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The wheel of failure


The wheel of failure

This tool will help you to reflect on a specific project and define to what degree it has been a success or a failure.

Projects and policies are rarely an outright success or failure. They exist on a spectrum that includes degrees of both. As different stakeholders will define success and failure in different ways, it’s always necessary to also ask: success and failure for whom?

The wheel combines the five facets of failure with six degrees of failure or success, to help you reflect on a specific project or policy and see where it sits.

  • Outright failure
  • Precarious failure
  • Tolerable failure
  • Conflicted success
  • Resilient success
  • Outright success

You can use the wheel at the start of a project or policy to help you plan, during delivery or at the end to help you to evaluate.

It’s helpful to create a grid to capture your discussions. Define what each degree of success or failure would look like for each of the facets at the outset. Come back to these definitions at the end and decide which of them best describe where you ended up. Can you learn from the failures that did occur?

The grid below is an illustrative example of how funders might define the different degrees of success and failure across each of the five facets at the outset of a cultural participation project.

It demonstrates how the framework can facilitate a more nuanced reflection about different degrees of success and failure as well as helping different stakeholders better understand what each of them thinks success and failure would look like.

Wheel showing five facets of failure and the six degrees of success and failure

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