Empowerment is defined as the granting of the power, right, or authority to perform various acts or duties. If you are empowered to do something, it means you are given the agency and resources to accomplish the given task. Without empowerment, we are powerless.
Unfortunately, millions of people are living powerless in the area of their finances. Due to a number of factors, they do not have (or do not think they have) the agency or resources to climb out of poverty. The solution is not to throw money at the problem. It’s economic empowerment. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines economic empowerment as “the capacity of women and men to participate in, contribute to and benefit from growth processes in ways that recognize the value of their contributions, respect their dignity and make it possible to negotiate a fairer distribution of the benefits of growth.”
Economic empowerment is by no means easy. It takes time and patience. So, this blog aims to provide a brief overview of what economic empowerment is and how you can engage in it.
The Origin of Economic Empowerment
We can trace economic empowerment all the way back to Genesis 1:27-28:
“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
God empowered humans to go and make a world. He provided the resources and entrusted us to be wise stewards with the charge to “be fruitful and multiply.” A pastor and close friend of mine, Dave Metcalfe, often says that “be fruitful and multiply” can also be interpreted as “profit and growth” in our modern context. Because they are God-given blessings, we are called to profit and grow in a way that benefits others. (That’s why we need more Christians in the marketplace. Too many people use profit and growth for their own advantage in a way that afflicts others.)
So, we have been economically empowered by the creator of the universe. But it doesn’t stop there. We have been empowered so that we can empower others. Remember, we are made in the image of God. That means that empowering others is in our DNA, and it’s a critical part of our purpose. There’s no question about it. The next step, then, is figuring out the best way to empower others.
Empower vs Enable
The tension between empowerment and enablement is at the heart of every growth opportunity. Do we teach someone how to do something, or do we do it ourselves because it’s more efficient or simple?
Oftentimes, people’s desire to provide economic enablement comes from a good place: they want to help. A key example of this is foreign aid. The Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo explained this issue in her book, Dead Aid:
“Over the past 60 years, billions of dollars in development aid have been transferred from rich countries to Africa. However, per capita income today is lower than it was in the 1970s, and more than 50% of the population (350 million people) live on less than a dollar a day, a figure that has almost doubled in two decades.”
Aid has not helped because it does not teach people how to make money for themselves. It’s like giving someone a fish rather than teaching them how to fish. The ocean might have billons of fish, but that doesn’t matter if you don’t have a fishing pole.
• Doing It For Someone Else
• Short-Term Solutions
• One-Time Benefit
• Produces Dependency
• Teaching Someone Else
• Long-Term Growth
• Recurring Return on Investment
• Promotes Independence
3 Guiding Principles to Become an Agent of Economic Empowerment
1. Get Into a Posture of Humility
It is wonderful to have an eagerness to help people. However, we mustn’t harbor an “us / them” mentality in the process. In other words, they are not the victims, and we are not heroes.
In his book, When Helping Hurts, Steve Corbett wrote, “Until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do more harm than good. I sometimes unintentionally reduce poor people to objects that I use to fulfill my own need to accomplish something. I am not okay, and you are not okay. But Jesus can fix us both.”
It’s essential to recognize that God is already working in the people and communities we desire to help. We are invited into that process. The sole burden to “fix” a situation is not on us—praise the Lord! So, we can provide economic empowerment to others from a posture of humility and peace.
2. Consider Your Talents, Connections, and Resources
Economic empowerment can be intimidating when considering the poverty and brokenness in the world. Pause, pray, and take a deep breath. Like #1 mentioned, you aren’t in this alone. What do you have in your hand to offer right now? Who are some key connections in your network?
You may have training as a financial planner and can offer financial education to low-income communities. Maybe you’re an entrepreneur who can take an aspiring businessperson under your wing. Perhaps you don’t have formal training, but you want to contribute your financial resources to the economic empowerment of others. Once you determine the talents, connections, and resources at your disposal, the final step is to put them to good use.
3. Form Strategic Partnerships
Once you decide to become an agent of economic empowerment, you will be surprised about the people and organizations that are brought to your attention. There are so many people who are eager to lend a hand up, not a handout! Before you decide to partner with (or start) an organization with your time, talent, or resources, be strategic.
– Does this organization align with my values and vision?
– Do they operate in a way that promotes empowerment, not enablement?
– Are they positioning others for sustainable financial growth rather than providing quick surges of cash?
We created WealthBuilders with the goal of empowering people to empower others in their finances. We call it making sense of making money for making a difference. Now, we are excited to announce the formation of a new branch: WealthBuilders Africa.
Every day, people in Africa reach out to us and express their desire to become agents of economic empowerment in their communities. So, we decided to do something about it. WealthBuilders Africa will provide specific educational resources, webinars, and conferences by partnering with local leaders. Our goal is to equip the African people to become Kingdom Wealth Builders who spread sustainable economic growth throughout the continent. If you want to learn more about our vision and mission, we invite you to a free webinar on Giving Tuesday, November 29th, at 11:00am MT. Click here to register.
If you already feel compelled to become a strategic partner with WealthBuilders Africa or (WealthBuilders in general), we would love to invite you to do so. Click here to give a tax-deductible one-time or recurring donation.