Empowerment and Participation in Organized Outdoor Activities

Chris McVittie, Karen Goodall, Fiona O'May

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Empowerment is a central focus for much work in community psychology. Yet what constitutes empowerment is commonly problematic, especially in relation to programs for young people. We report outcomes from a case study of a UK program designed to empower young people through participation in organized outdoor activities. Grounded theory analysis of data from program leaders (n=10) identified four themes as relevant to success, namely 1) acquiring skills, 2) increasing self-efficacy, 3) prior community links, and 4) challenges in in social participation. Attempts to elicit young people’s (n=30) understandings were unsuccessful as they withdrew prior to completing the program. Such outcomes might be taken to indicate lack of engagement and lack of empowerment. On an alternative interpretation, however, lack of engagement might demonstrate participants’ power to make meaningful decisions. This interpretation points to the difficulties of attempting to define empowerment in practice and of seeking to assess the success of such programs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-91
JournalJournal of Social Sciences and Humanities
Issue number2
Early online date8 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


  • community
  • empowerment
  • grounded theory
  • participation
  • power
  • young people

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