Governing Power Strategy

Governing power strategy is a long-term, integrated approach to organizing, campaigning, movement infrastructure and narrative that is oriented toward winning the scope and scale of power necessary to control the levers of the government. Governing power strategy requires a series of significant shifts in how organizing and political work are currently done, including (1) the ability to exercise and win power in multiple arenas of decision-making and (2) a stronger integration of our work to win victories, build power and sustain our wins.

Winning concrete changes in people’s lives is at the heart of the craft of organizing, as is the work of building power. But, too often, there is a chasm between the work to deliver policy and electoral victories and the work to build power over time. Sometimes, this manifests as a division of labor between policy specialists and electoral operatives, whose job is to “bring home the win,” and organizers, whose job is to build power. Other times, it shows up as a campaign-oriented approach to building power, where after building the power we need to win a given campaign, we set that power down and take up the project of building new power to win a different campaign—losing leaders, alliances, infrastructure and more, in the process. 

We need to adopt a more dynamic approach to the relationship between building power, winning campaigns and sustaining our victories that shifts both how we fight and what we fight for.

The theory for these shifts in strategy and practice builds on the Three Faces of Power (Healey and Hinson 2013) framework, which considers power in three dimensions: 

Power to Win Demands by organizing people and resources for direct political action; Power to Drive the Agenda by building movement infrastructure, and; Power to Shape Common Sense by making meaning on the terrain of ideology and worldview.


There are 5 critical shifts in how we approach our political fights that are needed to advance governing power strategy: 

  1. From a Target-focused Power Analysis to a Governing Power Analysis 
  2. From Short-Term Campaigns to a Long-term Governing Agenda 
    • Extending the Strategic Time Horizon
    • Making Power-Building as Important as the Win
    • Embedding Power-Building and Enforcement into Policies 
  3. From Tactical Messaging to Leveraging Narrative to Govern
  4. From Winning One-Off Elections to Developing Independent Political Infrastructure and Co-governing
  5. From Narrow Base Building to Building Majoritarian Power
    • Building Base to Lead a Constituency
    • Building a Multi-racial, Working Class Majority
    • Forging Alliances to Change the Political Conditions

To Sum It Up: Governing Power Strategy

Governing power strategy is a compass that points us toward winning the scope and scale of power necessary to control and transform the levers of the government. It changes how we fight by requiring us to integrate organizing, campaigning, movement infrastructure and narrative so that we win, build power and sustain our victories. To do so means that as organizers, we need to reject the false choice of either “building power” or “campaigning to win.” We need to do both. It also means that we need to change what we fight for by embedding enforcement and power-building into the policies that we are fighting for.