Power Analysis - Experiences and Challenges
Author: Helena Bjuremalm
What can be learned from SIDA's use of power analysis? This concept note from the Swedish International Development Agency draws on its analyses of Ethiopia, Kenya, Bangladesh, Tanzania and Burkina Faso. Power analysis can help donors understand underlying structural factors impeding poverty reduction as well as incentives and disincentives for pro-poor development. Such analysis must consider the ability of the poor to articulate their concerns; the institutional channels and arenas for voicing these concerns; and the legal basis of poverty reduction.
Two types of power can be distinguished: controlling power and constructive power, or ‘power over’ and ‘power to’. For most developing countries, progress toward democracy tends to require a reduction in the controlling power of the central state executive and an increase in the constructive power of various parts of the state apparatus. The failure to link discussions of power to poverty means that issues such as the prevailing political culture and political will of key actors to redress the plight of the poor are overlooked.
Power analysis serves to stimulate thinking about processes of change: what can be done about informal and formal power relations, power structures and the actors contributing to them. It can also:
•Make development cooperation more strategic and realistic, with more realistic time frames and indicators for judging progress.
•Make donor agencies more amenable to risk analysis and alternative approaches, rather than being locked into traditional technical interventions that by-pass elites.
•Contribute to donor dialogue about differences in perspectives and challenge donor assumptions about conditions for pro-poor reform.
•Improve dialogue in country, by contracting local scholars and organising seminars, which may serve to identify new issues as well as partners.
•Improve aid effectiveness by highlighting the risks of alternative strategies and investments and by demonstrating how political considerations and a more incremental approach can enhance implementation.
In undertaking a power analysis, the primary purpose should be to establish whether it is to deepen knowledge, facilitate dialogue, foster influence, or feed into policy development and programming. Local context should determine process, methods and purpose, particularly in situations where a government feels threatened by mounting opposition or when violent conflict is a growing threat. Further implications include the following:
•The range of issues considered in the analysis should be limited. Operational recommendations should be included and then validated through workshops with focus groups. A series of reports over a period of time would allow the analysis to remain topical.
•Analysis could be done jointly with a number or donors or could fill gaps in existing analysis.
•The politics of corruption or state-society dynamics around taxation and public expenditure are important areas.
•Studies about deep-rooted conditions, structures and actors in a particular country should be done by local experts and researchers to the largest extent possible.
•Parallel support to local knowledge production, formulation of pluralist opinions and agenda setting is important to avoid the dangers of analytical hegemony and of marginalising local institutions’ capacity and space