Power dynamics: A systemic inquiry | by Anna Birney | School of System Change | Medium


Power dynamics: A systemic inquiry | by Anna Birney | School of System Change | Medium

Power dynamics: A systemic inquiry

Anna Birney

Anna BirneyFollowingJan 20 · 17 min read

Why this article? Purpose and position

The word power keeps popping up wherever I turn. Through my ten years of doing my doctorate action research it was all over my notes and reflections. I kept pushing it out of what I was writing about and feeling scared to even go there as if the power of it itself was too much to face or to look at, as if it was just too complex and unknown. In the end I could not ignore the question and did reflect on what it meant for the work I had been doing. I concluded that the field of systems change did need to really integrate it more into its work. Fast forward a couple of years and the question kept on slapping me in the face, not literally but in the questioning of who you choose to facilitate a session, how you frame the work, make decisions and so forth — saying to me — come one you said it was important to what the hell are you doing about it!

This article therefore is trying to pull together some of the thread of the last four or five years of looking at the journey so far and what I have learnt. I have put off publishing this for eighteen months as if the final answer or way to present it will come, but that I also realise is a putting off — so here is some of the messy journey of stumbling around in the dark.

This article there has a few elements to it.

  • Firstly how the issue of power relates to the systemic sustainability challenges we are facing — from climate change, deep inequalities that through the mirror that is our time in Covid has been seen even more acutely and how we might see the way they interrelate and are part of the same issues.
  • Secondly exploring the concept of power and how it relates to systems change;
  • Thirdly, looking at some of the insights about what makes up the dynamics of power, that are based in both our histories, and wider context as well as how that manifests in us individually and needs work all levels;
  • Finally starting to explore some framings of the strategies we might take to work with power.

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