The concept of youth empowerment
The concept of youth empowerment addressed by this research is based on the idea that young individuals or young people as a collective should not take responsibility for this process, nor share this responsibility only with the community. Rather, we believe that public policies are largely responsible for the possibilities of empowerment that young people have at their disposal, because they largely depend on resources, services and programmes that can limit or enhance their abilities and, ultimately, their opportunities for empowerment.
An extensive documentary analysis of youth empowerment has been carried out as part of the research (Úcar, Jiménez-Morales, Soler, Trilla, 2016), and on the basis of this we have formulated our own definition and a pedagogical model for the places, times and processes involved in youth empowerment (Soler, Trilla, Jiménez-Morales, Úcar, 2017). The core idea of empowerment refers to two different but successive abilities: firstly, the ability to decide, and then the ability to act in a manner consistent with what has been decided. In order for these abilities to be put into practice and exercised, at least two necessary conditions must be in place:
a) Young people must have certain internal, personal or psychological capabilities (knowledge, attitudes, aptitudes, values, abilities). This condition is essentially subject to their education.
b) The environment in which young people evolve must enable them to make decisions and execute them. This condition is subject to political, economic, legal, and material aspects, as well as others such as rules and regulations, social pressures, stereotypes, modes, etc.
The concrete definition for our idea of empowerment is as follows:
“It is that process which increases the likelihood of a person being able to decide on and act consistently regarding everything that affects their own lives, participate in decision-making and intervene in a shared and responsible way with regard to the collective they form a part of. This requires two conditions: that they acquire and develop a series of personal capabilities (knowledge, attitudes, aptitudes, skills…), and that the environment facilitates their being able to use these capabilities effectively.” (Soler, Trilla, Jiménez-Morales and Úcar, 2017, p. 22)