Empowerment in the context of climate change: how community-based organizations can play a role in engaging citizens

Heuscher, Annie
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Climate change has been noted by many as "perhaps the most profound challenge ever to have confronted human social, political, and economic systems" (Dryzek, Norgaard, and Schlosberg 2011, 3). Humans around the world though, have failed to develop an effective response. Significant research in the past has explored the reasons why people choose not to take action on climate change; this research seeks to understand the motivations and experiences of those who do choose to take action on climate change. Through a case study methodology, this research uses in-depth interviews with participants of a Transition Initiative in southern Appalachia to understand both the individual process of empowerment and the role of the organization in that process. Results demonstrate the importance of the type of space that is created within the group, a space that is collaborative and safe for participants to explore and express their feelings, fears, and hopes. The results also note the significance the group placed on their focus on resilience, as opposed to mitigation of climate change within its work of awareness-raising and capacity-building. In developing and maintaining the organization, the group faced significant challenges navigating this new type of structure and the obstacles it presented. This research offers insight into the challenges as well as the opportunities presented by groups such as this one in working to increase empowerment in the context of climate change.

Community Organizing, Efficacy, Empowerment, Qualitative Research, Social Capital, Transition