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The Empowerment Paradigm

Redefining Transformative Impact in Communities

Cafe Momentum

What does good mean to you?

Everyone has their own definition. Some find good in small daily acts of kindness. In friendship and neighborliness. In sacrifice and generosity. Others find good in big, systemic change. In the pursuit of justice. In second chances and disruptive solutions.

Many define good as all of the above and everything in between. Generally, we all want more good in our lives and in our communities.

Social entrepreneurs go a step further: they pick their definition of good and then they work tirelessly to make it happen for themselves and for others. They imagine alternative futures, rethink social systems, and launch transformative movements.

They are nonprofit founders and community organizers; spiritual leaders and working professionals; business leaders; scholars and students of life. We’re proud to count many of them as part of the Stand Together community.

If you examine the work of these individuals—our nation’s most effective social entrepreneurs—you’ll find a common thread: how they pursue their most valued goals is just as important as what they’re aiming for.

Their solutions are based on their lived experiences of serious challenges and proximity to issues that have created barriers for many. They create cultures in which people invest in each other as much as they invest in themselves. They lead with a deep belief in people and curiosity instead of seeing people as problems to be solved or things to be controlled.

In other words, they make good happen by empowering people.

A New Paradigm for Nonprofits and Social Entrepreneurs

The empowerment paradigm is a way of thinking about and approaching social change that unleashes the innate potential of every person.


The Stands at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel in Dallas, Texas.

Based on Principles like Dignity & Self-Actualization

Are you making decisions based on a belief in people’s potential, gifts, and talents?


Informed by Customer-First Measurement & Impact

Are you measuring the success of your program by prioritizing customer feedback?


Fueled by Bottom Up Discovery & Openness to Innovation

Are major decisions in your organization informed by those closest to the problem?

What is the empowerment paradigm?

Empowerment is what we see when we look at the nation’s most effective social entrepreneurs. It is the opposite of control. It suggests that everyone should have the freedom to be the best version of themselves. Instead of focusing on imposing one preferred strategy, empowerment seeks to remove the barriers that are holding people back from trying out their own ideas. It rejects one-size-fits-all.

As nonprofit leaders, entrepreneurs, donors, and philanthropists, we get to choose empowerment as the new standard of excellence and effectiveness. Together, we can demonstrate that control isn’t the only way to operate—and that it’s actually possible to transform more lives when our means match our ends.

Paradigms are the lens through which we view the world. Shaped by ideas, beliefs, and habits, we pick them up over the course of our lives. The tools, strategies, and approaches we take to solve problems are filtered by paradigms: some will align with empowerment, and others will align with control. The more we cultivate an empowerment-driven mindset, the more likely we are to act in a way that consistently empowers people and that achieves ethical and lasting impact.

Our North Star

Every Person Empowered Always and Everywhere

The empowerment paradigm asks us to reconsider our target audience and, by extension, our performance metrics. If our true customers are the people we serve, we must listen to their perspective when we evaluate our impact.

What do our customers say they need?

How do we know if we have succeeded in meeting their expressed needs?

Which of our services are most or least effective? For whom are they most effective?

What can we do to generate more value for each individual?


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