Thematic Areas

M&E - Measuring Power Shifts

UPS - Alternative forms of power: within, with, over and to

UPS - Alternative forms of power: within, with, over and to

Another way of analysing power is through looking at four forms of power: 

  • Power within – self-worth, dignity
  • Power with – collective action, working together
  • Power over – domination or control of one over another
  • Power to – individual ability to act

Power within relates to people’s self-worth, self-confidence, inner strength, sense of identity, quest for dignity and rights. The conscientisation process helps in self-awareness, a sense of empowerment, improved skills, knowledge and capacity.

Power with is about collective power and strength, mutual support, cooperation and working together, collective behaviours, solidarity and joint actions. It is about the changes that happen in the organisation and mobilisation of civil society in support of people. 

Power over is often seen as domination or control of one person, group or institution over another. Our work to influence duty bearers is strongly linked to the idea of power over, with actors such as police, judges, teachers, politicians all having a certain power over us in society. Power over is largely seen as negative, linked to repression, the use of force, to discrimination and corruption, perpetuation of inequality and injustice. However power over is not always a bad thing, duty bearers can also use this power for positive change, which is why we work to influence them. Transformations can happen in laws, policies, budgets, practices, systems, structures of state and non-state institutions and actors, duty bearers. 

Power to is the ability to act, the potential to make a difference and shape our lives and our own world, and the capacity to decide actions and carry them out. It can lead to changes in the condition of people living in poverty (tangible or intangible, social, political or economic), access to institutionalised services, formal control over resources, access to information and knowledge (visible), attitudes, personal values and experiential learning (invisible). 

For discussion:

  • in your context or on your issue, identify existing examples of each of these.
  • identify opportunities to build new forms of power to, power with and power within in future.



Here you can download some useful resources.

Tools in this toolbox

Access and control matrix

To analyse who has the power to access and control different resources and who is denied this.The Access and Control Matrix encou…

Agricultural map

To show the different crops grown and / or livestock kept in a community.Steps in the processThe group may wish to begin the exer…

Body map - power within and power to

To facilitate critical analysis about shifts in ‘power within and power to’ with a focus on sensitive subjects such as sexual aut…

Helping relationship spiderweb

To explore the web of people and organisations that can support a person in a difficult situation and to identify what makes a he…

Power flower

To look at shifts in different forms of power. The power flower tool provides a critical lens and a simple way to gather, consoli…

Power line

To help participants explore the unequal distribution of power amongst people.  It can evoke many negative emotions among partici…