Collective actionAutonomy and action gather strength in a collective process:“the simple act of listening to people’s stories, respectfully giving one’s full attention, is an act of personal empowerment, but to bring about change for social justice this process needs to be collective and needs to be located within wider structures” (ibid.)
Structures• Micro – our day to day practice• Meso – organisational and professional governance and norms• Macro – National law, policy, and ‘discourses’• Beneficiary – children, young people and families
Structures are positive and negativeEnabling ConstrainingPolicy A is fantastic, it means I can…. Policy A is terrible, it means I have to….Less resources mean we need to do Less resources mean we don’t havemore together time do anything togetherThe way people work together is really I have to work with everyone all theinclusive and I get more out of it time, and it really gets in the way of doing my jobPlease help me out, I am really Don’t think that you can come into thisstruggling in how to handle my kids, house telling us what to do,, bloomin’and know that you might be able to busy body….help
Agency is…..• “individuals need to be conceptualised as personally agentic, yet socially shaped over time.” (Mead, 1913)• Agency; “implies the ability of individuals or groups to act on their situations, to behave as subjects rather than objects in their own lives, to shape their own circumstances and ultimately achieve change” (Jeffery, 2011, p. 6)
• “Any reasonably complete theory of human agency will need, in some way, to advert to our reflectiveness, our planfulness, and our conception of agency as temporally extended” Bratman (2007, p. 22).• Giddens (1984), Archer (2000), Hay (2004) are leading contemporary authors who debate structure and agency.
Our ideas….• Structure pre-exists actions• Structures influence identity• Identity influences empowerment• Empowerment influences agency• Agency interacts with structures, creating a new structure• So empowerment, agency and structures exist in a cyclical relationship.
???• How important is our language when we are discussing ‘empowerment’?• How can we encourage people to focus on the enabling aspects of structure, rather than just the constraints?
Key referencesArcher, M. (2000) Being Human, the problem of agency. Cambridge,Cambridge University Press.Bratman, M. (2007) Structures of Agency. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Freire, P. (1973). Education for a critical consciousness. New York: SeaburyPress.Giddens, A. (1984) The Constitution of Society. Cambridge: Polity Press.Hay, C. (2002) Political Analysis. Basingstoke: Palgrave.Jeffery, L. (2011) Understanding Agency. Bristol: Policy Press.Ledwith, M. (2011). Community development: A critical approach (SecondEdition). Bristol: Policy Press.Maynard (2011) “Suddenly I See”- Outdoor Youth Development’s Impact onYoung Women’s Well-being: An Empowerment Framework. Unpublished PhDthesis. University of Cumbria.Mead, G. (1913) The Social Self. Bobbs Merril Reprint.