Measuring Empowerment in Practice: Structuring Analysis and Framing Indicators

123 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2005

Date Written: February 2005


Alsop and Heinsohn present an analytic framework that can be used to measure and monitor empowerment processes and outcomes. The measuring empowerment framework, rooted in both conceptual discourse and measurement practice, illustrates how to gather data on empowerment and structure its analysis. The framework can be used to measure empowerment at both the intervention level and the country level, as a part of poverty or governance monitoring.

The authors first provide a definition of empowerment and then explain how the concept can be reduced to measurable components. Empowerment is defined as a person's capacity to make effective choices - that is, the capacity to transform choices into desired actions and outcomes. The extent or degree to which a person is empowered is influenced by personal agency (the capacity to make purposive choice) and opportunity structure (the institutional context in which choice is made). Asset endowments are used as indicators of agency. These assets may be psychological, informational, organizational, material, social, financial, or human. Opportunity structure is measured by the presence and operation of formal and informal institutions, including the laws, regulatory frameworks, and norms governing behavior. Degrees of empowerment are measured by the existence of choice, the use of choice, and the achievement of choice.

Following the conceptual discussion and the presentation of the analytic framework, the authors show how the measuring empowerment framework can be applied using examples from four development interventions. Each example discusses how the framework guided analysis and development of empowerment indicators. They also present a draft module for measuring empowerment at the country level. The module can be used alone or be integrated into country-level poverty or governance monitoring systems that seek to add an empowerment dimension to their analysis.

This paper - a product of the Poverty Reduction Group, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network - is part of a larger effort in the network to conceptualize, operationalize, and measure empowerment.

Suggested Citation

Alsop, Ruth and Heinsohn, Nina, Measuring Empowerment in Practice: Structuring Analysis and Framing Indicators (February 2005). Available at SSRN:

Ruth Alsop (Contact Author)

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Nina Heinsohn

World Bank

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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