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Power, control, communities and health inequalities III: participatory spaces-an English case

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/10/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Health Promotion International
Issue number5
Volume36
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)1264-1274
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date31/12/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

This article-third in a series of three-uses theoretical frameworks described in Part 1, and empirical markers reported in Part 2, to present evidence on how power dynamics shifted during the early years of a major English community empowerment initiative. We demonstrate how the capabilities disadvantaged communities require to exercise collective control over decisions/actions impacting on their lives and health (conceptualized as emancipatory power) and the exercise of power over these communities (conceptualized as limiting power) were shaped by the characteristics of participatory spaces created by and/or associated with this initiative. Two main types of participatory spaces were identified: governance and sense-making. Though all forms of emancipatory power emerged in all spaces, some were more evident in particular spaces. In governance spaces, the development and enactment of 'power to' emerged as residents made formal decisions on action, allocated resources and managed accountability. Capabilities for alliance building-power with-were more likely to emerge in these spaces, as was residents' resistance to the exercise of institutional power over them. In contrast, in sense-making spaces residents met informally and 'made sense' of local issues and their ability to influence these. These processes led to the development of power within capabilities and power to resist stigmatizing forms of productive power. The findings highlight the importance of designing community initiatives that: nurture diverse participatory spaces; attend to connectivity between spaces; and identify and act on existing power dynamics undermining capabilities for collective control in disadvantaged communities.