Power, control, communities and health inequalities. Part II: Measuring shifts in power

Ruth Ponsford, Michelle Collins, Matt Egan, Emma Halliday, Sue Lewis, Lois Orton, Katie Powell, Amy Barnes, Sarah Salway, Anne Townsend, Margaret Whitehead, Jennie Popay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the health field there is great interest in the role empowerment might play in reducing social inequalities in health. Empowerment is understood here as the processes of developing capabilities that individuals and/or communities need to exercise control over decisions and actions impacting on their lives and health. There is a fundamental problem, however, in identifying and measuring capabilities for collective control control that emerge at the level of the collective, with much of the existing literature focussing on individual measures even where community level processes are concerned. Collective measures need to capture the dynamics of interactions within and between groups, not simply aggregate individual level measures. This paper, Part 2 in a three-part series, takes up the challenge of identifying qualitative markers of capabilities for collective control. We applied the Emancipatory Power Framework (EPF) reported in Part 1 of the series, to qualitative data generated during a longitudinal evaluation of a major English area-based empowerment initiative, the Big Local (BL). We identified empirical 'markers' of shifts towards greater collective control pertaining to each of the ‘power’ dimensions in the EPF -‘power within’, ‘power with’ and ‘power to’ - and markers of communities exercising ‘power over’ other institutions/community members. These markers can usefully be applied in the evaluation planning and evaluation of empowerment initiatives. Part 3 in the series uses these markers and a second analytical framework developed during our evaluation of BL to explore how power dynamics unfold in participatory spaces in BL neighbourhoods.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberdaaa019
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Promotion International
Early online date31 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Dec 2020


  • area-based initiatives
  • evaluation
  • health inequalities
  • community empowerment
  • collective control
  • social determinants of health


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