Posted: December 7, 2012
Power in my community has for many years been found among the families of two churches who also make up most of the staff of the volunteer fire company. They also filled most offices/jobs in municipal government. In other communities Power might include major business owners as well.
Issue-specific Power in a neighboring community lay for a long time on the shoulders of a petite, elderly environmental activist. When she died a while ago, environmental issue Power was shared by a group of environmentalists, none of whom has quite as much impact as the original source of Power had.
In community development, identification of Power sources is valuable. Power has connections. Power has influence with others. If Power understands your project, they likely will support it and get their friends to do so too.
How do you find out where the Power lies? By networking. Talk to a cross-section of people in your community about your concerns or ideas. Aim for Knowledgeables. These might include organization and religious leaders, local officials, bankers and media folks. In my township, I would depend on township supervisors and the township secretary, homeowners associations, and the volunteer fire company leadership. Power doesn't always hold a formal leadership position. But it is important to talk with leadership to ferret out sources of community Power. Who are the persons who can make or break a project?
Always end your discussion with the question, "Who else should I talk with?" Get names and contact information and schedule meetings with them. Again, always ask the same final question "Who else should I talk with? Are these people you think have influence in the community?" When you do this enough times, you'll find certain names keep coming up. Those are Power names.
Find Power by talking with school board, the superintendent, PTA leadership and other leadership concerned with youth if the issue is focused on education or youth.
Power for economic issues can be found by talking with the local Chamber of Commerce, certain business leaders, and local officials including the county economic development office.
This process of finding the sources of Power in a community needs to be completed each time a new project is considered. Power relationships change over time. Population changes. Roles change.
Who are the sources of Power and influence in your community? Are they engaged in your current community development project?