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“JASS’ power analysis framework is at the heart of our popular education methodology, and of our capacity building of women activists and organizations in the various regions in which we work, as well as in our joint mobilizations and strategic action with them.”

Power is essential for social change

We cannot talk about achieving social change and certainly not movement building, without talking about power.

In this moment of crisis and change, we are witnessing both how power can destroy and how power can be used to positively transform lives. Even as we see the rise of authoritarianism and use of violence to repress and silence, people are mobilizing, pushing back, and putting forward a radically different vision of the future. Understanding, shifting, and building power are at the center of making change.

Power – understanding it, challenging it, building it, transforming it – has always been at the heart of JASS’ feminist organizer schools and movement building efforts. From the publication of A New Weave of Power, People and Politics (2002) which catalyzed JASS, to our collaboration with the Institute for Development Studies to develop tools from theory and theory from practice, to the inclusion of our power analysis and tools in all our training and materials today.

Forms of Power

Dominating Power

Power Over is the power that is exercised over others. Those who control resources and decision- making have power over those without and can exclude others from access, self-determination, safety and participation. Power over often perpetuates inequality, injustice, and poverty. A closer look reveals the multiple dimensions of power at work:

Visible power: state and formal political power exercised through laws, rules, courts, institutions, policies, decision-making and the enforcement of rules.

Hidden power: organized interests – both legal and illicit – that work behind the scenes to influence and control decisions, resources, media, and policing to advance and protect their interests.

Invisible power: the internalized power of beliefs, social norms, and culture to shape people’s worldview and sense of what is ‘right’ or ‘normal’, together with the strategic manipulation of those beliefs to legitimize certain political ideas and actions, including violence.

Positive and transformational Power

Power is not only manifested through domination and repression but can also come through collaboration and collective action for liberation and transformation. We do not have to replicate dominating forms of power, we can cultivate patterns of power rooted in equity, inclusion, and liberation. JASS calls this transformational power:

Power within … to dream, believe in oneself, hope, create and solve problems. Without it, we do not speak out and step up. Sometimes we believe this is the most unstoppable form of power.

Power with … finding common ground with others, building solidarity on reciprocity and love, knowing, and respecting differences, and working together for a common purpose and ideals.

Power to … make change, change lives, and make a difference in the world one step at a time; even the power to think, imagine, be silent, and resist the status quo.

Power for … the combined vision, values and demands that orient our work and hold the seeds of the world we seek to create.

Creating change requires power – which means understanding it, navigating it, challenging it, transforming it. Those in power are rarely responsive to outside demands without the pressure of an organized effort. And there is probably no more compelling form of power than the force of large numbers of different people united in a collective cause for justice.


JASS’ feminist movement building uses three interrelated change strategies: building, mobilizing, and transforming power.

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