The Axis of Influence: A tool for community groups and networks who want to improve their influence

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The Axis of Influence is a discussion-based tool for community groups and networks to assess and improve the influence they have on agencies and partnerships. It is appropriate for small, large, newly formed and well established networks, as well as those with paid or unpaid members. The Axis of Influence was produced by CDX and Changes.
  1 What’sit all about?  The Axis of Influence is a discussion-based tool for community groups and networks to assess andimprove the influence they have on agencies and partnerships. It is appropriate for small, large, newlyformed and well established networks, as well as those with paid or unpaid members.It is designed to help you to:ãdetermine your current position of influence: mapping how influential you areãconsider how you can become moreinfluentialThis guide is designed to ‘get you started’ with the Axis. It outlines what the Axis is, how it worksand suggests some exercises to help you become familiar with it and ‘have a go’. There are also afew worksheets included for you to keep track of what you are doing and what you want to do next.The guide recognises that we live in the real world and that you are unlikely to have all members ofyour network turning up everytime you plan to work with the Axis. Whilst it is great if lots of peopleunderstand it and contribute, it is not essential as long as what is learned is shared and people havethe opportunity to take part.For simplicity, the guide refers to ‘community networks’ throughout but remember, the axis works forgroups as well. “It has lit a spark – I realise what we are not doing,what we are already doing and what we could achieve”  The Axis of Influence a tool for community groups and networks who want to improve their influence with support from the National Empowerment Partnership  Section 1:  About the Axis of influence What other people have said after working with the Axis of Influence: “The axis challenges the notion that nothing is ever going to change – it challenges negativity” “It is really interesting – mapping how influence works and how peoplecan get involved in making change happen” “Any tool that helps you get where you want to be and measures it I applaud,fantastic!” “I have a more positive attitude,it has broadened my horizons” “I realise now that we do more than we give ourselves credit for” “It is a good tool to spot the gaps for Residents Associations – what needs to be done”  2  Where did it come from?  The Axis of Influence has been developed over one and a half years with a range of communitynetworks in Dudley Borough. Members of networks were interviewed, took part in workshops and aseries of ‘action learning’ sessions to: ã talk about influence – what it means and how it happensã contribute to, and comment on, the detail of the Axis ã test the axis out ã make changesã put the Axis into practiceInterviews were also carried out with people from statutory sector agencies to get a fuller picture ofhow influence happens.Three community networks in Dudley Borough agreed to test the Axis out in the early stages andsince then more networks, in Dudley Borough and in different parts of the country, have started touse it. What is the Axis of Influence?  The axis plots the organisational capacity of community networks to influence. It takes you through aseries of steps to see how organised you are and how strong your position is if you want to influenceagencies and partnerships.It suggests there are 10 steps to influence (these are on the vertical axis). These 10 steps are set against a continuum representing the degree of influence you feel you have:ranging from feeling that you have ‘no influence’ to feeling that you have ‘a lot of influence’ (thiscontinuum is on the horizontal axis).In its very basic form, the Axis looks like this: 3 degree of influence  c  a  p a c i    t    y  t   o i   nfl   u e n c  e  10987654321 No influenceA lot of influence  The Axis broadly offers four distinct experiences,one in eachquadrant:How does the Axis of Influence work?  The Axis encourages you to look at each of the 10 steps on the vertical axis and discuss where youthink your group or network is situated. There is more detail on each step to help you do this.It then encourages you to look at the horizontal axis and discuss how influential you feel yournetwork is. This simple starter exercise is illustrated later and gives you some idea about where to‘make your mark’ on the Axis.Once you have done this, you can use the Axis in more detail to look at what you need to do tobecome more influential. From this discussion you can develop a work plan or decide what you wantto focus on in future sessions. “The Axis of Influence enabled the network to think practically,themembers were able to express themselves and make some changes” “It helped us to focus on where we are,where we have been,where wewant to go.It’s like a jigsaw – we just needed help to get started” “We’ve made real progress – I can see great possibilities for the future –real potential to make a real difference”  4 10987654321 NoneA lot High capacity – do not feel influential   The network is well organised and has done a lot of work around empowerment of members.But you are trying tochange things or attitudes that are fixed.Being here feelsfrustrating and powerless – you are banging on a lockeddoor and may need to reconsider what you want toinfluence or your approach to it. Low capacity – do not feel influential  You feel powerless and as if there is little hope of changinganything.There are no openings for your issues.Thenetwork may need more organisation.You may need toreconsider what you want to influence or you approach toit. High capacity – feel influential   The network is well organised.This is a positiveexperience – you feel influential and powerfuland the doors are open to you. Low capacity – feel influential  You have low expectations – although these maybe realistic for the capacity of your network.Thenetwork may need more organisation althoughthe political climate is likely to be favourable toyour work 
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