Building Power Through Collaborative Change

July 21, 2011 Leave a comment
Golden Gate

|Photo by http2007||

In this week’s public Pathway to Change workshop in San Francisco, participants engaged in a practice meeting facilitated by some of their colleagues that focused on effective means of building power in collaborative change efforts to enhance their overall effectiveness to realize more just ends.  The assumptions going into the conversation were that power is defined as the capacity to influence people and one’s environment, create change, address needs, pursue desires, and/or protect interests.  Furthermore we suggested that power is not a fixed asset that people possess. Rather, it is socially constructed, understood, and legitimized through social relationships among individuals and groups of people. Given that it is not fixed, it can also grow or be grown.

So here is the list of ideas that surfaced for ways to build power and we certainly invite your reactions and additions (items in bold ended up being given higher priority by the group):

  • Practice transparency
  • Adopt a common language
  • Account for diversity of voices in establishing common language
  • Get key stakeholders in the room
  • Surface assumptions
  • Supply pertinent info beforehand
  • Clearly articulate/build agreement on the end goal
  • Be clear about the decision-making process
  • Have a good story about the change you are trying to make
  • Set an achievable goal
  • Define/be deliberate about the process
  • Identify and deliver the resources needed
  • Reward creativity/innovation
  • Distribute leadership
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities
  • Mitigate power differentials

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  • Linda says:

    Thanks Curtis! I’d add a few off the top of my head that are more specifically about building power for those normally viewed as at the bottom of the power structure: pay attention to who tells the first story (since that is the privileged version), look to those normally at “the bottom” of the power structure for ideas about what needs to change, don’t try to fix things FOR others – involve them in determining the change needed, and think beyond the usual suspects (especially to help design the conversations that need to happen).

  • Curtis says:

    That’s great Linda, thanks. Other ideas came up later around making sure not to privilege one way of presenting or sharing information. That has to do with literacy, cognitive styles, as well as cultural proclivities.

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