Empower LLC seeks to strengthen civil society and improve corporate accountability by eliminating the strategic information gap between civil society and corporations. They offer strategic research, guidance, and training to help civil society clients with their efforts to improve corporate transparency, demanding private sector compliance with human rights, anti-corruption best practices, and social responsibility standards. Empower is working to combat new threats to human rights posed by the development of surveillance technologies, as well as examining the links between financial flows and grave human rights violations. They work primarily in Latin America and the United States, but they have also contributed work in Europe and Africa. To date, 100% of their revenue has come from fees for their services, but they are also inviting potential investors aligned with their long-term goals of economic, political, and social justice. Dedicated to their social commitment guidelines, they only offer their services to civil society organizations aligned with their values. Empower is incorporated as a limited liability company with current and former workers owning their shares. They distribute the majority of their profits annually as philanthropic contributions to non-governmental and nonprofit partners.
Theory of Change
Eliminating the strategic information gap between civil society and business builds grassroots power and facilitates transparency and accountability of the private sector, thus reducing its involvement in human rights violations.
Empower uses strategic methods to collect, analyze, and disseminate information for a range of clients, including local and international human rights NGOs, trade unions, rural communities in Mexico, and collectives of disappeared peoples’ families in Latin America. In the field of technology and human rights, they employ methods such as public information requests to obtain technical documents and relevant communications between governments and private contractors. They also conduct legal research, analysis of public procurement for surveillance technologies, and monitor legislation and public policies that facilitate the sharing of personally identifiable information. Empower also engages “follow the money” tactics to map financial networks and illicit flows that are linked with corruption practices and criminal organizations in Latin America. They work to expose the role of companies within the macro-criminal structure who are accused of laundering profits unlawfully obtained by armed criminal actors. Moreover, Empower conducts cartographic analysis to find the locations where forced disappearances took place, identifying likely perpetrators, collusion by government officials, and possible links to corporate investment.
Since their founding, Empower has produced hundreds of strategic research and other products for more than 30 clients in 20 countries. In 2018, Empower published a report called “Who’s Behind ICE?,” which exposes the tech companies that collaborate with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), contributing to the agency’s arrests, detentions, and deportations. Their critical research argued that policing, detention, and deportation have become lucrative enterprises for the Silicon Valley companies that have contracts with ICE. Their report has contributed to the awareness raising and advocacy agendas of Latin American human rights organizations focused on immigration policy. Further, their strategic research on corruption and collusion between public officials and violent actors in Mexico supported calls for investigations into allegations of grave crimes in Mexican prisons and the fight for legal remedies and reparations for victims. Their research and analysis on forced disappearances also contributes to the quest for truth and justice for grave crimes in Mexico.