Power mapping is one of the most important tasks for people organizing for widespread social/economic change. Whether you’re looking to overturn a law, prevent a bill from becoming law, or overturning the entire economic system, it’s important to know the people who will be affected by and resist your project.

If you’ve ever played simulation games that involve gangs, mobsters, or rivals, you know these game represent life at some level. You may be doing something “nice” or “right”, but if you’re cutting into somebody else’s power, authority, or money, there will be potential repercussions. That’s what government is as we know it today. It’s got some nice sheen to it, but it’s the same “protection for money” scheme that mobsters offer, with a few extra “rights” if you’re in the right socio-economic class  (and even then, there’s no guarantees there). The only real difference between the mob and the local government is their veneer of “legitimacy”.

What is Power Mapping?

A power map is kind of like a flow-chart. Wikipedia has an intro article to it. It sounds like a way cooler way to make maps, but it isn’t, it’s actually just as boring (and useful)! In general, when power-mapping, think about:

  • What your goals are
  • Who will be impacted negatively by the accomplishment of your goals. This could mean them losing power, money, influence, prestige, or anything else. If they are negatively impacted, what kind of resources do they have to fight back against you?
  • Who are the key decision makers? For example, if you convince 99% of citizens and City Council Members in Eugene that converting a city-owned lot into a homeless shelter is a great idea, what is the Chairman of the Eugene City Council going to think about that? He’ll probably do everything he can to prevent it if he owns a part of that land. What can you do to sway his position?

Remember there is no absolutely correct way to do it, it all depends on your context. So work out that frontal lobe of yours! Here are some general resources for power mapping.

Youth Activist’s Guide to Power Mapping

Move to Amend Guide to Power Mapping

And of course, just Google it. Remember that many power mapping guides insist that you stay entirely within the boundaries of the law, but that’s completely up to you. We, of course, would never encourage you to break the law, but it’s a “free country” and you can do as you wish.

Who consolidates and holds power in our area? Understanding this is the first step to changing the balance of power and change on the social/economic level. These are just some very basic jumping off points for research.

Points for Research

City of Eugene and Springfield police call logs

Eugene City Council members and upcoming meetings/topics.

Springfield City Council and upcoming meetings/topics

Lane County Commissioners Agendas and Recordings

Eugene Downtown Business Association

Springfield Chamber of Commerce and Eugene Chamber of Commerce

Rental Owners Association of Lane County and Oregon Rental Housing Association

Democratic Party of Lane County and Republican Party of Lane County (who maintains basically no local electoral power but can influence statewide legislation.)

Oregon Public Records Law straight from the horse’s mouth and from a more sympathetic organization

Have you done some power mapping of your own? Send it to us so we can publish it!