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Four expressions of power

Watch the video for a closer look at the four expressions of power framework. We can apply this framework to help us understand how change happens.

Watch the video for a closer look at the four expressions of power framework.

We can apply this framework to help us understand how the change happened in the Chiquitanos case study:

Power Within: The change took place as part of a wider evolution of indigenous identity. In the 1980s, inspired in part by Chiquitano language radio programmes, the Chiquitanos for the first time began to identify themselves as indigenous people. Indigenous identity began to replace the class-based peasant identity promoted by the nationalism of Bolivia’s 1952 revolution. As one elderly woman explained, ‘Only a short while ago did we begin calling ourselves Chiquitano Indians . . . we look alike, we were all handed over to the bosses . . . they called us cambas or peasants until not long ago.’

Power With: The dawn of ‘power within’ rapidly led to ‘power with’ in the form of cultural associations, which rapidly acquired an explicitly political nature. The Chiquitano Indigenous Organization (OICH), represented more than 450 communities. A turning point came when the Chiquitanos decided to join up with Bolivia’s far more numerous highland Indians. ‘We met with one of the highlands leaders,’ recalls Chiquitano leader, now Senator, Carlos Cuasase, ‘and we said, “Look brother, you have the same problems that we do, the same needs.” We agreed not only on [the law to nationalize] hydrocarbons but also to defend the rights of indigenous people of both highlands and lowlands.’

Power To: After protests toppled President Sánchez de Lozada in October 2003, identity documents became easier to obtain and candidates were allowed to run independently of traditional political parties, which led to major gains for indigenous peoples in the 2005 municipal elections.

Power Over: In the words of a Chiquitano activist, “My father never realised our rights. We just did what the white people told us; only they could be in power, be president. We couldn’t even go into the town centre, people swore at us. But then we got our own organisation and elected our own leaders and that’s when we realised that we had rights.”

Using the four expressions of power framework

The sort of questions to ask yourself in applying this power analysis framework to the issue you would like to change are:

  • Who has power?
  • Who has authority over others and how is that used?
  • Who owns or controls resources, sets the agenda, takes the decisions?
  • What new skill or capacity will give you more power?
  • Do you have the confidence and belief that you can effect change?
  • How will working with others create a situation giving you more power?
  • How can you help to build the ‘power within’, ‘power with’ and ‘power to’ of other individuals and groups pursuing change?
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