At this time in the Wayfinder process you move from assessment and planning into action. This requires an important shift in mindset. The focus is on learning your way forward by building a ‘learning-by-doing’ approach to implementation, where actions are implemented in a way that allows you to continually test assumptions, fill knowledge gaps and improve your understanding while navigating towards a more sustainable, safe and just future.
The Wayfinder process now becomes about real-world application and testing your Change Narrative by implementing your Action Plan. Establishing a strong learning culture around implementation and management, one that questions, tests and refines knowledge and assumptions, provides the best foundation for dealing with the complex and dynamic social-ecological systems in a rapidly changing world.
This phase is where many change processes falter. For a whole variety of reasons, the Action Plan developed may not create the change you had anticipated. You might not have had a good enough understanding of the system dynamics, or the actions that you designed were maybe not as effective as you thought in influencing system dynamics given that the climate also is changing, or your strategies might be difficult to implement is the political situation has changed. To still make progress, it is critical that you have an adaptive approach that builds your knowledge about the system, which will allow you to understand why things might not work. Depending on what you learn here you will probably want to revisit a previous Wayfinder phase, for example, to change the composition of the coalition, to bring aboard other stakeholder groups, or to come up with alternative strategies for change. And so a new iteration of the Wayfinder process begins.
It is important that all the stakeholders affected by the Action Plan in one way or another are involved in its implementation. Broad participation here strengthens the coalition and will build a sense of cohesion and coordination that will be of crucial importance for your continued Wayfinder journey.
Although you will not ever really “be done” with the implementation phase, we have for the sake of clarity still organized Phase 5 into three modules. Module A is about preparing for learning-by-doing implementation. The focus is first on establishing a strong learning culture in your own organization and beyond, and then to assemble a skilled implementation team, committed to the learning approach, that can support the coalition.
Module B is about developing a learning framework that will allow you to move forward effectively. A first important task here is to create a framework that enables deep learning and reflexive practice. The next task is to develop a detailed monitoring and evaluation plan that fits into this framework, and that will highlight the right kind of variables, processes and issues to measure in order to learn your way forward.
Module C is about designing the implementation. The focus here is on developing small-scale pilot experiments that will allow you to test your actions and strategies, and then planning for how these could be embedded in institutional structures to allow for broader uptake, application and spread of the ideas. A last step is to formulate an Implementation Plan that will support and guide how you will implement your Action Plan moving forward.
A first output of Phase 5 is an Implementation Plan that details how the Action Plan will be put into practice. The more meaningful output of this phase is, however, the real-world developments that will follow, and which hopefully will help you to navigate towards a more sustainable, safe and just future.