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Influencing the faces of power

A few months ago, I was in Haiti where I spent 5 days running an advocacy training course for community organisations from Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Despite the language barrier, with everything needed to be translated into Creole, I was really interested in how some of the core advocacy campaign techniques seemed to resonate in this challenging campaigning environment. Since the earthquake in January 2010, there has been a huge challenge to meet the need from this disaster and to ensure that all of the international aid effort is used in the most effective way for the local population.

The community groups that I was working with were very interested to apply the advocacy campaign techniques in their own context to strengthen their advocacy work and ensure that community voices were heard in the policy debate.

And this interest translated itself in some extremely interesting and challenging questions. My favourite question must have been asking how using an influence tree works with a power analysis where you look for the three faces of power: public, hidden and the insidious. The public face being possibly the government minister in charge of the issue; the hidden face being possibly the Treasury minister; and the insidious face being possibly cultural or religious influence in the country.

I thought that this was a great question. When we cover the influence tree technique, we talk about the importance of identifying one target that has the power to make the change that you are seeking. In addition to the direct route to your target, you also identify the other possible channels that you can use to seek to influence your target.

But how do you respond where there are different faces of power? How does an influence tree work then? Do you need to have three different influence trees to contend with the public, hidden and insidious faces of power? Or can you prioritise the different faces of power? For example if you identify from your power analysis that the most important face of power is the hidden face of say the Treasury Minister, then do you use the public face and the insidious faces of power as routes on the way to influence the hidden face?

Such that you know that you need try to influence, or at least try to neutralise, the public and the insidious faces of power en route to influencing the hidden face of power.

A great question – but what do you think is the answer?