Tara Bengle completes her PhD dissertation

We are very proud of Tara who has completed her doctoral dissertation, “Learning and Understanding Empowerment Planning: An Emergent Model That Builds Community Capacity to Affect Neighborhood Planning Outcomes.” Tara has been one of the longest-serving members of the CHARP team and we look forward to working with her in the future as we shift towards a stronger popular education focus striving towards social justice with our neighborhood partners. The abstract of her dissertation is below.

This research explores empowerment planning (Reardon, 1996) for the purpose of adding to its body of theory, in order to build better more inclusive planning processes. Through this research I develop a more nuanced understanding of empowerment planning via experiences in Reid Park, a historically marginalized black community on the west side of Charlotte. The community engaged in empowerment planning to organize for the implementation of a community-driven neighborhood park plan. This case study is unique in that it breaks empowerment planning into its three individual methodologies—popular education; participatory action research (PAR); and community organizing—and intentionally applies each methodology in a cumulative fashion to enable learning at each stage(Beard, 2003)via the introduction of three community-driven interventions. Each intervention is designed to develop participants’ capacity to engage in empowerment planning so that participants learn the process progressively. Based on this research I suggest a new conceptualization of empowerment planning that better explains how participants learn power through the application of popular education and empowerment planning. This research includes recommendations for community development and planning practice, as well as education in these fields. Also included are policy recommendations for local municipalities for the adoption of a more neighborhood-centric model of participatory planning in Reid Park.