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The Orbits of Implementation

A number of years ago, Lorenz Aggens offered us the Orbits of Participation. A concentric circle model that explores the different roles and types of influence community members and stakeholders might have in relation to project decision making. His Orbits of Participation laid out five different roles that show an increasing level of influence from those that are at most ‘Aware’ of the project but not seeking or likely to have any influence; to those who might be ‘Reviewers’ of any options, outcome or report; followed by those who would be ‘Advisors’ to the project, offering either expertise or local knowledge to those who are the ‘Creators’ of the options being considered and finally the closest to the project are the ‘Decision Makers’. The orbits of participation It is an elegant model and one that is used around the world as a stakeholder mapping tool. These orbits offer an important perspective on influence over decision making and even on different roles that may assist with balancing power differentials, e.g. shifting people closer to or further away from the decision maker role. However, the orbits of participation stop at the decision making and don’t flow through to implementation. For many projects, getting to the decision is an important goal but when the decision relates to services and program, implementation is where the real work begins. A recent engagement program within the Health Sector on a Healthy Weight Action Plan brought this to fact into the spotlight. As we mapped the engagement process, we knew that we could not talk about the decision making process without talking about implementation. Strategies and plans are important, but it is often the implementation where things fall over. Thus, the Orbits of Implementation were born. The obits of implementation are an exploration of the different roles and levels of influence that people and organisations may have over the delivery of any given plan, strategy or initiative. In the tradition of Aggens, they follow the same concentric circle model but brings its focus to implementation. They are not offered as a replacement for the Orbits of Participation but as a complement;

Evaluators: The people who will help review the initiative’s efficacy Champions: The people of standing who will bring attention to the importance of the initiative Deliverers: The people on the ground who will deliver the initiative Coordinators: The people responsible for planning and maintaining the delivery Funders/Sponsors: The people who will fund and or sponsor the initiative

​While the case could be made for a different order, the following rationale is provided for the layout:

  • Funders/Sponsors: Without funders or sponsors any project or initiative is dead. As such, while they may have less direct involvement in the implementation, they are central to it going ahead.

  • Coordinators: They are the people who are the closest and most influential to the initiative as they help to set up the systems, process and pace of what is being delivered.

  • Deliverers: They are the ones closest to or at the coal face who have the direct responsibility for the consistency of the delivery and the alignment to the project’s/initiative’s objectives. They experience firsthand the practicalities of what is needed for its delivery. They carry significant influence, either through their alignment to the initiative’s objectives or in opposition to it.

  • Champions: They bring their ability and willingness to influence others and support the project/initiative. Their role is about brining other to the project and to be advocates and ambassadors within their own circles of influence. While their influence the more outward than on the project, it can be argued that their willingness to offer this type support would be limited by how much influence they have had on the project design (see Orbits of Participation).

  • Evaluators: They carry their own realm of influence and it could be argued that, being more removed from implementation, places them in a more neutral position from which to conduct the evaluation. In most cases, their influence, while critical, is less immediate.

How to use the orbits If you have an engagement project where implementation is a key risk, consider the Orbits of Influence alongside the Orbits of Participation. It is common that people’s willingness to take on an implementation roles is limited by their level of involvement in the original decision making process. For example: You may find that involving people as ‘Creators’ (Orbits of Participation) may be a useful way to build a group of ‘Champions’ (Orbits of Implementation) when it comes to implementation. So. mapping the desired required implementation role can help identified if there are people that have been left out of the decision making process or may even influence what role they have in that process. We have found it a useful tool and interested in your reflections as you get to know the orbits. You can download a template of the Orbits of Implementation here


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