Power in Community: A Research and Social Action Scoping Review


Resource authors: Jenny Pearce
Project: Power in Community: A Research and Social Action Scoping Review

This Scoping Review explores the academic debate on power and talks with communities about power. At a time when the state is proposing to “disengage” from society and hand “power” to communities, it reviews power in communities. The academic debate points to a paradigm shift in understanding power, from power over to power to. Although not all power over is dominating power, the latter remains the conventional form of power in practice. In talking to a range of groups in four socially varied communities across the north of England, it became clear that amongst those seeking change at the grass roots, most understand power in non dominating forms, as about cooperation, listening, sharing and enabling others. Non dominating forms of power, it is argued, offer the best potential for building participation and connecting communities. However, they are not the most effective for acting on power. Those who use them reject the way power is conventionally exercised and can end up acting on the margins and giving up expectations of wider impacts. The Scoping Review asks, therefore, how can non-dominating forms of power become effective in changing power and power structures without reproducing dominating power?

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