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It’s my home : residents’ views of the power dynamics in a community living home Lewis, Fiona Claire

Abstract

In this qualitative study, I explored male residents' views of the power dynamics in a community living home for people with disabilities. The purpose of the study was to develop an understanding of how the men experienced power in the setting of their home. In particular, I explored whether they experienced power as oppression or a variable, productive force. I also endeavoured to understand how the participants responded to the power of others such as the staff in the home or the agency management and what role the staff and agency played in empowering the residents. Four men participated in the study which took place over a 6 week period. They lived in a home managed by a non-profit agency. I used a methodology which combined group interviews with observations. The data from the interviews and observations were analyzed using the techniques of grounded theory. My analysis produced four main findings. The first was that power was dispersed among the residents, the residential staff and the agency board and management. The second finding was that empowerment occurred as both an internal and external process. The third finding was that the outcomes of an empowering interaction included power sharing, collaboration, negotiation, and improved quality of life for the residents. The final finding was that relationships with roommates were of greater significance to the participants than relationships with staff or with the agency. I propose an empowerment model which describes the process of empowerment as requiring three elements: the opportunity to exercise power, motivation to exercise power, and ability. The model depicts potential outcomes of an interaction when only two of these three elements are present. I also discuss environmental and psycho-social factors which impact on each of the elements. This study has implications for social work policy and practice in terms of steps that organizations and individuals can take to empower clients. It also has implications for social work theory in that it demonstrates that a synthesis of empowerment theory and post-structuralism is possible and instructive. Areas for further research are also described.

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