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Terms of empowerment: of conservation or communities?

  • Michael A. Petriello (a1), Lauren Redmore (a1), Aby Sène-Harper (a2) and Dhananjaya Katju (a1)

Abstract

In this era of socially-oriented biodiversity conservation and resource management, practitioners and scholars all too often invoke unclear and imprecise claims of empowerment to describe changing relations between people and resources. Empowerment is an important indicator of conservation success and social transformation. Yet, when scholars and practitioners fail to adequately conceptualize empowerment, they run the risk of undermining the importance of local involvement and capacity building to achieve biodiversity conservation. Here we explore the many ways empowerment has been conceptualized in conservation. We root our commentary in the history of the use of empowerment in conservation from these diverse perspectives. We then present examples of different meanings, measurements and outcomes ascribed to empowerment. We conclude with suggestions for harnessing empowerment for the benefit of conservationists and communities alike. Because empowerment has the potential to improve resource management outcomes and local livelihoods, we recommend building an adaptive empowerment assessment framework to assist with its deployment where it is most needed. Although empowerment goals in conservation can guide practitioners and scholars to engage with communities in transparent, meaningful and lasting ways, conservation needs a critical approach that builds from an appreciation of the nuances underlying the purpose and power of empowerment for conservation.

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Corresponding author

(Corresponding author) E-mail abyh@clemson.edu

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Keywords

Terms of empowerment: of conservation or communities?

  • Michael A. Petriello (a1), Lauren Redmore (a1), Aby Sène-Harper (a2) and Dhananjaya Katju (a1)

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