Evaluating Power Building: A Paradigm Shift for Evaluators
Power building has long been a fundamental practice and objective of grassroots-led change efforts. Through power building, grassroots actors contest and disrupt existing power arrangements, seeking to gain and redistribute power to individuals and communities most impacted by injustice and inequities.
In our article, “Evaluating power building: Concepts and considerations for advocacy evaluators,” Margaret Post and I make the case that power building has long been overlooked by the evaluation sector and represents a paradigm shift for advocacy evaluators. Evaluating power building means a fundamental reorientation and expansion in our understanding of social change goals, outcomes, strategies, and actors.
Throughout the article, we share concepts and considerations for evaluators who are tasked with assessing power-building efforts. We demonstrate how these concepts and considerations played out in an evaluation of the power-building efforts of nine community organizations in the Community Change Power in Places initiative. We conclude the article with four critical learnings about the evaluation of power building.
- Because power building is, at its core, about the pursuit of greater equity and justice, equity must be central to evaluation designs. The approach, methods, and practice of evaluations about power building should be in service to equity.
- In the evaluation of power building, we need to look beyond policy wins and expand conceptions of the successes and outcomes of power building. Power building is not just about achieving changes in policies and material conditions. Power building can also shape the interpersonal, spiritual, and psychological dimensions of individual and community life.
- Power building is a process that is dynamic, nonlinear, and long-term. Organizations do not build power through one campaign or action through a single win. It can take years of organizing and collective action to build power.
- Broaden your analytic lens to consider how a wide range of actors contribute to power-building efforts including organizations, communities, and individuals.