Image of a flower

Power Flower

Justice, Equity & Inclusion


This activity leads a reflection on each individual’s places of privilege and power in our society. After individual reflection, there are a variety of ways to lead group sharing and focus the debrief to fit within a program’s overall goals. This activity can serve as an introduction to the concepts of power and privilege for a group or can be used to dive deeper into these concepts with folks who are already familiar with them.

The “Power Flower” is a tool developed by Canadian social change educators when working with groups to “identify who we are (and who we aren’t) as individuals and as a group in relation to those who wield power in our society” (Educating for a Change, p. 87). The centre of a daisy-type flower is divided into 16 segments, each representing one facet or category of our social identity. This centre is surrounded by a double set of petals, one outer, one inner. The outer petals describe the dominant or powerful identities in society. The inner petals are filled in by participants and describe the social identity of each individual. 

The below definitions will support you in leading this activity:

  • Power (institutional): Possession of control, authority, or influence over others (Merriam-Webster, 2018). The ability or official authority to decide what is best for others. The ability to decide who will have access to resources. The capacity to exercise control over others.

  • Privilege: A right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor : prerogative; especially : such a right or immunity attached specifically to a position or an office (Merriam-Webster, 2018)

Privilege operates on personal, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional levels and gives advantages, favors, and benefits to members of dominant groups at the expense of members of target groups. In North America, privilege is granted to people who are part in one or more of these social identify groups:  

  • White people;
  • Able-bodied people;
  • Heterosexuals;
  • Males;
  • Christians;
  • Middle class people;
  • Middle-aged people;
  • English-speaking people

Privilege is characteristically invisible to people who have it. People in dominant groups often believe that they have “earned” the privileges that they enjoy or that everyone could have access to these privileges if only they worked to earn them. In fact, privileges are unearned and they are granted to people in the dominant groups whether they want those privileges or not, and regardless of their stated intent. People in dominant groups are frequently unaware that they are members of the dominant group due to the privilege of being able to see themselves as persons rather than stereotypes.

It is important to indicate that a group does not have to be a majority to be a dominant social group. 

  • Oppression: Unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power (Merriam-Webster, 2018)

The combination of prejudice and institutional power which creates a system that discriminates against some groups (often called “target groups”) and benefits other groups (often called “dominant groups”). Examples of these systems are racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, classism, ageism, and anti-Semitism. These systems enable dominant groups to exert control over target groups by limiting their rights, freedom, and access to basic resources such as health care, education, employment, and housing.

  • Marginalization: The process of to put or keep putting (someone) in a powerless or unimportant position within a society or group (Merriam-Webster,2018).

An alternative definition to marginalization defined by Jenson (2000) is “Marginals: people the system of labor cannot or will not use, as a result they are excluded from one of society’s major integrating activities, thereby missing out on one of the basic factors leading to full inclusion

Marginalization is a kind of exclusion or isolation of the young people from the main political, social, economic mainstreams.

The object of the exercise is to discover how close, or how distant, each person is to the dominant identity of their current society. The more inner petals match the outer (dominant) ones, the more social power that person possesses. 

Often one or more centre segments are left blank for the group to identify aspects or categories of social identity that carry special power significance peculiar to their context. For instance, whether a person is born in Canada or outside Canada would likely make a difference.

  • Printed handout for each participant (see below)
  • Pens
  • Markers
  • Chart paper
  • Reflective music (optional)
  • Make a large replica of the power flower on a piece of chart paper and hang out on the wall

Time: 1 hour


“We are going to take some time to reflect on our individual privilege and power in society. In this activity you will have the time to explore your personal identities. At no point will you be required to share this with the group if you do not feel comfortable with that.” 

  • Discuss definitions. Start with a conversation on what is “power and privilege”. Give them the space to discuss in the group. 
  • Then, go over the definitions with them. Write them on the board (optional).
    • Ask for some examples of dominant groups in our society that hold power. 
  • Introduce the flower diagram: explain to participants that we will use this flower diagram (point to chart paper) to learn about our place within the society and be more aware of our privileges. 
    • Hand out the flower diagram copies to each participant.
  • Working as a group, fill in the outer petals together by determining the dominant group in each of the identity categories within the flower. 
    • For instance, when completing the race category, it would not be too difficult to agree that “white” should go in the outer petal. 
    • The same might go for “English” in the language category language, and “heterosexual” in the sexual orientation category. 
  • Working individually, have participants locate themselves in each inner petal on their own sheet. They write down how they identify in each identity category on the inner petal. 
    • Optional: put on some reflective music while they write. 
  • Once everyone has completed their flowers ask them to take a moment to look at their flower. 
    • Ask them to answer in their head: where does your inner petal match the outer petal (i.e. your identity is that of the dominant group in our society)?

  • Sharing: 
    • Option 1- Pair and Share: Ask participants to turn to the person next to them and share and compare their place in the flower diagram and the society based on the discussions we have been having.
    • Option 2 – Volunteers Share: Ask for volunteers to hold up their flower and share with the group. 
    • Option 3 –  ask people to come forward and transfer their inner petal locations onto the inner petals of the large flower. This makes up the composite, communal social identity of your group.

This activity requires a clear debrief to wrap up and discover the purpose of doing this exercise. The facilitator can choose to focus the debrief on different lenses such as personal social identities, group social identity, or interpersonal relations within the group. 

As this exercise reveals aspects of our social identity that we are often not aware of, sometimes the unveiling can cause pain, anger, or even denial. A person who feels personally powerless is confronted by the fact that regardless of how she might feel, she is seen as wielding quite a bit of power by society in general. When working with marginalized groups, it’s important to create space for individuals to discover where they do hold power in society. 

On the other hand, someone who feels personally responsible for not having succeeded may be freed from self-blame when they see that there are structural reasons holding them back. Helping one another untangle the personal from the structural can help us move forward with anti-racism work and with our struggle to seek justice against other oppressions.

  • How did it feel to reflect on which groups in our society you identify with? 
  • Have you ever taken time to reflect on these identities before? 
  • What surprised you about your flower diagram? 
  • How does this diagram represent marginalization/oppression? 
  • How does this diagram represent the power you hold in society? 
  • When you are working in a group how do you think your privilege or power may affect how you work with these groups?
  • How can this activity help us work better as a group?