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How power analysis may be useful

Frameworks for assessing power relations focus on the distribution of power and tend to look at the political economy of reform. Power analysis allows us to ask questions such as: What role does political will play in enacting corruption reform in a given country? Why don’t some political actors have the incentive to strengthen accountability and transparency? How can civil society actors induce effective change? What are the cultural, historical and structural factors behind citizens’ distrust of public institutions? These questions, among others, can help tease out contextual information on various interests, power dynamics, and formal and informal rules that can then be translated into “actionable” findings.

Frameworks for assessing power relations are most commonly based on qualitative data. This type of qualitative analysis is useful before, during and after the collection of governance indicators.
§    Before: Power analysis may help to identify areas of democratic governance deficits, such as lack of accountability, lack of participation, unresponsive institutions and vulnerable groups. Such an analysis may therefore guide where more quantitative indicators are needed.
§    During: Power analysis may assist in providing a better understanding of political drivers and blockages to democratic governance reform. Power analysis may be used to describe the political situation more broadly or with regard to a specific policy reform.
§    After: After the collection of data, power analysis may assist in the interpretation of what the data mean. Data in itself do not provide a "story," or a reason for why things are as they are, and power analysis provides a systematic approach to examining possible causes.
Several ways exist to integrate power analysis in assessing democratic governance in these stages. An important way is to draw on the rights-based approach, which emphasizes the weaker capacities of vulnerable groups (rights holders) as well as the capacities of the state (duty bearer). Examining principles such as "inclusive participation" and "responsive institutions" through the lens of power analysis may uncover many factors critical for achieving or sustaining these goals. Power analysis also may assist in identifying key possible political reasons that hinder participation or make institutions less responsive to particular vulnerable groups; for example, the ability of a particular vulnerable group to participate may be influenced by conflicting interests. Power analysis may offer an "empowerment check" that uncovers some of these democratic deficits.
The ability of a particular vulnerable group to participate, and institutions' ability to respond to the needs and interests of a group, can be examined by a two-pronged approach:  On the one hand, by looking at the ability of the group to secure its own participation and demand response, and on the other hand, the ability of institutions to secure the inclusion of that group's participation and to respond to the needs and interests of vulnerable groups. Key factors for examining power relations, such as conflicting interests, level of capacities, incentives and constraints of institutions, can then be examined from these two angles:


Critical areas to focus power analysis
Vulnerable groups (rights holders)
Institutions (duty bearers)
Conflicting interests that may weaken response by institutions
What are vulnerable groups' needs and interests that are not or only weakly responded to by institutions?
What are the conflicting interests of other groups that may cause weak responses by institutions to vulnerable groups?
Capacities to participate
What are vulnerable groups' capacity to demand services and hold institutions to account?
What are institutions' capacities to supply formal mechanisms of accountability?
Incentive for fostering inclusive participation
What are the incentives or disincentives for vulnerable groups to participate in formal or informal political processes?
What are the incentives or disincentives of decision makers within institutions to secure the inclusive participation of vulnerable groups?
Incentive for strengthening responsive institutions
What are the incentives or disincentives for vulnerable groups to make use of existing mechanisms of accountability?
What are the incentives or disincentives of decision makers within institutions to strengthen the response to the interests and needs of vulnerable groups?
Constraints to participate and respond
What are the constraints on vulnerable groups that hinder their participation in political processes?
What are the constraints on decision makers within institutions that hinder better response to the needs and interests of vulnerable groups?
Examples of frameworks for analysis of power relations include:
Frameworks for analysis of power relations
Power analysis (SIDA)
A qualitative tool that demonstrates an approach to understanding context that focuses on the nature and distribution of power. (hyperlink)
Drivers of change (DFID)
An approach for understanding the forces that brings about change and the key policy and institutional "drivers" for poverty reduction. Dimensions include structure, agents and institutions. (hyperlink)
Country social analysis (WB)
A diagnostic tool that integrates social, economic, political and institutional analysis to improve the understanding of the linkages between socioeconomic development dynamics and the social and political structures that shape development outcomes at the local and national level. (hyperlink)
Governance questionnaire (GTZ)
A questionnaire to enable the analysis of institutions, actors and relationships, and to inform reform strategies. Dimensions: state-society relations, political system, political culture, politics and gender, economic policy and political framework of markets, international integration. (hyperlink)
Democracy and governance assessments
A framework for assessing democracy and governance to design effective approaches to promote democracy and improve governance. Dimensions include players, interests, resources, objectives, rules and institutional arenas. (hyperlink)
Macro -level institutional analysis
Examination of the rules that govern the identification of and negotiation over policy reform themes and sectors. It allows us to understand the motivation for reform and the institutional architecture that will frame the design of policy reform. (hyperlink)
Stakeholder analysis
Systematic methodology that uses qualitative data to determine the interests and influence of different groups in relation to a reform. (hyperlink)
Macro- and micro-political mapping
Organizes information about the political landscape. Macro-political mapping provides analysis of political alliances at the macro (national or sector) level, while micro-political mapping provides more disaggregated insights into meso- and micro-level political landscape. The tools can be used as an entry point to a more in-depth analysis of the political economy. (hyperlink)
Force-field analysis
A method to present an overview of key stakeholders' support and opposition to particular reforms. It is capable of providing an overview of the pressures for and against change. (hyperlink)
Network analysis
A visual method of mapping and measuring the relationships and interactions between a set of actors/entities (people, groups, organizations) in a community, sector, industry, etc. (hyperlink)
Net-Map Toolbox: Influence mapping of social networks
A tool that helps to understand, visualize, discuss and improve situations where many different people or organizations influence the result. The Toolbox helps you to map four key questions: Who is involved; how they are linked; how influential they are; and what their goals are. (hyperlink)
Decision-making tree for operationalizing power relations of democratic governance
Operationalizing power relations for democratic governance is a four-step process:
§         Step 1) Define the concept of "democratic governance"
§         Step 2) Based on the definition of democratic governance in step 1, select your key factors for understanding power relations
§         Step 3) Identify sub-categories of key factors
§         Step 4) Operationalize sub-categories through identifying actual actors, institutions, arenas and so on that are relevant for your assessment. It is important that understandings of power relations are also rooted in a bottom-up approach and captured through consultations and other methods, since different groups within society have different understandings and are affected differently.