Do people or organisations form a network?

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
  • individuals.

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).

Social Networks and the evaluation of development projects

If this headline catches your eye, I believe that Rick Davies’ website is an interesting spot for getting more information and thought about why and how development projects unfold in network manners, how we can understand the drivers of Most Significant Changes and what paradigm shifts are necessary to incorporate this thinking into mainstream monitoring and evaluation of development projects. Also, check out his very active Monitoring and Evaluation mailing-list.

Shaping a brighter future: Net-Map in post-conflict situations

Evans Omari sent me a comment (see “about” section), asking how Net-Map could be used in “capacity development for local governance in a post-conflict transitional support situation”. While I don’t know the particulars of this specific case, I can think of two possible lines of application.

  1. As tool to understand the conflict and facilitate the re-conciliation process (focus on the conflict).
  2. As a tool to understand the governance situation as is and build and support governance structures that will help everyone to pick up the pieces and work towards a better future (focus on post-conflict governance).

I have said a bit about the use of Net-Map to understand conflict below. So now I would like to focus on the second case, building sustainable structures in a situation where the governance system and the society as a whole has been seriously affected by a conflict.

Let’s say you work on re-establishing the health sector. I would start by asking those who have been working in the field or observing it for a longer time, to map out how the situation is today, who influences what happens in this sector, how they are linked, how influential they are and what their goals are. I would make sure, that all parties of the past conflict and external observers have a say here. Depending on the fear and tensions that still exist, it might make sense to do the initial interviews with individuals and not as a group.

From that mapping of the situation as is, I would start a discussion with them about: What are the most burning issues that need to be resolved now? What would the functioning health system in the future look like if everything went well? What are your core priorities? Then I would facilitate a group process where people draw Net-Maps about: What kind of influence networks would we have to develop to reach this vision?

Through getting to this shared vision the group would have a clearer understanding of what they are striving for and how they might achieve it. But also, the group process of getting to this together can set free a lot of positive energy and understanding of each other’s position. To do this in a group meeting also means that the participants make a common public commitment to this plan that they draw together. And finally, it gives them a tool to assess a few years down the road, if they have come to where they intended to go and what the reasons for achievements and failures were.

Evans, does that answer your question?