When I ask: “Who can influence this-and-that?” as a first step in a Net-Map exercise, it depends very much on the “this-and-that”, on the context and on the interviewees, whether they will come up with a lot of
- organisations (Ministry of XY, NGOs, women’s groups, etc.) or
- groups of people who do similar things or have similar characteristics (fishermen, market women, school children) or
There are two reasons why it might make sense to be more specific at this point, to define more clearly, what actors you want to involve.
1. One reason is the data analysis, especially if you want to compare different maps and do so in a more structured and quantitative way. If for example you want to lay maps on top of each other to develop a cognitive social structure, it becomes difficult if your interview-partners name actors on very different levels and you want to combine them. For example the Minister of Agriculture is not exactly the same as the Ministry of Agriculture. But it also doesn’t make sense to map them as two completely distinct actors.
2. The second reason lies in the use of the maps as a basis for strategic action. If you want to really plan your next steps on the base of this map, it might not be enough to know that your organisation is somehow linked to an organisation that is of importance to you. If you want to contact them, then one individual in your organisation will pick up the phone, write an email or walk over and knock at the door of one individual of that organisation. So, while you want to contact the organisation, you want to identify what personal links exist between the two.
While thinking about this, I read about one of the many tools that are called “power mapping” and what I like here is a two step approach: First you map all the institutions/organizations that might be relevant in your case. Then, as a second step you think about individuals in these organizations that you know or know of. By drawing the links between these individuals (that are placed around the organizations) you can think more strategically about possibilities of using these individuals as entry points to their organizations. This will at least be useful to solve problem number two (in the action oriented use of the method).