Start shifting the power with the Power Awareness Tool

A tool for analysing power in partnerships for development

agenda March 4, 2020

The Partos Shift-The-Power-Lab presents the Power Awareness Tool. In the last 8 months, a group of front running organisations has been looking at the complexity of power in partnership relations and the opportunities and blockages to shift the power. The decision to develop this tool is based on the assumption that if partners have a better understanding of the way power works in the partnership, they will be in a better position to work towards shifting power in accordance with their shared principles. The document presents the tool that has been designed to make power imbalances more visible, enabling partners to analyse and reflect on power relations.

With the upcoming Power of Voices Program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, in which strategic North-South advocacy partnerships with attention for Southern ownership, are a central theme this tool can be of great importance to organisations, It can help them with the formulation, further development and implementation of the partnership programs.

I wish we had in fact used this tool earlier in the partnership. 
Since the Shift-the-Power-Lab wanted to avoid re-inventing the wheel, an extensive review of existing methods and tools for analysing power in partnerships was conducted. We found that none of the existing tools met our predefined requirements at an acceptable level. Requirements such as a simple tool, a self-assessment tool and easy to use without external facilitation. For that reason, the group started developing a new tool. The tool builds on the best ideas identified in the review. A total of 6 organisations tested a prototype of the tool. Findings indicated that the prototype is performing to expectations. In all tests of the application of the tool did make power relations more visible. This is what participants say about the tool:

“The Power Awareness Tool provided a concrete and timely opportunity to test and put into practice elements of Cordaid’s own internal policy guidance on Partnership and Alliances building.”Izabella Toth (Cordaid)

“The tool is about individual – organisational reflection, to what extent are we aware of power. When I used it for my own learning and discussed it with alliance/ partners, it gave new insights into how I use my power so far to empower others or to empower me only. I realised that power is not always about money, but also about information/ knowledge and it needs to be humble by a power to share with others who are not really empowered without being judgemental.”
Kiswara Santi (Civic Engagement Alliance/ICCO Coordinator Indonesia)

“Power balance and understanding of power relations in partnerships cannot be wished away. This tool has been vital in helping the partners in both Kenya and Ethiopia to reflect, understand and come up with concrete steps towards balancing power with a more clear understanding of their obligations, roles and responsibility. I wish we had in fact used this tool earlier in the partnership.”Susan Githaiga (Civic Engagement Alliance/ICCO Coordinator Kenya)

“You can only shift the power if you understand how it operates, and that is exactly what the Power Awareness Tool enables you to do.”
Dr Willem Elbers (Radboud University, Member of the Shift-the-Power-Lab’s panel of experts)

Why this tool?
There is widespread consensus that in partnerships for development, donors, and international NGOs have too much power, and local NGOs in the Global South too little. Despite this consensus, the power imbalances persist. Apparently, it is hard to put the principles into practice. Those with the most power, usually the donors, and to a lesser extent the INGOs, are not always the most knowledgeable about the local situation or about the change needed and how. While there is broad consensus on this, power imbalances persist. We believe this is partly because power is in many ways elusive. Therefore, the Lab decided to develop a tool to make power more visible, enabling partners to analyse and reflect on their power relations. You’ll find the tool and all the necessary information in this document:

The Power Awareness Tool

The Shift-The-Power-Lab
The idea of establishing the Shift-the-Power Lab and to develop a tool for analysing power in partnerships for development emerged from a series of workshops organised by Partos, Wilde Ganzen, CIVICUS, and is facilitated by The Spindle, Partos Innovation Platform.

The Lab consists of the following organisations:
RNW Media, Mama Cash, Mercy Corps, Choice, Wilde Ganzen, Kenya Community Development Foundation, Amref Flying Doctors, Hivos, Oxfam Novib, Cordaid, ICCO, Simavi and The Spindle as the Innovation Platform of Partos.

Shift-The-Power Lab in progress

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#ShiftThePower. Joining Forces, Sharing Power. Rethinking Power and Resources.

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Joining forces, sharing power

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