Axis of Influence series

Introduction

This series started with Voice and echo, two frameworks designed to increase the influence that VCS groups have on the statutory sector and improve working relationships between the two. Voice is a practical framework for the VCS to use to assess and increase their influence; echo is a practical framework for the statutory sector and partnerships to use to assess and improve their response and openness to that VCS influence.

The series was expanded to include two further frameworks focusing on other related aspects of influence: Dynamo for individuals wanting to become more influential in their own organisations and DUO for infrastructure organisations wanting to be more open to influence from their constituents whilst at the same time being influential themselves. So emerged the Axis of Influence series.

What is an axis?

An axis is any line that helps describe how something moves from one situation to another

Axis_Pizza1For example, this line shows an increase in the number of people going along to a particular festival over its five year lifetime. It also shows us that this has not been a consistent story and that 2010 saw a decrease in the numbers from the previous year but that this picked up and the rise in 2012 was significant on the original intake.

A simple line can record a substantial amount of information, it can illustrate differences, similarities and anomolies and, for the curious amongst us, it is likely to start raising some questions immediately.

I don’t know about you, but this diagram makes us curious about what happened in 2010 for the numbers to fall when they steadily rise before and after and what did after their first year to make such a jump in their second.

This line doesn’t have to be over a period of time, it can be illustrating different experiences at the same fixed point in time – you see these all the time in surveys: on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 = terrible and 5 = excellent, how would you rate the catering in your hotel? Different people will rate differently even if they visit on the same day so what is that about? Different rooms, different service, different expectations, perhaps a particualr incident occured – it is endless!

Add a second axis and you get some idea about how one thing moves in relation to something else. Here is a bit more information about our festival

Axis_Pizza2Now we can see that year one, 2008, was a huge success and generated lots of positive publicity – and then something quite extreme happened which turned this around and the negative publicity during or after the 2009 event put people off attending. They did a good job at managing this, didn’t give up and have made steady improvment in publicity since which has brought their audiences back!

It is no coincidence that our exploration of influence from different perspectives resulted in an axis in each case, as they recognise the complexities of power and what is within our own gift to develop and challenge, as well as exploring where the parameters may be laid by others.

Strictly speaking, because each axis has two parts we should refer to them as ‘AXES’ but that doesn’t have the same ring to it somehow.

The horizontal axis and vertical axis together give us 4 quadrants. 4 quadrants

Some groups have found it helpful to understand this idea of ‘quadrants which offer different experiences’, by thinking of a 4-cheese pizza: the vertical axis is about the production, price and how easy it is to get hold of the ingredients the horizontal axis is about popularity and customer preference. The pizza is used to illustrate 4 different experiences – one in each ‘quadrant’ – voice does the same but with influence as the theme.

Each axis in the Axis of Influence series broadly offers 4 distinct experiences of power and influence – one in each quadrant. Understanding these 4 different experiences is the starting point for work with each of them.

There are currently 4 frameworks in the axis of influence series: Voice,echo, DUO and Dynamo

Voice

Influential - revised - blue

“If this was America you’d be paying a fortune for the information and know-how that’s contained here. This model is indispensable for any organisation serious about making an impact”
(comment from ‘Voice’ facilitator training)

‘Voice’ is a framework which helps community groups and networks to assess and improve the influence they have on agencies and partnerships. The ‘two axes in ‘Voice’ plot existing capacity to influence against how influential members of the group feels it is. It can be used to: assess and monitor community influence, prompt discussion and debate within groups and help plan how to become more influential.

Since 2008, we have trained people from all sorts of organisations to be Voice facilitators – and worked with a whole load of different groups, using Voice to help them plan for the future. You can see some examples on our Pinterest site. They include: Rural community councils, refugee networks, patient forums, pensioner forums, voluntary sector councils, police consultative groups, neighbourhood forums, equality groups, tenants groups – and school governors:

Two of us who are school governors and trained Voice facilitators ran a Voice first session with two governing bodies of different primary schools in Wolverhampton. We were very pleased with the outcome and the governors found it really useful. Following the morning session. One governing body spent the afternoon coming up with an action plan based on the findings of the morning session using Voice steps and indicators. The other school carried on to look at the School Improvement Plan and how governors influence what the school focusses on. I am governor at xxx Primary and we will definately be using Voice again to continue looking at what we have achieved and how we can improve our influence.

We were also delighted to present a workshop on Voice at the Community Development International Conference in Lisbon, July 2011 where 22 people from countries including Portugal, New Zealand, USA and Poland joined us. Our paper on Voice was subsequently published in ‘The Lisbon Papers’.

Here you can download:

  • 2 page information leaflet providing the general gist of Voice
  • Handy Guide – Part 1 of the Voice Resource Pack – this provides the basics of Voice so you can have a go with it. If you want to do more, or use it in different ways, then we strongly advise that you get in touch with us to discuss how – we have been developing some useful resources.

Articles:

changes offers a specific course to help local people with facilitation skills who are already working with groups to learn how to work with Voice. We call this ‘Voice facilitator training’ and we are the only providers. The course is complemented by a comprehensive resource pack and networking opportunities.

changes can also support your work with groups.

We have been working with both Voice and echo together – to help Town, Parish, Borough, City and County Councillors to see where they sit in this ‘world’ of influence at a time when things are rapidly changing and their roles become more complex with the advent of Localism.

echo

echo is a framework for public agencies to use to consider how open they are to community influence, in relation to their potential to respond to that influence. It has been tested across the West Midlands with Local Strategic Partnerships, Commissioning Boards, Children’s Trust, Local Authority Departments and  Primary Care Trusts. People who have worked with it to date have said things like this…

  • It is an easy toolkit, could be useful across the County to help consistency and to talk to the non-converted
  • It could help with the Community Engagement Strategy development thought process
  • It could provide us with a baseline of where we are – and an action plan
  • It made me think differently – more deeply into what outcomes could be
  • It turns the intangible into the tangible
  • I can see how we could usefully apply this to help the organisation move forward in terms of equality and diversity
  • There has to be recognition of good practice in the organisation, echo can help us to locate this and learn from it

We have trained over 100 people to be echo facilitators and, in 2011 we commissioned Navarro Consultancy to undertake some research into how those people are working with echo  and what happens as a result. We now share some of these stories in our training

Here you can download:

changes offers a specific course to help people working in agencies who have skills and experience of facilitating discussions to work with echo. We call this ‘echo facilitator training’ and we are the only providers.

changes can also support your work with agencies

 

DUO

DUO is a practical framework which has been designed to support voluntary sector infrastructure organisations  to influence and be influenced in a way that is empowering both to themselves and to their members.

Whilst supporting people to work with Voice and echo, it was brought to our attention that there are people who work for infrastructure organisations which have a dual role: needing to listen to their own members at the same time as influencing public agencies. This presented a somewhat different picture

Based on the belief that a specific framework informed by Voice and echo could be helpful for these organisations, South West Forum and changes teamed up to explore what this might look like. We have developed a 2 day ‘Training the facilitators’ course for people who want to take DUO into their own organisations, and a series of workshops for us to work with an organisation.

How DUO can be used:

  • For people on their own – to think through how their infrastructure organisation operates in terms of influence
  • Alongside colleagues in your own infrastructure organisation
  • With colleagues in a different infrastructure organisation

Here are a few words from one of our clients

“We now have a variety of trained facilitators in Voice. We also now have three trained facilitators in DUO which we are to roll out for the first time in early August with a Parish Council.  The new DUO package gives us here at Community First and Wessex Community Action everything we have been looking for – In the past we have recognised that many of the groups we work with have a role in both providing a ‘voice’ as well as being ‘open to influence’ and we have therefore needed to find a way to support both areas.  To meet this need we have used exercises from both Voice and echo and tried to use the Axis as well as we can.  Whilst this has worked ok, it has not necessarily been integrated enough.  The DUO programme is great because it is one programme and feels like one programme and therefore we anticipate it will be very successful in future in terms of achieving outcomes. We are very much looking forward to delivering it for the first time and will keep you all posted”. Karen Winchcombe, when working for Community First Wiltshire

Here you can download:

2 page information leaflet providing the general gist

Dynamo

Dynamo is another framework, based on Voice and echo and designed for use by individuals who do not feel influential within their own organisations. It works for people focusing on particular agendas, for example climate change or equality and diversity issues and has potential for wider use. We started developing this one when working with ‘Climate Change Agents’ (people – largely already based in public sector organisations – who had been attributed climate change targets as part of their job roles and felt that colleagues within the organisation were not hearing them).

The initial research, development & subsequent dissemination was fascinating and the benefits to some were hugely rewarding

“One of the strongest outcomes for me has been a re-discovery of my certainty. So not being knocked by dismissal or disinterest – simply recognising I am probably speaking to the wrong person, in the wrong way, at the wrong time. I keep Dynamo in my top drawer. I have referred to it over the course of the year. In September I officially took on a new role. So then I again re-visited it to see how I could best approach it.”
(Manager, Birmingham City Council)

Dynamo could be useful:

  • as an introduction to the principles of echo
  • as an action plan for the outcomes of echo (what you, as individuals have to do to make that difference happen)
  • as a series of reflective questions: for supervision or personally (how could I be more effective in my work?)
  • as a framework for a project team to work through to plan what they will do
  • for individual Parish, Town or other Councillors – translating demands into individual responsibilities to understand agendas and impact
  • by individuals to understand how to go about their own role in a group (how do I fit within the whole influencing framework and how do I take this forward?)
  • to understand personal effectiveness and interface (e.g. for Councillors between communities and statutory agencies)