What do you mean “Empowerment?” (Part I)

Thursday, July 12th, 2012|About Elexu|by David Smuts

This week we have a real treat for you: a blog post directly from David Smuts, the Co-Founder and CEO of Elexu. Enjoy!

I’ve been asked to contribute to our blog and this has been long overdue I must admit. With this being my first “public” posting here, I wanted to kick off by addressing an issue which is at the core of what Elexu is here to do; empower people.

OK, so what does “empowering people” mean? What does the word “empowerment” mean? Who are the “people” we are attempting to empower and why do we think they need or even want to be empowered anyway? It all sounds so vague.

I get asked these questions all the time, sometimes with genuine curiosity, sometimes with a tinge of disbelief as if we must be so naive to think we can empower people, and sometimes with an element of some perceived threat, as if empowering people is a negative thing.

What unities us and drives us at Elexu is our shared commitment to achieving this mission. We are helpers by nature and any other mundane project just would not get us out of bed in the morning. But you’re still left with the question; so what does that mean again? The Who, How, What, When, Where and Why questions to that explanation of empowerment remain.

So let me put in terms which are more tangible. Empowerment is attained when people have access to what we call the “Three Pillars of Success”; Capital (meaning funding and resources), Content (meaning relevant and accurate information or data, both audio and visual) and Connections (people, helpers, advisers or supporters). Without access to these three pillars people will face hurdles in achieving their objectives and aspirations in life (whatever those aspirations are), be they artistic, economic, social or political.

Let me give you one example:
Jeff who has an aspiration to secure a top job in finance, is at a distinct advantage (having power) if he has access to Capital (money from mum and dad) to be able to afford to attend the best University. His access to Content (knowledge and info about which is the best University to attend, how to get in and how to pass the exams) and finally his access to Connections (daddy’s friends at the University and chums he meets there) will pretty much ensure he is able to get a top finance job. Jeff’s access to capital ensures he can buy the right content and the right connections at any time. Such is life!

Compare this situation to the student Claire who does not come from a wealthy family but still wants to land a job in finance. Her efforts are already hampered by her lack of access to Capital as she can only afford a regional college. Her lack of access to privileged or disparate Content (information which could have helped her raise some capital or introduce her to connections). Finally, the fact that her friends are not sons of wealthy businessmen, she will find it much harder to secure the top finance job she has been dreaming of. She will need to go and apply to work at small town finance company USA for lower pay and for a longer period before she will ever be able to land the top job she craves.

To top it off, Claire is actually a much better, harder working, smarter and ethical financier than Jeff. It’s just she did not have the same level of access to the 3 pillars that Jeff has. This is what we in Elexu seek to redress.
So we have identified what Empowerment is; having access to the 3 pillars of Capital, Content and Connections, now we are left with the following questions:

  • How do we provide access to the 3 pillars (in other words, “How do we Empower people”?)
  • Who do we do this for? (Who do we “Empower”?)

I will be addressing these questions in Part ll, but for now I wanted to leave you with a simple enough explanation of empowerment. Our mission and tag line states “Empowering People” and by that, we mean Elexu exists to help people connect and access the three pillars. This is empowerment explained in its simplest and most basic form. Next post will expand on this, with examples of how we do this, how this process and works and answer many more of the Who, How, Where, What, When and Why questions surrounding empowerment.