When talking about the need to challenge hierarchies, promote more user involvement, support those with least influence but most need it is convenient to talk about being more bottom-up, less top-down. But I'm feeling increasing uncomfortable about using the term, because it implies that power relationships are easy to understand ... them and us, big and small, sensitive and insensitive.
In practice most situations are highly complex with lots of different interests with differing degrees of influence. Of course, people are marginalised, power shifts are often needed ... but as I've tried to say elsewhere we need to borrow from thinking about systems, networks and the Net to understand what tools and processes may be most effective in bringing change.
If we accept influence is partly about nodes, connections, knowledge flows - and these don't map on to simple architectures of top-down and bottom-up, what terms do we use in describing a shift in influence. More outside-in doesn't really do it.
Drew Mackie and I have been talking to organisations a lot recently about different types of networks - join us (really a hierarchy), join up (clusters), or join in (a more fluid mesh). Shown the diagrams and descriptions organisations developing networks usually say they want something flat, democratic and fluid.
But as soon as we start on the practicalities of who can do what, who can connect to whom ... who controls the communication systems for example ... we are usually back into hierarchy. When we have the language, we may have the culture shift.