Power Mapping for PAR Teams

A tool that helps participatory research groups name our values and make power explicit on our team.

How do you address the inevitable power dynamics that arise on community-based research teams? How do we begin discussing the ways our identities, histories, educations, experiences, and values shape how we collaborate?

A participatory action research (PAR) team at the University of Denver saw a need for more guidance on these question. Shared power, they argue, is “central to participatory teams; yet, power navigation is often an ambiguous process and few clear guidelines exist.”

This is a problem because, “When faced with moments of ambiguity, or other limitations such as time, PAR team members may revert to traditional hierarchical power structures, possibly leading to power missteps.”

They developed a tool for mapping power relationships among research partners. The tool guides team members through individual reflection on four areas:

  • Map Power and Resource Realities among team members
  • Map Values that each member brings to the table
  • Map Growth Edges where they would like to learn and improve their engagement
  • Map Limitations and Constraints that shape how members can engage

Afterwards, team members read one another’s reflections and have an group discussion. The authors recommend that the group revisit these reflections, particularly the values discussion, when things get tense or uncertain.

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