Chasing the turning points

Most processes, be it for example the implementation of a new policy or a development project, usually have a few crucial turning points, which decide over the success or failures of these processes. These moments are of special interest because they allow us to learn and to improve future activities. Until very recently Net-Map was used to explore the situation of one point in time. Then we started to think about ways of using Net-Map to investigate a process over a certain time period. The solution we found was the combination of Net-Map with the time line tool. The time line tool is a participatory rural appraisal (PRA) method to capture key events in the past.

This exercise can help to understand who were the drivers of change at the key events, how they were linked, which goals they had and how much they really influenced the process according to the interview partner.

The following steps describe only one possible option how to combine the two tools to draw networks and influences at different points in time:

  1. Select a process that you want to analyze. This could be for example the successful implementation of an agricultural reform or the development of a project, which did not go the way expected.
  2. If possible, do a literature review of the process if it is analyzed already. Reading in the newspapers or progress reports can also help to gain knowledge in advance.
  3. Identify people who have a sufficient knowledge about the case and who were involved in the process the whole time or at different stages. Try to include people from different levels, such as policymakers, extension agent of government agencies or NGOs, farmers, scientists, etc.
  4. Develop time lines with the people identified which highlight all events in relation to the process. You can do this as a group exercise which has the advantage of saving time, since you have to deal with only one time line. You can also do this as individual interviews, which has the advantage of giving every interview partner the opportunity to express her or his view, without fearing negative consequences. The disadvantage is that you have to collapse the time line afterwards which can be difficult in cases where they are not alike.
  5. The next step is a very important one: Ask the interview partner about the goals of the different actors, e.g. whether they were in favor or against the implementation of the new policy.
  6. After you have established the time line you select interview partners who seem to have a sound understanding of the whole process. You ask them to select the two to four most important turning points that led to the success or failure of the whole process.
  7. For each of the points in time you ask who was involved at that point, how those involved were linked and how much they influenced the process at this particular point in the process. The different opportunities on how to draw a network map are described on this homepage under “About”.

As usual some creativity and careful thoughts are required to keep the exercise as short as possible. Also consider to split up the interviews into two or three sessions. (This innovative use of Net-Map was conceived in discussions between Jennifer Hauck, Eva Schiffer, Roukaya Zimmermann and Regina Birner)

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