Following years of learning and active participation in developing its work on power and power analysis, the Carnegie UK Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation developed a practical guide designed for people, within organizations, networks or community groups, who want to explore power in relation to achieving change in the interests of the communities with whom they are working.
The guide elaborates on the different forms, or faces, of power. These include Visible power: the aspects of political power that we ‘see’ – formal rules, structures, institutions, and procedures informing decision-making, such as laws. Hidden power is exercised when powerful actors and institutions maintain influence by marginalizing the concerns and voices of less powerful groups. And finally, Invisible power, which operates in ways that people adopt or internalize belief systems created by those with power.
Challenging the social and cultural boundaries that condition all actors (powerful or powerless) may require strategies other than challenging the “power-holders” alone, whether they are visible or hidden in the way they exercise power.
Negotiating various sources, positions, and forms of power is critical, especially in crisis contexts whereby humanitarian actors maintain a unique and intricate role in achieving results. Collaborative engagement means recognizing and planning for the three faces of power when problem-solving for protection.