A Framework with Cases
from Latin America
Patti Petesch, Catalina Smulovitz, and Michael Walton
There is a growing literature on how to evaluate the role and importance of empowerment in poverty reduction and development. The interest in evaluation has emerged with the rising recognition of empowerment as a promising source of more effective, and more inclusive, development. It is seen particularly as a means of increasing the capacity of poor people and subordinate groups to influence development processes. Empowerment was highlighted as one of the primary forces for poverty reduction by the World Bank in its millennium World Development Report 2000/2001: Attacking Poverty, and in subsequent strategy statements. The World Bank’s empowerment sourcebook states that “A growing body of evidence points to the linkages between empowerment and development effectiveness both at the society-wide level and at the grassroots level” (Narayan 2002).
There has been considerable study of the role of empowerment-related factors in poverty reduction and overall development. Yet there are few, if any, rigorous evaluations that allow the contribution of empowerment to be measured and compared with other influences on developmental outcomes, whether at the local or society-wide level. There is also a paucity of empirical analysis of the causal influences on empowerment itself. Yet this type of information is crucial to assessing the potential for public action to foster empowerment and for according it priority relative to other pressing concerns of policy makers and other development actors. Since the early 1990s, a growing number of development projects and activities (including those supported by the World Bank) have featured components that seek to directly empower poorer groups. These activities have worked, for instance, to combat corruption and