Empowerment and synergy: expanding the community's healing resources

Prev Hum Serv. 1983;3(2-3):201-30.


This paper suggests an alternative to the commonly-held "scarcity paradigm" of thinking about valued human resources, which assumes individuals must compete because resources are scarce. The alternative--the "synergy paradigm"--is empitomized in "synergistic community," where valued human resources are renewable and expanding, and distributed equitably to members, so that what is good for one is good for all and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Three field studies present cross-cultural evidence for the functioning of empowerment within a synergistic paradigm. Empowerment is considered as access to and control of valued resources; the specific valued resource focused upon is community healing. The studies suggest that community healing resources can become renewable and expanding, as can the process of empowerment which accesses them. Community members share these resources, combining conflicting resources into unexpectedly effective treatment packages. Given present inequities in resource distribution, transformative education is offered as one means to support a shift in thinking toward synergy.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Community Participation*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Fiji
  • Health Resources / supply & distribution*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Psychology, Social*
  • United States