Strategies and levels of power

In a globalized world, strategies for change must deal with power at multiple levels, ranging from the household all the way up to the global.

Household level – many argue that change must happen at the household level, in intimate or private spaces. Strategies here focus on changes gender relations and individual behaviours, as well as on dealing with critical issues such as domestic violence. For resources and strategies, see gender perspectives on power. Also, see the New Weave of Power chapter on Power and Empowerment.

Local level – In the last two decades, programmes of decentralization have also made the local level very important, both through local government programmes, as well as a host of other structures for participation in development projects, service delivery, or NGOs.   Strategies for participation in local governance have been very important for planning, allocating and monitoring budgets, and holding local institutions to account.  Useful resources for strategies for empowered participatory local governance may be found at the new and developing Participedia web site, as well as International Budget Project. Examples of how citizens have used strategies for accountability and participation at the local level are also found in the Citizenship DRC’s case study series on accountability, as well as on Champions of Participation at the local level. [link to new case study series.

An example of using the powercube to build democratic accountability is given this case study on ‘Power Analysis in the Democratic Republic of Congo’.

National level – while much attention has been paid in recent years to local and global forms of action and mobilization, increasingly activists are realising again the importance of the national level, including focus on parliaments, executive bodies, national political parties, courts, and the like. A recent case study series called Building Responsive States from IDS focuses on the importance of national policies and on how citizens can successfully engage to change them. In addition, Oxfam Novib has mapped national change strategies to guide its work in several countries read, Conny Hoitink’s  ‘Experience with a Learning Trajectory on Power in Oxfam Novib’.

Global level – with globalization, however, also comes increasing authority and power at the international or supranational level.  A great deal of work exists on how citizens mobilize to challenge power across these national lines.  For work that outlines how the powercube analysis can be used to inform global citizen action, see Mapping the Public Policy Landscape and Making Change Happen 2 by Just Associates and IDS Participation Group.

Linking across the levels –   as discussed in the section of levels of power on how to do power analysis, often times challenging power means having the ability to mobilize across levels.  Often times, too, this does not happen effectively, due to tensions between local, national or international actors. On the other hand, when campaigns are grounded in local realities yet are able to link across these levels effectively, change can have a greater impact, as a recent case study by John Gaventa and Marj Mayo on The Global Campaign on Education illustrates (see related resources). By building a coalition at all levels, and by linking it together through a series of strategies, campaigners were able to fight for the right to education at every level. See working across levels to gain the right to education.

Designed in Brighton by Wildheart Media