Empowerment has become a mainstream concept in international development but lacks clear definition, which can undermine development initiatives aimed at strengthening empowerment as a route to poverty reduction. In the present article, written narratives from 49 international development organisations identify how empowerment is defined and operationalised in community initiatives. Results show a conceptual framework of empowerment comprising six mechanisms that foster empowerment (knowledge; agency; opportunity; capacity-building; resources; and sustainability), five domains of empowerment (health; economic; political; resource; and spiritual), and three levels (individual; community; and organisational). A key finding is the interdependence between components, indicating important programmatic implications for development initiatives.
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