Your local would like to start a campaign to improve conditions at your workplace, and need to influence a school board leader to do so. But once goals and targets are set, your association’s members may disagree about the means to achieve your goals, or even more often, don’t know how to begin to develop a goal-oriented plan. Organizing a community power study is a great way to engage members in critical discussions about goals, power and strategic planning. The product of a power study, a power map, can provide a meaningful representation of community stakeholders and then focus discussions on strategy that maximize the local’s resources. A well-done power study provides the building blocks of a campaign, it’s a great means to incorporate potential association leaders at a campaign’s earliest stages and maximize their ownership of the campaign.
STEP 1: Assembling the Team, Organizing the Study
Recruitment: It is critical that you have a diverse group during your power study; in general, your map will improve with each participant you bring to the table. You can build leadership in your local by engaging new leaders in organizing a power study; have them take ownership by identifying and recruiting participants.
Meeting: A power study will require a segment of time that will include brainstorming, mapping, and reflection. Depending on the number of participants, the group should consider committing to a meeting between an hour and two hours for the session.
Facilitation: Make sure you have strong facilitators ready to lead brainstorm sessions during the power study. Ideally, your facilitator(s) will have participated in a previous power study. The facilitator should have the ability to articulate the association’s goals, the reason the specific target was selected for the campaign, actively listen to participants, allow participants the space to develop their own ideas, and manage responses.
STEP 2: Brainstorm
A power map helps you determine the individuals and groups in your community who have a stake in an issue and who can influence your target. Some groups and individuals may be concerned about an issue but don’t have much influence over the target(s). Others might have a lot of influence over the target but aren’t directly affected by the issue.
The facilitator should begin the power study by having the participants brainstorm all the individuals and groups in your community who are influential and have connections to the target of the campaign and/or have some stake in the goals of the association.
Here are some stakeholders to consider:
Small-business owners; donors; students; parents; teachers; political organizations and parties; Chamber of Commerce and other business institutions; media outlets; celebrities; elected officials; stockholders and board members of companies; faculty, administrators and boards at local colleges and universities; organizations and individuals affected by the campaign issue; clergy and religious leaders and organizations; Parent Teacher Associations and school boards; community and social justice organizations; labor organizations
During your brainstorm, the group should develop a running list of your target’s relationships. Even if you decide you do not want to target, for example, a board member’s dentist, putting them on the list might give your group ideas on other avenues of influence. As in all brainstorms, no idea should be censored. Your goal here is to develop a thorough list of relationships. The group should consider your target’s day-to-day experience and motivations; if your target loves golf, her golf partners and caddy should be on the list.
STEP 3: Graph Influence
Once an exhaustive list has been created, the facilitator should draw the influence graph pictured on your right. Depending on where the target lands in terms of being “with us” or “against us,” write her name somewhere along the top—toward the left if she is “with us” and toward the right if he or she is “against us.” If you really aren’t sure, put the name in the middle.
Return to your brainstorm list. For each organization and individual on the list, ask the group: How much influence do they have? Are they with us or against us?
Based your group’s assessment, place each stakeholder on the grid. If you aren’t sure about your assessment or if members in your group disagree on how much influence a certain individual or group has, don’t spend more than a few minutes deliberating. If you can’t agree, just write that individual or group on the side of the grid and complete the research later.
STEP 4: Map Connections and Prioritize Relationships
Once you have plotted your stakeholders, have your group consider relationships between individuals and groups as expressed on your influence graph. Have your group identify how your stakeholders relate to each other. Build network relationships by drawing lines that connect individuals and groups that have interests in common; have your members think about strong relationship or relationships that are more casual or temporal. This visual representation of community relationships will help you identify clusters of stakeholders that your association can best work to influence.
Now you should revisit your original list of stakeholders and have your group circle individuals or groups that your local should prioritize in its campaign. Your facilitator should have the group first focus on individuals and groups that are both supportive of your goals and have influence; next, all stakeholders on the left side of the graph should be considered. At this point, your group should be able to identify a handful of critical stakeholders that will be the focus of your outreach. You should include a discussion as to how your association should approach those groups and individuals that were deemed less critical. By this point, your group is fully engaged in strategic planning around the target and goals of the campaign.
If you have participants that are artistically inclined, you may decide to draw a visual representation of the primary connections in your community, in order to help those not in the power study visualize relationships and power. Cluster diagrams and Bullseye graphs are two ways to visually represent community relationships and power. At the end of your power study session, you should begin to consider how your local can build relationships through your member’s current connections and activities.
Next Installment – Part Three: Making the Most Out of Your Power Map
The newly-created OEA Organizing Department consists of four full-time organizers; Jeremy Baiman, Makia Burns, Matt Ides, and Bill Otten. As a group, we have diverse organizing experiences, working with community groups, non-profits, and unions. We’re here to help OEA members build power in their local associations and communities. We’ll also be working with local associations to organize new members
The OEA Organizing Department also has two associate staff to support the department. Jane Gorka recently joined the Organizing Department as an Administrative Assistant. She worked in the Lexington OEA office for over 8 years and provided support for the Ohio Student Education Association and Women’s Caucus. Joyce Stewart joined the Organizing Department as an Administrative Secretary with 15 years of experience. She has diverse working tenure that includes computer services, Education Improvement & Innovation, and our Region 1 office.