Understanding People Power: the Upside-Dvery own Triangle

By themselves, rulers cannot collect taxes, enforce repressive regulations and also regulations, store trains running on time, prepare nationwide budgets, straight web traffic, manage ports, print money, repair roads, store sectors provided through food, make steel, develop rockets, train the police and also army, concern postage stamps or even milk a cow. People provide these services to the ruler though a selection of organizations and also organizations. If human being would speak giving these skills, the ruler can not ascendancy. - Gene Sharp • The Politics of Nonviolent Action

Topics: Organising, Strategy
Time: 15-30 minutesGroup Size: 5-50+ people

Timeless power is thought of as a pyramid, where power flows from the peak downward. A janitor takes orders from a supervisor who takes orders from a district head, and also so on — all the means approximately a CEO or head of state at the exceptionally optimal of the pyramid. In that way of viewing power, social adjust happens once we either rearea the human being at the optimal (for example, program change or voting) or are able to convince the height to change their means (for instance, educating them through a major public outcry).

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But that’s not a grassroots way of viewing power. That leaves power in the hands of the oil executives and the remainder of us begging for them to execute the ideal thing. We require a brand-new means of viewing the power.

The grassroots method views power as flowing upwards: this is the upside-dvery own triangle.


In this method of viewing power, the oil executive or head of state is inherently unsecure. Like an upside-down triangle, unjust power and authority is unsteady and also will fall. To prevent that, that depend on supports to store them upright—we contact them pillars of support.

For example, oil executives are dependent not only on their supervisors, yet various other pillars of support prefer the company’s stockholders, the secretary that keeps track of their schedule, the tech workers who keep their cell phone and also e-mail functioning, the janitors who clean their offices, their limo driver, truck vehicle drivers and also ship captains that transfer their oil, writers that do not investigate their humale rights violations, designers and home builders that make the roads that the oil companies’ trucks move on, customers who buy their product, and so on.

Thunstable all these actions they provide legitimacy to the oil companies—and also prop them up, which enables them to continue with their damaging practises.

A campaign from the 1970s illustprices this. The U.S. government was sfinishing tools to Pakistani dictator Yahya Khan that were supplied to murder the civilization of East Pakistan (currently Bangladesh). In an attempted genocide, practically 3 million East Pakistanis were killed.

A group of Quakers in the USA wanted to make a distinction. When they uncovered out that some of the arms shipments were loaded from ports in their city, they picked a dramatic action to soptimal the circulation of weapons –– a naval blockade! For a month, they publicly exercised “naval maneuvers” in canoes and also kayaks in front of TV camages. Some days had themes—religious leaders, kids, elders—all leading as much as the arrival of the gigantic freighter ships bound for Pakistan. (Read even more around the concept and methods of kayaktivism.)

When the first ship arrived, the group jumped right into their canoes and paddle boats. The coastline guard automatically pulled them out, as photographers tried for the finest image. Over the next weeks, they played ‘a cat-and-mouse game,’ as the freighters tried to protect against the public spotlight by changing their arrival times or rerouting to various other surrounding ports. But an essential team of human being was watching the unfolding storyline on TV –– the longshoreguys employed to fill the ships.

The Quakers checked out bars and also met through them. The longshoremen were struck by their sincerity and the feeling that this was a historic moment. The neighborhood longshoremen union agreed to refuse to pack tools headed to Pakistan. It was the start of the end.

The local longshoremen encouraged the national union to stop loading any type of army shipments to Pakistan. With that essential pillar of assistance rerelocated, the federal government couldn’t usage any port on the East Coast to sfinish arms. This timeless civil disobedience made it prohibitively expensive to sfinish the tools. Soon after, the federal federal government announced it would no longer assistance the dictator (unsurprisingly, they did not point out the activists’ role).

Without firing a swarm or making a single lobby visit, this little group required the hand of the the UNITED STATE empire. That’s power.

This is a various see of “civilization power” than people simply working together to try to sway powerholders to readjust. Instead it provides the specific strategy of conversion of allies to destabilise power. By analyzing our targets utilizing this means of viewing power, we may see brand-new pillars we can “remove” from the system—and likewise better analyze who power resources we have relationships and access to in order to pressure readjust. (Read even more around Power-Mapping your targain.) 

Pillars of Support


Use this to analyse the power of your project targain.

Start by putting your targain in the facility.

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Brainstorm different pillars of support. Who offers assistance to that target? Even if they disagree through them (or don’t care around their position), who are the people who carry out the orders or otherwise organize up that pillar? Be specific with the names of unions, media conglomeprices, secretaries, and so on. If important, you may desire to take some of those and also make them into separate upside-dvery own triangles with their very own pillars of assistance.