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EASTERN UNIVERSITY                                                                        Ph.D. in Organizational Leadersh...
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Empowerment and liberation in social justice organizations poster - dreistadt


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Poster from International Leadership Association conference, October 2012

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Empowerment and liberation in social justice organizations poster - dreistadt

  1. 1. EASTERN UNIVERSITY Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership A postcritical existential phenomenological study about experiences of empowerment and liberation in social justice leadership Jessica R. Dreistadt, Student Abstract Method and Definition of Terms Empowerment and liberation are complex social Phenomenology overall has been criticized for failing to thoroughly examining social and political influences on individual phenomena with multiple meanings. This experience, being ahistorical, focusing on immediate experiences, marginalizing people by homogenizing experience, and supporting preliminary study explores those meanings within the existing system (Cheng, 1995; Dahlberg, 2006; Stoller, 2010). Existential phenomenology acknowledges that individual experience the context of progressive social change is understood within the context of participants’ background; thus, the influence of social and political factors on meaning making and organization leadership through postcritical the limitation of freedom is recognized (Lopez & Willis, 2004). I chose to add a postcritical (Hytten, 2004) element to explicitly expose existential phenomenology. The results challenged and explore the political and social structures and power dynamics inherent to the topic. There is great common ground between my assumptions about the topic but also expanded phenomenology and critical theory: self-determination; seeking the truth about people and society; pursuit of liberation; increased the depth of my understanding. awareness of social structures and influence; lack of submission to predetermined social categories; and the influence of the past and material conditions of society (Gorman, 1976). Forrester (1983) claims that critical theory is structural phenomenology because it connects individual action and meaning with the historical context and macrostructure. Because empowerment and liberation are the definitive goals of both existentialism and critical theory, such a marriage seems natural in the study of this topic (Lawler, 2005; Research Rexhepi & Torres, 2011). While there are multiple interpretations of the terms empowerment and liberation, there is a clear differentiation between personal empowerment and structural change. Most studies of empowerment focus on psychological, rather than structural, dimensions and few Questions studies link the two (Biron & Bamberger, 2010). Social change requires both psychological and political empowerment (Raelin, 2008). 1. What is the meaning of empowerment and liberation? How do volunteers and staff of Preliminary Results progressive social change organizations describe experiences of empowerment and liberation? How The participant was a self-employed former corporate employee with a lengthy and diverse history of activism and leadership do experiences of empowerment and liberation within labor unions, religious institutions, community-based organizations, local government, and political groups. We explored his influence the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of most significant experiences in progressive social change organizations, the meanings he ascribed to those experiences, his volunteers and staff of progressive social change leadership during those times, and his understanding and experiences of empowerment and liberation. organizations? His desire to participate in social change organizations resulted from the sense of solidarity he experienced while in the military and his Jewish faith. He feels that his faith broadened what he experienced as the “military socialist ideal” to include all people and 2. How does involvement in progressive social gave him a vision for a “besser velt” (Yiddish for better world). change organizations influence experiences of The participant identified two experiences in social change organizations that have been the most meaningful for him: negotiating empowerment and liberation? How do the a labor contract while president of a labor union, which resulted in the elimination of an unjust pay scale; and assisting with the organizational, environmental, social, and political renovation and revitalization of a community arts organization. He felt personally invested in both organizations and had a lengthy contexts of progressive social change organizations history with each. Through these peak experiences, he has developed meaningful relationships with others in his community, which he influence experiences of empowerment and feels is the most rewarding aspect of being involved with social change organizations. He has also expanded his leadership skills; he liberation? How do leadership practices and learned to carefully pick battles, focus on issues of significance and minimize the attention given to minor issues, effectively negotiate, relationships influence experiences of balance the needs of the organization with those of employees, set the tone, envision and experience success despite tremendous empowerment and liberation? obstacles, balance dreaming and wishing for a different future with pragmatic action, engage the support and commitment of others in a cause, help others realize the value of their input, synthesize the ideas of a diverse group, and develop constructive relationships 3. How do experiences of empowerment and with leaders of other organizations. liberation influence involvement in progressive We discussed his understanding of empowerment and liberation and his personal experiences of those phenomena. He social change organizations? How do experiences described empowerment as one of the components that must be in place in order for people to experience self-actualization. He does of empowerment and liberation influence emergent not remember a time that he did not feel empowered. “I have always viewed the entire world as open to me.” Yet, he notes that he felt leadership among staff and volunteers of most empowered when he was the member of a labor union. “Being a union member makes a person feel like they are part of the progressive social change organizations? How do family of man…we take care of each other…despite feeling very self-confident about my own ability to manage my way through the individuals who have experienced empowerment world, I can still see the power that unions provided me and others.” His most significant experience of liberation was resigning from and liberation through involvement in progressive this corporation during a merger after a 25-year career. He started a business and now has more time to devote to community service, social change organizations describe the influence political action, and family. During this discussion, the participant interchangeably used the words empowerment and liberation with an of these on their own leadership? emphasis on the former; the meanings he ascribes to these constructs overlap. This confirms my research findings that there are multiple meanings for each and that there is a greater emphasis and understanding of empowerment in the leadership literature.This study was conducted for a Qualitative ResearchMethods course. The purpose was to both explore a topic ofinterest and to develop my understanding of the methodselected and the research process. In this preliminary study, Referencesone interview was conducted with a person to whom I hadaccess. This poster reflects a summarization of two papers Biron, M. & Bamberger, P. (2010). The impact of structural empowerment on individual well-being and performance: Taking agent preferences, self-efficacy, and operational constraints into account. Human Relations, 63(2), 163-191.written during the course of one semester (available upon Cheng, C. (1995). Introduction: Experience, essentialism, and essence: changing organizations through personal work and gender stories. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 8(6), 3-7.request). Dahlberg, K. (2006). ‘The individual in the world – the world in the individual’: Toward a human science phenomenology that includes the social world. The Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, 6 (Special Edition). Forester, J. (1983). Critical theory and organizational analysis. In G. Morgan (Ed.), Beyond Method: Strategies for Social Research (pp. 129-146). Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.Dreistadt, J. (2012). A postcritical existential Gorman, R. A. (1976). Phenomenology, social science, and radicalism: The view from existence. Politics & Society, 6(4), 491-513.phenomenological study about experiences of Hytten, K. (2004). Post-critical ethnography: Research as a pedagogical encounter. In G.W. Noblit, S. Y., Flores, & E. G. Murillo Jr. (Eds.), Postcritical Ethnography: Reinscribing Critique (pp. 95- 105). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.empowerment and liberation in social justice leadership. Lawler, J. (2005). The essence of leadership? Existentialism and leadership. Leadership, 1(2), 215-231.Poster presented at the 14th annual conference of the Lopez, K. A. & Willis, D. G. (2004). Descriptive versus interpretive phenomenology: Their contributions to nursing knowledge. Qualitative Health Research, 14(5), 726-735.International Leadership Association, Leadership Across the Raelin, J. A. (2008). Emancipatory discourse and liberation. Management Learning, 39(5), 519-540. Rexhepi, J. & Torres, C. A. (2011). Reimagining critical theory. British Journal of Education and Sociology, 5, 679-698.Great Divides: Bridging Cultures, Contexts, and Stoller, S. (2010). Phenomenology and the poststructural critique of experience. International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 17(5), 707-737.Complexities, Denver, CO, USA.