Introduction to Power Mapping

In late January, CNM hosted a well-attended ‘Food for Thought’ session on Power Mapping, a helpful tool nonprofits can use to build strategy and assess progress while driving change for our communities. Expertly led by CNM’s Carlos Cazares, the session focused on techniques for identifying influence and cultivating connections in order to transform policy. We’re posting the outline here – if you have additional questions, contact Carlos.

One of the key benefits of incorporating the power mapping tool into your nonprofit work is that it can be used at any point of the planning and/or implementation process. Whether you are assessing the landscape to start a new nonprofit, organizing an effort to shift policy or have been in service for 30+ years creating yet another strategic plan; the power map activity will help maximize your organizational efforts. The Power Mapping activity includes specific relational elements such as “Key Players”, “Key Problems”, “Key Battles” and “Key Strategies” that will be explained below. In essence, the Power Mapping framework allows you to position allied and oppositional groups & factors along two axes (vertical axis as power, horizontal as support/opposition) in order to develop a plan of action for success.

The blank and example templates of the power map tool shared with you was developed by AGENDA (Action for Grassroots Empowerment and Neighborhood Development Alternatives), a South Los Angeles community organization that has used this particular power map template to strategize/assess policy change campaigns within their annual goals. Let’s use this template and begin the necessary steps towards preparing our power map.

Step #1: Setting the Frame

  • Choose the goal, priority, or deliverable that you would like to execute. State it clearly on the “Your Agenda” box on the Power Map. “Their Agenda” represents all challenges and forces that play against accomplishing success.

  • Choose the timeline to execute this goal, priority, or deliverable. State the timeline clearly on the top of the Power Map.


Step #2: Key Players on Power Map

List all the Key Players involved on the Power Map:

  • Who are your “allied forces”?: These are people that are organized and in support of your agenda. They help build a power base. (Rectangle on Power Map)

  • Who are “opposition forces”?: These are organized people that oppose your agenda. They challenge your power base. (Rectangle on Power Map)

  • Who are the “decision makers”?: These are people or institutions that make the decisions that affect “Our Agenda”. (Triangle on Power Map)

  • Who are the “Unorganized Groups”?: These are groups of people who are not affiliated with an organization or space but represent the majority of people and can be swayed to support either agenda. (Ovals on Power Map)

  • Who represents the “Constituency”?: These are the people who are directly affected by the issue. These are the people that you are focusing your efforts and base building on. (Star on Power Map)


Step #3: Identity Key Challenges

List as many key challenges that exist or that you can anticipate within the timeline you created for these categories:

  • What are “Key Problems”?: These are the conditions in your society/community you believe are most important to change in order to achieve success. (Clouds on the Power Map)

  • What are “Key Battles”?: These are major issues or active struggles that exist between both “Our Agenda” and “Their Agenda”. (Lightning on the Power Map)


Step #4: Mapping Out Process

Now it is time to position all the pieces on the map in order to create our strategy/Plan of Action.

  • Place all of the “Key Players” on the blank power map template. Make sure to position all “Key Players” on the map in relation to the Horizontal Axis (Level of support or opposition to success of “our agenda”) and Vertical Axis (Level of Influence/Decision-Making Power in which the higher you are placed, the more power you obtain).

  • Place all “Key Problems” and “Key Battles” next on the map and position these factors as they relate to the “Key Players” and Agenda at large.

Your Power Map is now prepared for strategizing!


Step #5: Developing Strategy and a Plan of Action

Now that you have your Power Map setup let’s develop the strategies needed in order to move “Key Players” and “Power” in favor of “Our Agenda”. (Arrows on Power Map)

  • How do you plan to build the power to accomplish your agenda?

  • How do you build power through your organizing?

  • How do you build power through alliances that exist on the map?

  • How do you build or shift power through key battles on the map?

  • How do you leverage the power of “key players” that support your agenda?

  • How do you strategically position all these pieces in order to have the most effective and successful plan of action?


Concluding Insights on Power Mapping:

We understand that developing strategy is not as simple as following a 5 step process for power mapping. Strategy requires a level of prior knowledge, specialized skills, inquiry, reflection, and collaboration. Take the time to share your power map with colleagues, support staff and partners in strategy in order to receive feedback and input that will continue to strengthen your strategy. Your ability to develop a clear and realistic power map will serve two purposes, as both a 1) Road Map to Success, and an 2) Assessment Tool on Progress/Impact.

As many other critical tools in developing strategy; the more feedback and practice is incorporated into your Power Map, the more opportunity there is to attain success efficiently and effectively.

Speak With an Expert

Need expert advice? We're only an email or phone call away. Use this form to get in touch or call the Nonprofit Answer Hotline at the number listed below. You can also schedule a free, 15-minute appointment and we’ll match you with an in-house expert.

To select more than one item, hold Command on Mac or Control on PC.

CNM Nonprofit Hotline

Need expert advice? We’re only an email or phone call away. Use this form to get in touch or call the Nonprofit Answer Hotline at the number listed below.

You can also schedule a free, 15-minute appointment and we’ll match you with an in-house expert.

To select more than one item, hold Command on Mac or Control on PC.

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