the six spheres of influence

March 16, 2015

I’m not sure why it is—maybe it’s FOMO, maybe it’s greed, maybe it’s hubris—but it seems to be human nature to try and bite off more than one can chew. We say “yes” and “more” too often, even though we really can’t juggle another item. For an individual, the worst that usually happens is a stress headache, but for an organization, the consequences of this mentality can be lethal.

Every nonprofit and socially-minded for-profit in the world exists because someone (or a group of people) has an unrelenting and burning desire to see something change. In these situations, biting off more than one can chew causes us to stretch our organizations too thin, which leads to overall less effective programs, which means less change. If we are so passionate about our issue, we have to fight the urge to always say “yes,” and instead become far more selective about how we deploy our resources.

To help organizations think through their options and get the most impact for their efforts, we at Third Plateau have identified the Six Spheres of Influence. Yep, yet another framework in a framework heavy world. Deal with it / you’re welcome / get ready to have your mind blown.


The theory behind the Six Spheres of Influence is that there are six primary ways to drive impact on any given issue. No sphere is “better” than any other; they are simple the tools in our toolkit we can choose to use. To truly move the needle on your issue, work in all six of these spheres must be done, but not all by the same organization. The best organizations in the world focus in on 2-3 of these spheres, and maybe are tangentially involved in one other sphere.

So stop trying to do it all. Figure out which of these spheres are best suited to your organizational strengths and interests, focus in on those, and go to town on them.

this post brought to you by team member: jonathan kaufman