The present Community Empowerment Manual draws upon the lessons learned of the Community Protection Approach implementation in Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territory and Central America during the period 2015-2020 by WeWorld – GVC and its partners.
The Manual means to accompany Field Staff in devising the most appropriate strategy to engage with communities, given the conditions of access, security and time of the specific context in which a project is implemented. Even though the steps described proceed alongside the implementation of the Community Protection Approach, the manual has different sections providing guidance for the definition of engagement strategies in any context or project in question.
Given the definitions of Community Empowerment chosen, the manual is applicable in any context in that it essentially guides on how to ensure a stronger agency of the population in making safe and informed decisions. The overall goal is therefore to ensure a proper transitional process to reduce the substitution caused by the Aid provided during the implementation of humanitarian and development projects.
The process of empowerment is accomplished when, on the one hand, the ability of individuals to make decisions and act has increased, and on the other hand, when they are able to change their surrounding environment, which is essential to the exercise of agency (Ibrahim & Alkire, 2007). Consequently, empowerment can be seen as both a process and an outcome.
At times, particularly in humanitarian settings or in presence of displaced populations (IDPs, Refugees, Migrants, etc..), there is the widespread perception that if there are no conditions for community empowerment beyond the communities, efforts in the direction of empowerment should not be undertaken. On the contrary, specifically when the surrounding environment is particularly coercive, empowerment inside communities is an essential process to ensure that the agency of the population is not further eroded.
Therefore, in the spirit of this manual, WeWorld-GVC intends to illustrate an operational approach to ensure at all times a people-centred approach to empowerment. The goal is to reverse the widespread tendency to reduce those actions that are essential in placing people at the centre, specifically in humanitarian contexts, due to project, contextual and/or time constraints. This approach is in line with the commitment taken by the Aid community during the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016.
While Sections I and II introduce a general approach valuable to all field Staff, Sections III and IV will be more familiar to field staff trained on the CPA. However, we suggest their reading by all field Staff in that they presents a wide amount of lessons learned and practical tips from field implementation in Protracted Crisis.