HKS Authors

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How can organization leaders make strategic choices that allow them to exercise power in politics? Our book, Prisms of the People, attempts to answer this question by drawing on several case studies of organizations that have won significant victories for their constituencies. In our “prism” metaphor, organizations are the prisms that refract a group’s actions into political power. When leaders make choices about how to direct resources, which courses of action to pursue, how to develop leadership, etc., those choices shape the internal design of the prism and thus impact the qualities of the vectors of power projected into the world. The following excerpt outlines one of the main ideas in our book: Strategic leaders make the intentional choice to build an independent constituency. The passage includes examples from organizations in Minnesota, Arizona, Virginia, and Ohio. We find that these leaders’ choices to build constituencies independent of wealthy donors, political parties, and other elite actors result in bases of people that are flexible and committed. These independent constituencies are the source of the organizations’ power.


Oyakawa, Michelle, Elizabeth McKenna, and Hahrie Han. "Constituency as an Independent Source of Power." Social Science Research Council - Items. April 6, 2021.