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Understanding Power and Its Role in Civic Change

Power is “the capacity to act.” In a socio-political context, it is the ability to shape the terms by which we live together.

Its helpful to begin focusing on three types of power:

  • First, there is the power of position, which is often most prevalent in the public sector. Government agencies, police, and elected officials, for example, possess power of position.
  • Second, there is the power of organized money. This is often most prevalent in the private sector, like in real estate, energy companies, and private businesses.
  • Finally, there is the power of organized people, which is often most prevalent in the civic sector. The civic sector is comprised of families, religious institutions, advocacy groups, and more. 

Democracy works best with decision-making power is shared equally between the three sectors. Bad public decisions are made when the balance is off.

Having a good understanding of the key movers and shakers in the three sectors will give you a clearer picture of the way that power is both expressed and balanced in your community. 

When you inspect the three types of power in your own community, you can quickly see the ways that the three sectors exert themselves. You can also begin to identify “key players” in all three. By inspecting your community's power and identifying key players, you’re creating a “power map.”


Learn more about power and power mapping by logging into your LEE member profile and navigating to Power and Power Mapping.