The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups

The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups

by Starhawk Starhawk


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A Transition Town group involved in preparations for peak oil and climate change; an intentional community, founded with the highest ideals; a nonprofit dedicated to social change—millions of such voluntary groups exist around the world. These collaborative organizations have the unique potential to harness their members' ideals, passions, skills, and knowledge—if they can succeed in getting along together.

The Empowerment Manual is a comprehensive manual for groups seeking to organize with shared power and bottom-up leadership to foster vision, trust, accountability, and responsibility. This desperately needed toolkit provides keys to:

  • Understanding group dynamics
  • Facilitating communication and collective decision-making
  • Dealing effectively with difficult people.

Drawing on four decades of experience, Starhawk shows how collaborative groups can generate the cooperation, efficacy, and commitment critical to success. Her extensive exploration of group process is woven together with the story of RootBound—a fictional ecovillage mired in conflict—and rounded out with a series of real-life case studies. The included exercises and facilitator toolbox show how to establish the necessary structures, ground rules, and healthy norms. The Empowerment Manual is required reading for anyone who wants to help their group avoid disagreement and disillusionment and become a wellspring of creativity and innovation.

Starhawk is the author of eleven previous books including the award-winning Webs of Power . A highly influential voice for global justice and the environment, she is deeply committed to bringing the creative power of spirituality to political activism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780865716971
Publisher: New Society Publishers
Publication date: 11/15/2011
Edition description: Original
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 775,559
Product dimensions: 7.20(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 16 Years

About the Author

StarHawk is the author of eleven books on earth based spirituality, Goddess religion, and activism, including The Spiral Dance, The Fifth Sacred Thing , and the award-winning Webs of Power . A highly influential voice for global justice and the environment, Starhawk is deeply committed to bringing the creative power of spirituality to political activism. She also teaches Earth Activist Trainings, intensive seminars that combine permaculture design, political organizing, and earth-based spirituality. She writes for the Newsweek/Washington Post blog On Faith as well as her own blog, Dirt Worship . Her website is

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: A New Era of Empowerment
1 What are collaborative groups? Why this book is needed. How the book is structured. Leading exercises and meditations.

Chapter 2: RootBound Ecovillage and the Talisman of Healthy Community
Introduction to our exemplary — or not so — ecovillage and its problems.

Chapter 3: The Circle of Vision
Finding a group vision, core values, intentions goals and governance.

Chapter 4: The Axis of Action — Power and Responsibility
Different kinds of power, rules and norms, earned and unearned social power, privilege and entitlement, balancing power and responsibility.

Chapter 5: The Axis of Learning — Communication and Trust
Communication norms, functional and dysfunctional. Basic skills for good communication in groups. Accountability and building trust.

Chapter 6: Leadership Roles for Leaderless Groups
Group roles and different types of leadership. How to be an empowering leader. Empowerment to the midline. Accountability.

Chapter 7: Group Conflict
Embracing conflict and learning to constructively disagree. Types of conflict. Strategies for mediation. Wrongdoing and due process.

Chapter 8: Dealing with Difficult People
What makes people "difficult?" Trauma and internalized authority. Borderline personalities and victimhood. Clashing styles and norms. Patterns of reaction. Problems too big for the group. Hidden agendas.

Chapter 9: Groups that Work
Examples of successful collaboration: Rainbow Grocery, a worker-owned cooperative; the 1999 Seattle Blockade of the World Trade Organization; Reclaiming, an Earth-based spiritual network.

Bibliography and References
About the Author

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"It's not easy to meld a sweeping vision with practical steps on how to implement it, but Starhawk has succeeded brilliantly in The Empowerment Manual . Filled with case histories, illustrative stories, and, most importantly, clearly written exercises for honing your collaborative skills, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in building community and truly empowering themselves and others."
— Toby Hemenway, author, Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture

"True social change is a collaborative art. Here's a trove of tips, guidelines, deft strategies and open secrets, that will speed and ease our capacity to work together. It comes to us with Starhawk's signature blend of vast experience, wit, and love for life."
— Joanna Macy, author, The Work that Reconnects and co-author, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're In Without Going Crazy

"This new book, The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups , is Starhawk at her best — wise woman elder, articulate thinker and witty writer, experienced leader and fierce guardian of the planet. This is the how-to we've been needing, an eloquent and thoughtful handbook of intelligent advice detailing exactly how to bring the principles of cooperation, caring, and democratic sustainability fully into living practice. Extremely well done!"
— Vicki Noble, co-creator of Motherpeace , author of Shakti Woman and The Double Goddess

" The Empowerment Manual is truly a guide to ensure the survival of those of us who us who are struggling to work collaboratively. It sheds a light on those dark corners of group dynamics that can leave us confused and disheartened. Starhawk gives us the tools to be the change we want to bring to the world."
— Donna Read, documentary filmmaker.

"A "must have" for everyone who lives in an ecovillage or intentional community (or who would like to), The Empowerment Manual offers real-life examples, effective process exercises, and relevant, practical advice on group dynamics arising from Starhawk's years of experience in collaborative groups. I especially loved the right-on examination of earned and un-earned social power, balancing the power-sharing with fairly rewarding leadership, and Starhawk's often hilarious account of the invented but oh-so-real Rootbound Ecovillage. I'm giving a copy to everyone who takes my workshops!"
— Diana Leafe Christian, author, Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities and Finding Community , and publisher, Ecovillages newsletter

"A vitally important manual for those of us stepping forward to build resilient communities together. Starhawk's book should be kept close at hand and referred to before meetings, group decisions and when dealing with difficult people. Rich in how-to's and real life experience, this book will make the novice proficient as its methods are put into practice."
— Carolyne Stayton, Executive Director, Transition US

"With The Empowerment Manual Starhawk has delivered a work of timely vision with instant practical impact. Good people, leaders, communitarians, and activists of every kind have been needing the help that this work brings just in time. For too long we have been hitting our heads against the wall, trying to find ways to be more effective, as various external and internal challenges have often unmade our successes. This manual will help us refocus, grow together, and be best prepared."
— Mark Lakeman, Founder, The City Repair Project

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