Sphere of Influence

26 February 2015

Sphere of Influence

This month’s blog comes from Amanda Jones, stepping in for Deb while she’s on maternity leave (no news yet, stay tuned!).

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of working within your sphere of influence.  It’s one thing that people often struggle with when we are looking at person centred change within organisations. It can be a tricky balance to focus on what you can do something about when the things outside of that sphere seem overwhelming.

When we are helping people to look at the levels of change needed within the workplace, organisation, or at a larger systems level, I notice how much people get caught up in what they can’t do when action planning, which often leaves a smaller amount of time for good thinking about their own sphere of influence. It’s a balance; we can’t ignore issues just because they are beyond our control, but need to be strategic about who we pass this on to and how we do it. We also can’t just “do nothing” because the task seems overwhelming.

I was watching a documentary recently that to me not only illustrates the idea of working with in your sphere of influence, but also thinking creatively about opportunities. In the Lamu Archipelago there are a group of people for whom several issues were well beyond their control.  Political unrest in the region made it difficult to make a living from the source they relied on (tourism);

The confluence of ocean currents that washed up thousands of rubber flip flops (thongs if you’re an Aussie) which littered the beaches and adversely effected their wildlife. This has led to a campaign to raise awareness across the world about the impact of irresponsible rubbish disposal – clearly amongst the larger examples of taking a massive issue and doing something about it.  However, this is clearly something that is going to take time, and doesn’t have an immediate impact on the ability of the local people to make a viable living.  The changes needed in this area have come from another idea that was well within their control. They make art. There is now a whole industry in the area that offers fair trade employment, education and opportunities for people using the very problem they were faced with.  UniquEco  www.theffrc.com (flip flop recycling company) makes sculptures, jewelry and even gumboots out of the rubbish that was washing up on their beaches.

I’m not saying that we can all make wonderful art out of the things beyond our sphere of influence but I do think that we could be more creative about what we do and how proactive we are about the things we can change.

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