Who is most powerful… and does it matter?

One pattern I have seen evolve in the past policy level Net-Map exercises is that it is not so much about the one most powerful actor but a group of maybe 3-6 very powerful actors who all fill different roles and just like pillars of a house, you can’t remove one and still have a stable structure. So one thing we do with Net-Map is understand who this group of most powerful actors are, what the distinct roles are that need to be fulfilled for this system to work well, how the powerful actors fill these roles and which specific issues concern these specific roles. When you ask individuals however, most of them focus just on one role, their assessment of the power dynamics being something like: “Money rules.” Or “This is all run by the most senior in the formal hierarchy.” Or “This is all about informal influence and friendship” By bringing these perspectives together and exploring the different roles that make actors influential in the network we see that all of these statements are true to a certain degree. But that the most realistic picture is accepting that one actor might be powerful because of money while the other one gets his or her influence from the friendship or family relation of a powerful actor.

2 Responses

  1. What observable characteristics can one use to measure how influential someone is in a given field or community?…

    “Measuring” influence is a tricky thing to do, because you cannot measure it directly as you could the height or weight of a person. In social network analysis we have found that influence is often linked to the position of actors in their networks. …

  2. What makes people powerful?…

    In my research I find that most people want to boil it down to one thing. They believe: “Being rich makes you powerful!” or “Having political connections makes you powerful!” or “Being able to connect to the masses makes you powerful” and so on. …

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