How Net-Map works

Watch Net-Map introduction video:

Listen to podcast (0 min 22 sec – click player below)

Net-Map is an interview-based mapping tool that helps people understand, visualize, discuss, and improve situations in which many different actors influence outcomes (Net-Map Brochure: 679 KB). By creating Influence Network Maps, individuals and groups can clarify their own view of a situation, foster discussion, and develop a strategic approach to their networking activities. More specifically, Net-Map helps players to determine

  • what actors are involved in a given network,
  • how they are linked,
  • how influential they are, and
  • what their goals are.

Determining linkages, levels of influence, and goals allows users to be more strategic about how they act in these complex situations. It helps users to answer questions such as: Do you need to strengthen the links to an influential potential supporter (high influence, same goals)? Do you have to be aware of an influential actor who doesn’t share your goals? Can increased networking help empower your dis-empowered beneficiaries?

The tool is low-tech and low-cost and can be used when working with rural community members with low formal education as well as with policy makers or international development actors.

box-playing-small.jpg

Equipment needed:

  • Large sheets of paper for network map(one per interview, at least A3, better A2).
  • Felt pens for drawing links(different colors according to different links).
  • Adhesive paper as actor cards(“post-it” possibly different colors for different kinds of actors).
  • Flat round stackable discs for building influence-towers (e.g. checker’s pieces, bicycle spare parts).
  • Actor figurines (different board game figures, optional but especially useful when working with illiterate interviewees).

Net-Map step-by-step manual: short version (555 KB), detailed version in English (248 KB) and Portuguese (852 KB) training slide show (876 K).

1.Preparation:

  • Define question (e.g. “Who can influence the success of our project?”).
  • Define links (e.g. giving money, disturbing someone, giving support, giving command) and assign different colors to the links (i.e. giving money = red link).
  • Define goals (e.g. environmental orientation and development orientation or pro and contra a change of legislation).
  • Decide who should be involved in interviews / discussion.

2.Actor selection:

  • Ask: “Who is involved in this process?”
  • Write names on actor cards and distribute on empty Net-Map sheet.

snv30053-1.jpg

3.Drawing of links:

  • Ask: “Who is linked to whom?” Go through the different kinds of links one by one (e.g. “Who gives money to whom? Who disturbs whom?”).
  • Draw arrows between actor cards according to interviewees directions.

snv30075.jpg

  • If two actors exchange something (e.g. information) draw double headed arrows. If actors exchange more than one thing, add differently colored arrow heads to existing links.

4.Influence Towers

  • Ask: “How strongly can actors influence xy?”
  • Explain / agree on a definition of influence with your interviewee, clarify that this is about influence on xy and not influence in the world at large.
  • Ask interviewee to assign influence towers to actors: The higher the influence on the issue at stake, the higher the tower. Towers of different actors can be of the same height. Actors with no influence can be put on ground level. Towers can be as high as interviewees want.
  • Place influence towers next to actor cards.

snv30092.jpg

  • Verbalize set-up and give interviewee the chance to adjust towers before noting height of tower on the Net-Map (important for documentation purpose).

5.Goals

  • Ask according to pre-defined goals, actor by actor, e.g. “Does this actor support environmental, developmental goals or both?”
  • Note abbreviations for goals next to actor cards, allow for multiple goals where appropriate, by noting more than one goal next to the actor (see picture 4).

snv30098.jpg

6.Discussion

  • According to specific goal of your Net-Map exercise, discuss what this network means for strategy of organization, where influence comes from, what happens in case of conflicting goals etc.

68 Responses

  1. I’m animal scientist and i conduct some studies on natural resources management (gestion de terroir, gestion de bassin versant) and conflict management. I have also experience on farm management . For these studies i used some tools to manage farmers participation. I want to know this new approach and compare it to others.
    Best regards

  2. Dear Andre,
    Jennifer Hauck’s work on Fisheries Governance in northern Ghana might be an interesting starting point for you as she is in the process of combining natural science data (about fish populations, hydrological conditions etc.) with social science data (about Influence Networks, conflicts etc.). See case study 2 for more details. And please feel free to ask more questions.
    Kind regards
    Eva Schiffer

  3. Dear Eva,
    Just had a quick read through your Net-Map tool and thought I should commend you for the efforts; I am just wondering how it could be applied for capacity development for local governance in a post-conflict transitional support situation.
    Evans

  4. […] are not as techy as some of us! So I’m trying to figure out how to do it. I really like the Net-Map process, but it is more in depth than we want to go for this introductory […]

  5. Dear Eva,
    I also want to join others in commending your work in developing and systematizing this mapping tool. Ruth introduced me to this and I am now closely studying it for specific application in my research on property rights negotiations in India’s forests. I am wondering if you and or other colleagues have used it with local materials. Depending on what kind of resources are available with people they may not be able to the exact material that you have used, though I can clearly see how different objects fit together on your maps.
    Finally, for anyone reading these comments, let me inform you that net-mapping pictures on this website make for wonderful wallpapers. Try it out and you won’t be disappointed at all.
    Thanks,
    Prakash

  6. Dear Eva,
    Just read out the net mapping exercise, I found new things from that and thought I should comments for your efforts. I also love to use different participatory visual exercise to assess outcome status as M&E person. So I am expecting more new participatory tools from your site.

    Thanks,
    Bilash

  7. Dear Eva
    I conducted a factor analysis (FA) research about 13 years ago, which I hardly use it now. BUT emperical factor analysis is always applied in my day to day activity. Even one theory of FA says that empirical categorization of attributes is stronger than the theoretical.
    I have seen your net mapping at glance and without deep analysis it resemblees to me Path Analysis (PA). Please send us (for MandE) more reading on this idea.

  8. Dear Eva
    Have you experience, or heard of others with experience of using Net-Map in a context of working in a consortium of development agencies?
    Many thanks,
    Guy

  9. Dear Guy,
    can you be a bit more specific, what exactly do you mean? Either commenting here or via email (IFPRI-netmap@cgiar.org). Thanks
    Eva

  10. How this net map can be used for the analysis of institutional landscap

  11. Our software does this online. Check out http://www.jutenetworks.com and view the PublicMaps section for more. The full-feature application does all that you’re doing in the real-world toolbox.

    Great work, btw. Very good cause.

    Sean

  12. […] Eva Schiffer is a social scientist who teaches very accessible but powerful principles of network analysis, as well as basic skill-sets to empower people to make changes in their community. To do this, Dr. Schiffer created the Net-Map toolbox: […]

  13. This I like – however Eva how applicable and easily usable is it at the community level? – another tool I have used (in Somaliland) is the “Campfire” – where facilitator draws picture of camp fires. Those who have the power (and so can see and talk with each other, as well as get all the heat) are close to the fire, those with least power are furtherest away. then Stakeholders are depicted by different sized circles – where the diameter of the circle refers to that stakeholders interest/dependence etc. on that resource. This then provide a basis for discussion, argument, negotiation and eventually agreeement, It can be layered in that different stakeholder groups can do their own analysis first – and then it can be combined

    Many thanks, Ed

  14. Dear Ed,
    Thanks for your comment, a camp fire is another nice and easy to understand picture. However, adding links between the different actors can make it easier to understand what actually happens (flows) between them… To answer your question: Putting actors on influence towers seems to be something that is interculturally understandable, also with people on the community level, it seems to make sense to most people that those who are more powerful sit higher or have more. A good example for a community level application is Jenny Haucks case study about community based fisheries management (see case study section).
    Cheers
    Eva

  15. Dear Eva,

    I have been referring the net map Toolbox/manual you developed for my research on ‘Fodder Innovation Capacity Diagnosis.’ I found your manual very useful. I want to develop actor linkage map/matrix to see capacity gaps in fodder innovation process. I am developing a structured questionnaire that has questions regarding the different actors involved in fodder development, roles they play, perceived contribution of each actor, linkage/interaction between actors, etc. I want to interview key informants drawn from potential actors. Then I am planning to calculate frequencies for the linkages given by my interviewees and use the frequencies to construct linkage maps myself. Do you think this approach helps me construct actor linkage map?

    Kind regards,

    Kebebe

  16. Dear Eva,

    this looks very similar to the tools of Prof. Verster’s Sensitivity Modell toolbox (www.vester.de) or Sinfonie (http://www.denkmodell.de/dmmedia/a/d/5ee6a2c63e1a41e7a8ec6bbd866f15.pdf). The influence towers are a nice visualization. What is the differences to Vester and Sinfonie?
    I have been working with the Vester tool since year and I always experience resistance in using this tool for planning purposes, because it takes too much time and it may reveal individual non-rational interests…
    What is your experience?

    Kind regards

    Jörg

  17. […] it’s good to know that some people still appreciate the value of getting back to basics.  Net-Map, a simple network analysis tool, was developed by Eva Schiffer while at the International Food […]

  18. […] it’s good to know that some people still appreciate the value of getting back to basics. Net-Map, a simple network analysis tool, was developed by Eva Schiffer while at the International Food […]

  19. […] ao Wikinomics, descobri uma ferramenta artesanal para a análise de redes sociais. Chama-se Net-Map e foi idealizada por Eva Schiffer, no âmbito do trabalho que teve de desenvolver junto de […]

  20. […] the critical nodes can be clearly identified.  An out of the box solution for sale commercially is Net-Map Tool Box. How Infuential are your […]

  21. […] Há alguns cuja intenção e o resultado principais são a arte e/ou o design e outros como o Net-Map que cumprem uma função […]

  22. […] today I found the answer (courtesy, of course, Beth and this amazing post of hers!) the Net-Map Toolbox by Eva […]

  23. […] Netmap is a very interesting tool to trace power and influence in networks. The idea is identifying the main authors in a network (e.g. the actors in an ICT4D project: NGOs involved, donors, government, local leaders, beneficiaries, etc.) and see how each actor is linked to the other ones and what’s their respective relationship in terms of influence. A last step in Netmap’s methodology implies identifying also each actor’s goals and then be able to figure out the reachability of such goals considering the influence relationships in the network. […]

  24. I look forward to reading more about your blog. I love the pictures and the linking of networks to group process!

  25. Hy Eva…the Net Map is very interesting, I also read your article about mapping power tool, and I´m looking to use it inside a company linking power and communication process. I would like to konw if you have more information about the net map toolbox and also if there is the possibility to send me that information.
    Thanks very much

    • Dear Pablo,
      Great that you are planning to carry Net-Map into the corporate world. I am very interested to hear about your experience. One recommendation: If you want to understand “communication” links, try being rather specific, or you might end up with a messy bowl of spaghetti, because everyone somehow communicates with everyone else… We are still looking for a tool-box producer but you’ll see if you download the manual on this page that you can easily assemble the parts you need to use the approach. Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions.

  26. My dissertation looked at crowdsourcing development criteria in an analog environment with naive ethnography.

    Parts of it were identifying cultural assets within community behaviour.

    Contact and influence are underpinning elements to that and link into the participatory resource mapping..

    This is very cool – Find me on Facebook and would love to have a chat with others in this arena.

    Also be interested to know if this field has a name…
    Not specifically the social network mapping but the idea of using analog to represent digital – especially taking it into low resource states e.g community development.

  27. […] I went to a presentation on Net-Map toolkit. Net-Map is an interview-based mapping tool that helps people understand, visualize, discuss, and […]

  28. […] Net-Map Toolbox is collaborative and physical tool developed by Eva Schiffer with the aim to visualize influencers […]

  29. […] Network Mapping & Gender Analysis In Eva Schiffer’s NetMap blog, Schiffer discusses integrating a gender dimension into her social network mapping analysis rice […]

  30. […] out where Hofstede ranked Ghana, because I interviewed social scientist Eva Schiffer about her net-mapping work with a group of “stakeholders” responsible for water management in Bolgatanga, […]

  31. […] Design project from Gianandrea Giacoma and Davide Casali, using tools such as the Net-map toolbox […]

  32. Brilliant illustration I would say this is best that i saw so far…
    I was looking for an online netmap scanner and landed here I could have just tried some other sites but the illustrations caught my attention thanks a lot for the info!!!

  33. […] Netmap is a very interesting tool to trace power and influence in networks. The idea is identifying the main authors in a network (e.g. the actors in an ICT4D project: NGOs involved, donors, government, local leaders, beneficiaries, etc.) and see how each actor is linked to the other ones and what’s their respective relationship in terms of influence. A last step in Netmap’s methodology implies identifying also each actor’s goals and then be able to figure out the reachability of such goals considering the influence relationships in the network. […]

  34. Eva, Thanks so much for introducing this technique to us at the DC SOL meeting today. I really gained a lot of understanding and actually think I will use it in a few sessions with my team. I’d be interested in knowing where you got the indented pucks. I think I have some great pawns to use (I’m a huge boardgame player).

    Thanks again and hope to make it to th next DC SOL meeting!

    Paul

  35. […] I am quite fortunate to have a friend like Siraj Sirrajuddin; he and I founded the Agile Influencers of DC (AID) a couple of months after the 2010 US Agile Coach Camp.  For simple explanation, AID is an Agile experience sharing group that utilizes an open space like discussion forum around a central theme.  But he also invited me to join him at the local DC Society for Organizational Learning.  This has more to do with Systems Thinking and organizational culture than your typical Agile discussion.  At my first meeting, Eva Schiffer ran us through an exercise of of Net-Mapping (see http://netmap.wordpress.com/about/). […]

  36. What are specific problems around groups and decision-making?…

    One thing that I have found is that the different ideas of who is how influential, why, what are their goals and how are they linked to each other, make it difficult to take good decisions in complex issues and groups. Mapping out the influence network…

  37. Validity of composite social network influence scores?…

    I don’t have an example where this makes sense because I agree with you in your assessment. I think a lot of measurements and interpretations in social network data are based on a too many assumptions which come from a theoretical rather than empirica…

  38. […] About « Net-Map Toolbox "Net-Map is an interview-based mapping tool that helps people understand, visualize, discuss, and improve situations in which many different actors influence outcomes " (tags: collaboration socialnetworking howto tools maps visualization mapping) GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_bg", "ffffff"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_text", "444444"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_link", "2277dd"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_border", "cccccc"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_url", "3371a3"); GA_googleAddAttr("LangId", "1"); GA_googleFillSlot("LD_ROS_300-WEB"); LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  39. Fascinating – this is a great, local application of Social Network Analysis. You show it could work in developing world contexts, thanks!

  40. Hello, please, is it possible to have the step by step (Detailed Manual) in word? I would like to translate to Portuguese to use it better and when I try to copy this PDF file texts, it loses configuration…! tks!

  41. Dear Eva…the Net-Map is very interesting, I also read your article about mapping power tool, and I´m looking to use it inside a company linking power and communication process. Thanks for the great resource here..

    • Hi,
      That sounds interesting, I’m curious to hear more about your experience. And don’t hesitate to contact me directly (eva-schiffer@web.de) if you have any further questions about how to do it or want to discuss the experience in more detail.
      Cheers
      Eva

  42. […] this post appears is also very interesting, showing real case studies of a workshop tool called Net-Map that connects different stakeholders, their influences, relationships etc and tries to solve scarce […]

  43. Hi Eva,

    I just came across this interesting tool. I need to spend some time learning about it. I wonder if you (or someone else) have tried this tool in for-profit organizations (companies)?

    Thanks

    • Hi Ahmad,
      Yes, I have. Because of the nature of the engagements, I can’t write and publish case studies about these, but to give you a general idea, here are some examples:
      With Procter and Gamble we used Net-Map to improve their relationship to one major customer, with Intercontinental Hotels and Resorts we used it to understand the stakeholder landscape at the beginning of a large organizational change project. On the other end of the spectrum are local entreprenneurs with whom I used Net-Map to support the decision making around a potential merger or to better understand how to maintain start-up culture when an organization grows. If you are interested, we can talk directly about my experience. Just send me an email at eva-schiffer@web.de.

  44. Hi Eva,
    Many thanks for the response and the examples. Very interesting. I will certainly contact you if I need further assistance. Thanks.

  45. Eva and colleagues,
    Has anyone tried to create an online version of this? Build up a shared library of network maps?
    Tom

    • Hi Tom,
      There are a number of online ways of doing network maps. Most of them by answering questionnaires rather than drawing together… And yes, I have played around a bit with mapping collaboratively online. However, what I have found is that there are a number of benefits to the tactile, face-to-face drawing, discussing and putting up of influence towers that cannot easily replicated in online interactions. While the map (the dots and lines) are interesting, the really exciting results from Net-Mapping are nearly always found in the qualitative discussion, the collective sense-making that happens in drawing the map together. Also, there has been research to show that physically moving stuff and drawing activates both hemispheres of the brain while clicking on a computer mainly engages the rational side of things.

  46. Is it alright to put part of this in my site if I post a reference to this site?

  47. Hi Eva,

    have you heard of anyone applying this approach in modern western societies? I would be tempted to try it out in order to analyze power structures.

    • Hi Harry,
      Among other cases I have used this with corporations in the US (e.g. Procter and Gamble, Intercontinental Resorts) for improving business relations and facilitating internal change processes. In the social sector in the UK and US we used Net-Map to improve access to mental health facilities for immigrants and to understand networking strategies of socially disadventaged job seekers. I have also used it with a number of individuals in the US to help them develop strategies for pushing for innovations in their organization (e.g. the Environmental Protection Agency or the Mennonite Church) and with entreprenneurs to develop their networking plans. With a group of German city planners we analyzed the local politics around sustainability and with an Italian research institute we looked at their stakeholder landscape…

      So, the answer is: Yes! Net-Map works in all kinds of contexts where actors, networks, goals and influence matter. A lot of the above experience comes from consultancies where the product is only for an internal audience. But don’t hesitate to contact me directly if you want to discuss your approach further… eva-schiffer@web.de

  48. Thanks for your quick and thorough response Eva. I have applied participatory methods (e.g. matrix ranking ) in a development context and have always wanted to use these methods in the developed world, where many process are also unknown. In particular power structures are not easy to detect and quantify, which is where I see the potential of the Net-Map technique.

  49. Hi again Eva!
    Just wanted to let you know that I will finally use your net-map tool for a meeting on Tuesday. It will be scaled back as it’s about drawing up an invitation list to a stakeholder workshop. I want to ensure we get the diversity of interests at the workshop as it’s to prepare a community values study that must include all values by different interests in the community :-)
    Here is my plan based on your instructions on the web. Any feedback?

    1. Who needs to be involved in this process, i.e. who has an interest in the Lake?
    a. Start with Groups (i.e. boaters, developers) on Stickies and place on the map, around lake.

    2. How are people linked to the lake? (draw lines with colour)
    a. Non-motorized recreation/eco-tourism – Green
    b. Motorized recreation/boating tourism – Red
    c. Out of town property owner – Blue
    d. Developer/Real Estate – Brown
    e. Economic development general – Purple
    f. Fishing – Blue
    g. ?

    3. How strongly can actors influence a future planning process?

    4. Does this actor support environmental, developmental goals or both?

    5. Given the different goals/interests:
    i. What would be a good balance for the workshop itself to ensure we get the diversity of input needed?
    ii. Who has influence?
    iii. Who are the actual people we should attach to the groups? (networkers)
    iv. Who is missing? Interest/Name/Group/?

    Looking forward to it!
    Michelle

    • Hi Michelle,
      Great you are finally getting to use Net-Map with a group. Sounds like an interesting application. One feedback on the links: A link is something that connects or flows between two people. You can check whether something is a link by asking yourself, if Eva and Michelle have that link, what happens between them? The thinks you listed as links are rather characteristics of people which I would indicate by giving different post it colors to them. But I can’t really “out of town property own” with you… well, I could, but I don’t think that’s what you mean, is it? A link in this context could be: are friends, have conflict, give information, put pressure on, things like that. Given that yours is a slightly contentious issue, it makes a lot of sense to have at least one negative linke (conflict, competition etc.) in there so that afterwards, when you choose your participants, you have people who look at different sides of the issue. If you want to talk a bit more, we could skype.
      Good luck
      Eva

    • …and one more suggestion: When you talk about goals, you also have “do they have influence” in this same category. How about setting up influence towers instead. Then you don’t just have a yes/no answer but can have a more detailed discussion around influence and have a more differentiated assessment about just how influential (or not) actors are.

  50. Hi Eva,
    Let’s skype. With this application, I wonder if Links are really needed and in this case, it’s more of visualizing the landscape (not for networks) to see what’s / who is out there.
    Thoughts? Free to Skype now?
    Michelle

  51. Thanks Eva! I have re-jigged to shorten it up and get more to the point. I believe that linkages to each other is not a priority for the purpose I am using this for. It’s more about seeing the landscape of people and their diversity of interests. Here is my adapted idea:

    1. Who needs to be involved in this process, i.e. who has an interest in the Lake?
    a. Start with Groups (i.e. boaters, developers) on Stickies and place on the map, around lake.
    i. Start with 2 group names, 2 stickies each
    ii. We can name people after
    b. Write names on 3×1 post-its and place on the blank map

    2. How are the groups/people primarily connected to the lake? (draw lines with colour)
    a. Personal Recreation, Family Fun, Play – Purple
    b. Business/Financial/Economics – Red
    c. Environmental Considerations – Green
    d. Tranquility and Current Aesthetic – Blue

    3. How strongly can actors influence a future planning process?
    a. Higher the influence, higher the tower. No influence, no tower.
    b. Place towers next to actor cards.
    c. Adjust towers in context of other towers of influence.

    4. Debrief to prioritize for workshop list.
    a. Given the different interests:
    i. What would be a good balance for the workshop itself to ensure we get the diversity of input needed? (i.e. 10 people from each needed)
    ii. Who has influence?
    iii. Who are the actual people we should attach to the groups? (networkers)
    iv. Who is missing? Interest/Name/Group/? Is geography represented? Local governments? Residents and non-residents?

  52. […] some quick research we came across NetMap, a tool developed to plan projects and measure influence. I particularly liked the influence idea […]

  53. interesting, I have to study this technique

  54. […] Net-Map is an interview-based mapping tool that helps people understand, visualize, discuss, and imp… […]

  55. […] Network approaches, from formal Social Network Analysis, to low-key participatory techniques like NetMap, can provide a tool for […]

  56. Hello, I log on too your blog regularly. Your writing style is witty, keep iit up!

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