issue 53.Schibri -Verlag, Hannover 2008, ISSN  1865-9756 .
  • Lars Mohr: Aims and forms of curative educational work: a study on “empowerment” as a conceptual term in education for the mentally handicapped. Ed. SZH / CSPS, Luzern 2004, ISBN 3-908262-48-8 .
  • Ralf Quindel: Between empowerment and social control. The self-image of professionals in social psychiatry. Psychiatry, Bonn. 2004.
  • Evelin Rosenfeld: What is really important to you. Personal Empowerment Workbook. Junfermannverlag, Paderborn 2004, ISBN 3-87387-587-X .
  • Wolfgang Stark: Empowerment. New strategies for action in psychosocial practice. Lambertus, Freiburg i. B., 1996. ISBN 3-7841-0850-4 .
  • Georg Theunissen, Wolfgang Plaute: Handbook Empowerment and Curative Education. Lambertus Verlag, Freiburg im Breisgau 2002, ISBN 3-7841-1336-2 .
  • David Vossebrecher, Karin Jeschke: Empowerment between vision for practice and theoretical diffusion. In: Forum Critical Psychology 51 . Argument Hamburg, 2007. ( http://www.kritische-psychologie.de/files/FKP_51_David_Vossebrecher_Karin_Jeschke.pdf )
  • Hans A. Wüthrich, Dirk Osmetz, Stefan Kaduk: pattern breakers . Live leadership anew. Gabler Verlag, Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-8349-0507-0 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Empowerment  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Single receipts

  1. Sven Brandes / Wolfgang Stark: Empowerment / Abähigung (2016) . In: Federal Center for Health Education (Ed.): Key terms in health promotion - online glossary . doi : 10.17623 / bzga: 224-i010-1.0 .
  2. Theunissen, Plaute: Manual empowerment and special education. 2002, p. 40 ff.
  3. Empowerment-oriented crisis intervention ( memento of the original from February 19, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.ash-berlin.eu
  4. Empowerment Studies ( Memento of the original from September 27, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / soz-kult.fh-duesseldorf.de
  5. http://www.empowerment.de/grundlagen/_p7.html empowerment.de, found on February 22, 2014
  6. Collaborative and virtual idea management, accessed on November 23, 2014
  7. Learning and knowledge management in empowerment processes, accessed on November 23, 2014, Section 2.1
  8. Carsten C. Schermuly: Empowerment . In: Psychologie heute 12/2013, accessed on November 23, 2014.
  9. Rita Kurre and Nadja Tolksdorf: Retention - factors for the design of the work environment . 2012, p. 25, found on February 22, 2014.
  10. Urs E. Gattiker: Why information security awareness initiatives have failed and will continue to do so. (PDF; 279 kB) Presentation at the govcert.nl 2007 conference.
  11. Axel Mario Tietz, Johannes Wiele: Awareness is just a beginning. In: Information service IT-Grundschutz. No. 5/6, May 2009, ISSN  1862-4375 , pp. 28-30.
  12. Heilpaedagogik-info.de
  13. Albert Lenz: Empowerment and Resource Activation - Perspectives for Psychosocial Practice.