Who’s got the power?

Last week we looked into possible campaigning actions to solve the problem of excessive drinking and the negative impact on the NHS and individuals’ mortality, following some prominent headlines.

Doing a power analysis can be a useful tool to help focus action on what might be the source of this specific chosen problem, and can identify entry points for campaigners.

With problem drinking, what initially appears to be a single issue throws up ideas for numerous campaigns targeting different power-holders.

Gaventa power cube

from Gaventa, 2009, “Finding the Spaces for Change: A Power Analysis” in IDS Bulletin 37:6 p25

Gaventa’s power cube offers a framework for power analysis, with three interrelated categories of power:

Spaces: closed / invited / claimed or created

Levels: global / national / local

Forms: visible / hidden / invisible

Looking at these power types in context of the problem can inspire a whole host of potential action ideas. For example, from brainstorming problem drinking:

  • Visible power of government in setting national laws might lead to a campaign on mandatory minimum pricing of alcohol. While the actual apparatus for decision making may be closed to the public, there might be invited spaces where campaigners are able to participate in consultations or influence the decision makers directly.
  • Another idea here might focus on the visible power of the industry itself to manage their behaviour. Creating codes of conduct for staff, or policies that help reduce problem drinking such as free soft drinks or safe spaces, might be a good way for them to improve their image or achieve CSR objectives while contributing to the solution of this problem on a local level. In addition, they have a degree of invisible power in their perpetuation of the societal norm that drinking to excess is desirable, so looking at influencing the messages they put out could also be an entry point for campaigners.
  • This leads well into the hidden power of the alcohol industry who may be lobbying decision makers against such a minimum pricing concept, but in a closed space. Perhaps claiming these spaces might be possible: demanding an invitation to key meetings or making such power dynamics visible via exposing private lobbying, or even buying shares in companies to become an invited shareholder with a degree of power could be possible ways into this problem.
  • Invisible power is also an important consideration in this problem – the norms of society that problem drinking is ‘OK’ might need to be challenged. For example, targeting individuals on a local level, perhaps by service provision in support for addicts and those affected by addiction could be a space to focus campaigns on, or a place to gather stories and mobilise individuals. Alternatively, educating drinkers about the dangers of drinking, and making this less attractive to individuals both in the spaces they actually drink, via mass media such as TV ads, and online is an approach used by drinkaware, a UK charity which is largely funded by the alcohol industry, perhaps as part of their CSR committments:

Drink Aware

Taking the problem we want to solve and taking it through this kind of power analysis seems to be a really good way of mapping out possibilities for campaigning.


One thought on “Who’s got the power?

  1. Sarah this is a great power analysis as it involves every kind of power(visible,hidden and invisible as well).As the problem of too much consumption of alcohol in UK is huge, campaigners should pay more attention to this issue in order to bring change,by involving as targets the government,industries as well as people of course.

    When I first came here I didn’t know how big the scale of the problem was.What makes me wonder is the fact that even though there are restrictions and limitations when it comes to alcohol, the situation is not improving.I got really shocked when I read this article which actually states that 17 year-old,18-year-old and 19-year-old teenagers have been treated for alcohol-related liver disease in UK hospitals over the last three years.


    It seems that people are trying to find ways in order to drink as much more alcohol as they can.For example even though there are restrictions when it comes to the prices of alcohol as well as to the age of people who can drink alcohol, the usual tactic is that many young people meet up at houses and they drink huge amounts of algohol there before going out.

    Actions should definitely be taken from the state as well as the alcohol industry companies(we need to consider as well if they are disposal to lose part of their profit) but for me the most important is to focus as well on individuals.Invisible power is a huge factor that contributes to this problem. Thus the change of the norm that drinking alcohol is cook is the first thing that needs to be changed.

    Why is it so cool to get drunk?Why is this ok?Why people still drink that much even though they know the consequencies of that action?How can children stop drinking when they see from an early age their parents drink at home?Why there is that norm that says: “the more drunk you are, the better time you have”?What makes people wana to drink?What do they miss?

    Thus, targets should be also schools and teachers that will inform students about alcohol,and parents who need to be good examples for their children if they want them to be healthy and social actors such as communities and movements who can contribute to the promotion of a more healthy life style.Power holders do not need only to impose laws and restrictions.They need to inspire.


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