The definition of words is often the starting point when one is researching. The base of the argument could be within the definition of the phrases used. When taking a look at Empowerment and Social Responsibility in design, this idea provides an excellent base for showing how broad and problematic this issue can really be.
"Empowerment refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social or economic strength of individuals and communities. It often involves the empowered developing confidence in their own capacities" (Wikipedia). One can take this idea in any direction. Empowering can provide a great structure for bringing people together. If you take a look at any political campaign, empowerment is used to reach out and give clarity and structure to people's beliefs. The Obama campaign is a perfect example of success in empowerment. Take a look at this wonderfully written article on Obama's website: http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/narniaforobama/gG55MS.
This shows that there is strength in empowerment that can provide a base for many other things. You can provide open opinions on whatever subject you feel necessary; all you need is a method and some empowerment. Someone or something to tell you that you can and should express your opinions is often just the start.
"Design is the planning that lays the basis for the making of every object or system" (Wikipedia). Design in and of itself is empowerment. Whether one chooses to use that empowerment for good or for bad is another story. As designer, we are entitled (or even better, empowered) with the skill set to provide empowerment to others. We are also provided with the knowledge to persuade and inform visually and verbally. As you take all of these things in, think about how well empowerment and design have been paired, because soon I will be showing you how empowerment and design have paired to form some disastrous results.