Founded in 2001, Empowerment WORKS (EW) is the brainchild of its Executive Director who recognized a common strategy for harnessing local assets to meet local needs in two unique world regions of Africa facing very different challenges: Senegal - facing threats of food security, conflict and desertification; and Zimbabwe - facing the spread of AIDS and economic collapse.
In 1999, while conducting human security research in the war-torn Casamance Region in Senegal, EW's founder identified medicinal plants, textiles and music as economic opportunities. Uniting like-minded social entrepreneurs, local organizations and artists, EW produced an awareness and fund-raising compilation CD, Music of the Diola, supporting the development of local initiatives to preserve both the rain forest and their indigenous Diola culture.
In 2000, on a sustainable development seminar in Zimbabwe - facing devastating HIV prevalence and related orphan crisis) - EW's founder met a group of young Zimbabwean artists working to provide HIV prevention and Orphan care. Overcoming loss of tourism (due to political turmoil), they exported a container of sculpture to the US to raise funds for locally-led action.
Through this collaboration, individuals and organizations across multiple sectors of society mobilized to tackle a complex web of challenges in one community. Zimbabwean artists, doctors, community organizations, homeless teens, international philanthropists, and arts patrons all worked together in order to see the fruition of this project.
Of all these factors, it was the sheer will of the young artists to take control of their destinies that sparked it all.
By honoring local will, serving as a catalyst for community-led social action, stimulating economic development, and addressing issues and needs identified by those they most affect, the EW model - 7 Stages to Sustainability - was born.
EW exists to bring the asset based (vs top down / savior / needs based) paradigm of 7SS to the global community, and to collaboratively advance the movement for a whole system approach to a sustainable world.
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