Power analysis

The challenge is how do we get our target to do the right thing on our issue. The strategy is how do we grow the resources we have, into what we need, so we can get what we want.

Power is not distributed fairly and it is everywhere. We use the power analysis, as our navigation tool to put the meat on the bones of our strategy.

A graph that looks like a cross representing different levels of power

When taking on an issue, big or small, you must map out the power that will influence your chances of success. On the grid, we map the key relationships we must engage with. It will require the research team to do some background work, so you have something to start from.

This exercise also requires you to be really honest about power; including your own. You may tell your mates down the pub the team you’re building will save the factory from closure, but don’t underestimate the powerful forces at play. You almost always need more power than you think. If you can not be honest about where you are and where you need to be; order a double because you don’t stand a chance.

What we map out

First of all be sure the person/group you are targeting can do what you need them to. If not, find out who can. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  1. Who are the main actors/institutions involved on this issue?
  2. Who else is relevant and influential and where do they sit?
  3. Who are our potential allies/enemies?
  4. Calculate your own power: where are you?
  5. Are there any sympathetic individuals in government/private sector we can engage with?

Power can lie in unexpected places, so widen your vision of where there could be potential opportunities. People who stand to lose money or status from change are very good at blocking it. You need to mark out the key people and groups who will stop you, as well as those who will support you.

Groups/individuals to map

  • National government: which departments or ministers?
  • Local government/council: which MPs/councillors?
  • Schools/Universities: key people/groups
  • Faith institutions: key people/groups
  • Community leaders: when there is a problem the local residents face, who do they turn to?
  • Unions: who are the executives/committees/union shop
  • Local, regional and national media: who are the journalists for and against your issue?
  • Property/real estate developers
  • Local businesses
  • Experts
  • Professionals (eg. teachers, police)
  • Celebrities

Which institutions are the ones visited by candidates at election time? They are going there for money or votes: they must have a lot of one or the other, or both. Which level of politicians visit them?

Which groups/institutions are the most responsive to poor, marginalised and working class communities? What are their priorities? What have they won in the past/lost? What kind of base do they have?

Following the money reveals priorities. What is your Mayor/local school/national government spending big cash on? Who is giving them cash? Who has stopped giving them dollar and why?

1-to-1s for research

We will need to do strategic 1-to-1s and search the web for information we can not access through conversation.

For example: you have identified a key potential ally of a big university, but you can not get a meeting with them. With the team, find out who that person listens to and respects. Can you meet them? Who could get you a meeting?

Dig into the details. If developers are the most influential group in town, which developer is the most influential? What are the differences between them? What are some of the recent/current policy fights; which individuals opposes/supports them? Of them who has the most influence, relational and money power? What is the timeline and decision making process?

Is your target persuaded by demonstrations on the ground, research documents, personal stories of their constituents, media coverage, or the opinions of peers? What are their interests? Ask these questions to sharpen the strategy.

Challenges of the power analysis

Power changes all the time, so it is something you will be continuously adding to.

For example: a key politician you have been building a relationship with, has decided to quit and get richer in the market. You now must start the work all over again with the person who takes their post.

This is why you should always focus on building your grass-root base over anything else. If your base is powerful enough, it does not matter who wiggles in, your people power will be recognised and you will get a meeting.


Power analysis

Now it is time to do a power analysis for your issue. The tool is applicable to a single institution, like an individual university action; or it can involve multiple groups like a national living wage campaign. The level of detail you give to the power analysis will result in a more successful strategy and action.

To get you started think about:

  1. Who are the 5 people/groups with the most relational power (people following) key to the issue? Where are they in terms of opposition/support?
  2. Who are the 5 people/groups with the most money power? Where are they in terms of opposition/support?
  3. For the groups/institutions who leads them? Who is in positional authority?
  4. Who/what is important to these people/groups?
  5. Where are you?
  6. What are your most significant relationships on the map? Circle them.
  7. Do you have relationships with the most powerful people? If not who do you know that does?
  8. Make a plan of engagement; who is going to speak to who and by when.