Power Analysis

“Video as a medium and tool is intrinsically prone to be voyeuristic. In the human rights arena communities have witnessed many photographers, film-makers, journalists scooping down on disasters and pathos and flying away without a trace. Video Volunteers believes in empowering communities. Our method and approaches therefore cannot be disempowering [and] our approach should be to hold ourselves accountable to the communities. So, committing to create positive change/impact comes from that desire to be respectful and accountable to the communities we work with.” – Stalin K. of Video Volunteers

Analyse Power Dynamics

determines who gets what, when, where and how. Power is also the ability to decide who gets what, when, where and how. When you are making a Video for Change it’s important to be aware of how power is influencing both the issues and the people you are working with.

As the above definition makes clear, power influences everything: our ability to make decisions about our lives; our ability to change situations; the resources we have access to; and what we are taught, know and think. Since Video for Change is about supporting positive social change, it’s important that the video-making process seeks to identify and understand how power effects the issue you are working on, and how it effects the people you’re working with. This way participants and video-makers can better assess how power influences your Video for Change initiative and how it might be managed or challenged. 

Depending on the context, an imbalance in power relations between actors, groups, communities, institutions and/or organisations may cause friction or conflict. If this power imbalance and its cultural and political context is not properly analysed and considered, it’s possible your initiative will generate more friction, or even conflict.

There are different types of power and the influence of power can be both positive and negative. Below is an overview:

Table 1: Different Expressions of Power[1] 

Type of power   How is it enacted and how can we address it in Video for Change?
Power to: an individual’s ability to act.

This is about supporting the belief that every individual has some power to change a given situation.

In Video for Change this can be enacted by taking active steps to listen to and include diverse voices and to support the meaningful participation of particular communities or groups.

Power with: the ability to act together.

This is about collective action or agency: joining together with others, building shared understandings, planning and taking collective action.

In Video for Change this can be supported by building and strengthening alliances and relationships and by creating movement building.

Power within: an individual or collective belief in self-worth and the ability to act.

This is about the sense of confidence, dignity and self-esteem that comes when we gain awareness of our situation and realise our capacity to analyse and change it.

In Video for Change this can be enabled by supporting respectful and meaningful interactions with specific participants and communities.

Power over: control or domination of another.

This is about the domination or control of one person, group or institution over another.

In Video for Change this can be addressed by challenging unjust power structures and by amplifying marginalised and excluded voices and perspectives.

Different Dimensions of Power  

Power can be active in different places: 

  • Intimate (experienced as feelings of self-worth, dignity and confidence) 
  • Private (operating among family, friends, close relationships) 
  • Public (operating in interactions at the local, national or international level). 

Different spaces of power can exist at the same time: for example, a person may have power and influence to make decisions in his/her work place, but not in their own household, or vice versa. In addition this power can be visible, hidden or invisible. If you want to know more read this section on Spaces of Power

Power analysis can be used to identify: 

  1. Who is directly and indirectly affected by the issue you are trying to address. This can help you to make decisions about who should be involved in your initiative. 
  2. The characteristics of power (intimate, private, public, visible, hidden, invisible) and the nature of the power imbalance. 
  3. The spaces where different power is enacted (in the home, online, in the street). Identifying these places of power can provide opportunities for social change. 
  4. Those with the most power to change the situation. This analysis will enable you to develop a strategic theory of change that outlines how your endeavor will make change. 
  5. Allies and actors that you might collaborate with. This may include people already working on the same or related issues and it may include people not yet active on this issue but who could become active through your initiative. 

Additional resources and links that will help you better understand how to deal with power within your initiative can be found here.


[1] The four types different types of power are identified by Lisa Veneklasen and Valerie Miller in A New Weave of Power, People and Politics: The action guide for advocacy and citizen participation, 2002. This section draws largely from the description of this work provided at the participatory methods website. More detail on Expressions of Power can also be found here.