Confusing mobilisation and empowerment?
9 August, 2008
Taken as it stands, the recent article on the Guardian Katine website: “Katine community welcomes Amref’s empowerment drive” reinforces the concerns I expressed to AMREF in my January 2008 visit to the KCPP (the Katine project).
That was about the risk of confusing mobilisation with empowerment. These two processes are at the opposite end of a continuum, they are not the same kind of thing. Mobilisation is about pursuasion, getting people to do things you want them to do, or what you think they should be doing (e.g. getting their children immunised). Empowerment is about enabling people to do what they want to do, whatever that might be. Diversity of people’s behavior is often a good indicator of successful empowerment. For example, increased diversity of ways of earning income in a local economy, as an indicator of economic empowerment. Related to this diversity definition is the willingness to express differences of opinion with others. To argue, not just to cooperate. For example, to demand a health service which has essential drugs in stock, or to demand a school where teachers are present in their post.
It could easily be argued that because there can be place in a development project for mobilisation, as well as empowerment, that these two roles should be the responsibility of two different people in an organisation. Not the responsibility of the same person.
Unfortunately in Anne’s article Richard is introduced both as “the Amref officer for empowerment,…” and later quoted as saying “I lead all ‘mobilisation’ processes” If I was a UK reader of Anne’s article I would be wondering if there is risk that one of Richard’s tasks will end up being neglected, and whether that might be the most troublesome one: empowerment