Power Analysis Exercise

This is a group exercise that activists and organizers can use in order to better understand the power dynamics in our communities. Visualizing our struggle can help us create strategies for addressing inequity.

Assumptions of the power analysis:

  • Power relationships are unequal right now. This is a key reason for the problems and conditions we face.
  • There is a political agenda at work that causes these problems, and power is being exercised behind it. We have to develop strategies that address these realities.
  • In order to achieve long-term social change, we need a more systematic way of understanding power and how it is exercised.

Goals of the power analysis:

  • Understand how power is exercised, who exercises it, and how it causes and maintains the conditions that we seek to change.
  • Develop effective strategies for
    •,Winning progressive social change
    •,Permanently altering power relationships in favor of the people suffering from the problems and conditions that we seek to change
    •,Grassroots organizing that will continue to build progressive power
    •,Mounting issue-based campaigns that help to build power AND win social change
    •,Connecting short-term activities to long-term goals

Materials:

  • pieces of construction paper, pre-cut into triangles, starbursts, ovals and squares (there should be two colors of square paper)
  • a large posterboard that will serve as the power analysis grid
  • pens or markers

Step 1: Plot the key decision-makers/power centers
1. Pass out pieces of paper to each member of the group
2. Ask participants to write down on a triangle-shaped piece of paper the persons and/or bodies who make the decisions shaping the problems/conditions your organization is working to change (make sure they use markers and write big)
3. Go through sheets and have the group collectively decide where to place each decision-maker on the grid (Are they a supporter or an opponent? Do they have a lot of power or not?)
4. ,During the next steps, be sure to push people to be accurate in their assessment of where to place each piece.

Step 2: Plot the major battles/campaigns that are happening locally
1. Ask participants to write down on a starburst-shaped piece of paper the major battles and/or campaigns that are ongoing relating to the problems/conditions your organization is working to change
2. Go through sheets and have the group collectively decide where to place each battle/campaign on the grid.

Step 3: Plot organized opponents
1. Ask participants to write down on a square-shaped piece of paper the names of organized opposition groups (i.e. corporations, business lobbies, chambers of commerce)
2. Go through sheets and have the group collectively decide where to place each opposition group on the grid.

Step 4: Plot your organization and your organized allies
1. Ask participants to write down on a different colored square of paper the names of organized allies involved in local battles/campaigns (make sure to include your own organization).
2. Go through sheets and have the group collectively decide where to place each ally on the grid.

Step 5: Plot other unorganized social/economic/political groupings
1. Ask participants to write down on an oval-shaped piece of paper the names of unorganized social, economic, and/or political groupings affected by the problems/conditions you are fighting (i.e. geographic communities, ethnic communities, socioeconomic groups, voting blocs, sectors of the workforce)
2. Go through sheets and have group collectively decide where to place each unorganized grouping on the grid.