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What have we learned from the powercube?

Published on 18 December 2017

Over ten years ago John Gaventa and the Power, Participation and Social Change team at IDS, developed the powercube, a tool for understanding power relations in efforts to bring about social change. They did so by building on the work of Gaventa as well as others, including Steven Lukes, Andrea Cornwall, Rosemary McGee, Karen Brock and Lisa VeneKlasen, Valerie Miller, Jo Rowlands and Jethro Pettit.

This is the image of the powercube survey.

What’s next for the powercube?

Celebrating over 10 years since first being published in 2006, this year provides us with an opportunity to reflect critically on how the powercube has been applied and how it has evolved. So we are looking for your help and asking how has the powercube has assisted you in your work.

1. History of the powercube

The powercube was first used by John Gaventa at a meeting of Citizenship DRC researchers in 2002 and as a training tool with donors on the rights-based approach at IDS in 2003. The idea was picked up and adapted more systematically in evaluations for donors, as a training and assessment tool with NGOs and donor agencies, and by students at IDS. Since then, the Power Cube has spread and improved in a variety of ways.

2. Let’s talk numbers

In 2006 the powercube made its first appearance in the IDS Bulletin, Exploring Power for Change. John Gaventa’s first article (Finding the Spaces for Change: A Power Analysis) introducing the powercube has been cited 508 times.

Debuting in 2009, the powercube platform was created to share the lessons learned from people who have been using the powercube and this approach has continued to spread and be adapted by others. The website continues to be highly used. Since its creation, hundreds of thousands of users have accessed the online platform and some have contributed to expand the tool through their own work.

3. Beyond Development

The powercube has been widely applied in a number of areas within the development sector and beyond. For example, in organisations and projects focusing on justice, women’s empowerment, climate change, environment, policy making, poverty, civic participation. Among many sectors, the tool has been used in the context of healthcare and mental health, agriculture, activism, arts, teaching, political ecology, housing and water management.

4. One tool, many applications

The powercube has been utilised in a number of ways, alone or with other tools. More widely, it has been used for context analysis, to develop strategies and action for advocacy, as a monitoring and evaluation tool, for facilitation and Learning, as a theoretical or analytical framework for research purposes.

5. What now?

We are looking at lessons from applying the powercube. We would like to hear from other researchers, scholars, practitioners and activists about what has been their experience of applying the tool. This would be an opportunity to reflect critically on how the powercube has evolved and been used in practice, what has worked in what contexts, and why.

Powercube survey

To take part, please fill in this survey which takes between 10-20 minutes to complete and tell us about how you used the powercube and what you learned.

Key contacts

Image of John Gaventa
John Gaventa

Director of Research

j.gaventa@ids.ac.uk

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