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In light of the ideal form of participation, the crucial question for facilitators is how to support people to reach the top rungs of the ladder of participation, becoming effective leaders and empowered individuals with their social groups, communities and societies as a whole. Since the possibilities for participation are related to power, the fundamental didactical approach we promote is empowerment.


Empowerment is a process of promoting competences for public social activity, cooperative organization, and involvement in public decision-making.


A self-organised, often informal or non-formal, process of acquiring these competences.

As an approach based on understanding power and power relations it deals with questions like:

  • How do you gain power?
  • How do you use power?
  • How do you shape power relations?
  • How can you influence socially relevant conversations and decisions?

On an individual level, empowerment is feeling, accepting, and using one’s individual power in terms of self-responsible independent action. In education and training it can be understood as a process of gaining competencies for public social activity, cooperative self-organization, and involvement in any public decision-making.

In this sense, not all empowerment is citizenship education. Many activities are the result of self-learning and self-organisation. But an understanding of empowerment as learning and of civic action as active learning might support these processes.

In the context of competency-centered civic education, empowerment is a requirement and goal for participatory learning processes and trainings.

Participation and Empowerment in Education

Viewed through an empowerment lens, participation is measured by the extent to which learners are able to actively influence what is learned and how. In particular, it depends on their opportunities to self-organise, on opportunities to participate and negotiate, or on the relation between facilitators and learners.

In the ideal both would negotiate and agree commonly about the learning process, which implies that facilitators should have a clear understanding of themselves as supporters (helping learners to act autonomously including increasing their self-competence).

As such they are not learners and have specific responsibility and influence (power critical self-reflection, accountability). On the other hand participatory facilitation requires facilitators perceiving themselves and acting as equal partners to learners (horizontal collaboration).


Further Reading: