Part 1: Organizing a Community Power Study

Scouting Your Pathway to Success

Whether you are negotiating for a new contract or lobbying for a new law, power mapping provides a tool in which an organization can identify community stakeholders and develop a plan to influence them. Participants in a community power mapping exercise identify who has power, and then develop appropriate campaign-oriented targets, tactics and messaging. As a tool, power mapping is flexible and scalable; it can be used to get the local paper to write a favorable editorial or to influence a national leader to take a stand on an issue. Power mapping provides a means to build community influence and pressure stakeholders to do the right thing.

The following is the first installment of a three part guide on power mapping.

Organizing a Power Mapping Exercise

  1. Identify Participants Who will you ask to be part of your power mapping team? People who enjoy research, are tech-savvy, and are into local politics make good candidates. You should also strive for diverse perspectives from your community and for team members that are active participants in local organizations.
  1. Articulate Campaign Goal and Strategy Before you begin a power mapping exercise, make sure to review the campaign goals with the participants. Your local strategies should be directly related to your goal. Both goals and strategies should be concise and strive to be relatable to the widest audience possible.
  • Goal: Establish policy on placing caps on the number of students in a classroom.
  • Strategy: Pressure the President of Board of Education to support classroom caps through local media, grassroots pressure, and the voices of key community leaders.
  1. Determine Target As you develop your power mapping group, they will begin by identifying the key decision-makers in your community—from this list you will identify your target. To do this, the group should answer the question: “Which single individual literally can make the decision or enact the change we want to see?” In many OEA campaigns, your target will be a member of a Board of Education—so you’ll probably need to decide which member of the board holds the most power.
  • Target: President of the Board of Education
  • Why: Her vote breaks a deadlock tie and is therefore positioned to make the deciding vote.
  1. Background Research Have participants research your target’s personal and professional connections and find information relevant to the current campaign. If you have multiple potential targets, research all of them to determine who holds the most decision-making power, and who you are most likely to move or influence. Your group probably knows more than you think–brainstorming with a diverse participant pool can unearth a lot of useful information. Consider these questions as you research:

Who helped to elect your target?
Who donated to your target’s election campaign?
What are your target’s previous and current professions?
What is your target’s voting record?
Which media outlets in your community support your target?
What are your target’s personal connections?
What organizations do they belong to?
Does your target have connection to local labor organizations?

  • Research Outcomes: The President works as a manager in an industry that has organized labor. Her children are currently in elementary school, and the PTO supported her in the last election. She also has family connections to retired teachers, and is an active member of fraternal organizations.


Next Installment – Part Two: Facilitating a Power Mapping Exercise

We want to hear from you! Have you used power mapping as a tool to put pressure on a target to reach a goal? Or how could you use power mapping in your organization?

The newly-created OEA Organizing Department consists of four full-time organizers; Jeremy Baiman, Makia Burns, Matt Ides, and Bill Otten. As a group, we have diverse organizing experiences, working with community groups, non-profits, and unions. We’re here to help OEA members build power in their local associations and communities. We’ll also be working with local associations to organize new members into our union, enhancing our ability to set statewide standards and fight for quality public education.


General Organizing

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