Spaces of Power

Power is exercised in a certain space in which different dimensions and types of power can be identified. The table below gives an overview of various spaces and dimensions of power and provides real-life examples.

Spaces and Power Possible examples

Closed spaces exist when decisions are made behind closed doors, often without much or any transparency about how decisions were made or opportunities for inclusion. This may include formal spaces that are only open to those with official positions or who are formally nominated delegates.

Video for Change initiatives can push for greater openness and transparency as well as challenge the legitimacy of decisions made in closed spaces.

Cabinet meetings, corporate board meetings, international negotiations between governments, donor funding meetings.

Invited spaces exist when those with decision-making power allow broader participation in the decision-making process. While there are some opportunities for participation, the agenda and rules of engagement may be determined by those with power.

Video for Change initiatives can support and push for broader and deeper forms of participation in decision-making.

 Public consultations, elections, petitions, referendums.

Created/claimed spaces can be created by anyone. They may challenge other spaces and have very different rules, norms and practices. They may also include spaces created by less powerful actors to develop different types of power.

Video for Change initiatives develop the capacities of communities and groups to tell their stories and to develop effective campaigns, movements to amplify hidden, marginalised or ignored voices that emerge from these spaces.

Grassroots campaigns, neighbourhood meetings, social movements, independent media initiatives, occupied spaces.

Visible power. This describes the formal rules, structures, authorities, institutions and procedures of political decision-making. It also describes how those in positions of power use procedures and structures to maintain control.

Responding to visible power is usually about trying to change the ‘who, how and what’ of decision-making so that the process is more democratic, accountable and responsive to diverse needs.

 Laws, policies, police and institutions.

Hidden power. This is when powerful actors maintain influence by controlling who gets to the decision-making table and who gets to create the agenda.

Responding to hidden power focuses on building capacities and strengthening organisations and movements so as to support collective power and leadership that can redefine the agenda, and raise the visibility and legitimacy of issues, voices and demands that have been silenced or ignored.

The abuse/use of political influence, mainstream/influential media lobbying and agenda-setting, corporate lobbying, public relations efforts that attempt to discredit the views and evidence of less powerful actors, the banning or imprisonment of activists with views that run counter to powerful actors.

Invisible power. By influencing how individuals think about their place in the world, this level of power shapes people’s beliefs, sense of self and acceptance of the status quo. Cultural and political practices can perpetuate exclusion and inequality by defining what is ‘normal’ and acceptable.

Responding to invisible power focuses on re-imagining social and political culture, and raising consciousness to transform the way people perceive themselves and those around them, and how they envisage future possibilities.

Persecution of ethnic minorities, sexual orientation etc.; exclusion of women, the demonisation of religious or moral beliefs.

 

Undefined