The Meaning of Empowerment: What Fuels a Movement for Global Change

By Daniel Klingelhoets People Operations Manager in Honduras

Anyone who has come in contact with Global Brigades has certainly heard the words ‘empower’ or ‘empowerment’ – but has it ever been defined for what that means, or its significance,  for the organization, or even the international development industry? This term is an important element of the Global Brigades model and approach to sustainable development. In some ways it defines Global Brigades. It’s even number one of six core organizational values.  

Taking a further look, from Merriam-Webster we get the following definition:


  1. : the act or action of empowering someone or something : the granting of the power, right, or authority to perform various acts or duties
  2. : the state of being empowered to do something : the power, right, or authority to do something

Those definitions are great. But what does that mean specifically for Global Brigades? The volunteers, staff, and community partners? For us, it’s creating an infrastructure that propels passion to impactful results. Creating a network of individuals with one goal – to empower volunteers and under-resourced communities to resolve global health and economic disparities and inspire all involved to collaboratively work towards an equal world. That’s our mission.

But WHY?  All to improve equality of life by igniting the largest student-led social responsibility movement on the planet. That’s WHY we’re all about empowerment.

VolunteersOur goal is to empower volunteers to be advocates for change. GB volunteers have access to a network of passionate individuals, resources, tools, and the education needed to be informed global citizens. Furthermore, empowering volunteers to take ownership of their work, involvement, and Chapter, strengthens the movement on a global level. Our volunteers are not just drivers of change with Global Brigades, but beyond, and keeping them fueled as future leaders of the world is critical. That’s empowerment.

StaffWe have an incredible team of individuals that put strategic initiatives into action – equipped to simultaneously motivate and equally equip volunteers and community partners with the necessary tools to drive this change in their own lives, and in that of their neighbor. This passionate staff team working on the ground and behind the scenes year-round are facilitators of this movement, connecting the dots, and gathering resources to the benefit of all other stakeholders involved. From the international United States and Canada team members, all the way to the program technicians who work daily in communities in Central America and West Africa, through continuous feedback and active listening with volunteers and community partners – ideas are shaped, tested, and executed. That’s empowerment.

Community PartnersA successful model of sustainable change relies on heavy participation and commitment from both staff and community partners. It’s not a one-way street of directives from one side. That’s not motivating, beneficial, or even sustainable. Instead, the ethical and responsible approach is to invest time and energy to equip community partners with access to staff and education, training, and resources to execute long-term change in their own communities – driven by themselves. Authentic feelings of excitement and investment to drive each other forward, from within the community, and propel this movement at the community level. That’s empowerment.  

Organizations like Global Brigades have the commitment  to devote time and resources to take a part as active listeners, identify problems and needs, and use collaborative approaches to address them – learning, reviewing, and adapting at each step of the way.  The Holistic Model has formed from years of listening to needs at all levels of this collaborative network of passionate stakeholders of the movement. Most critically, to know if all of these efforts are going anywhere,  we measure the impact, evaluate, and report the results.

At the end of the day, what does this empowerment culminate in for Global Brigades, in particular? Click here to find out. If that’s not enough, check out our latest Annual Report. That’s empowerment.

To get involved in this movement visit If you are a Chapter Leader looking to empower volunteers on your campus to take ownership in the movement, contact People Operations Manager, Daniel Klingelhoets, at to bring GB Empowerment Training to your Chapter’s leadership team.

Global Brigades