I’m happy that Prakash Kashwan takes up this question and adds his own experience, as you can see below, because the question is still out there and I have not found an answer that really satisfies me. I like his notion of community members actually simplifying matters for the researcher, who is a rather ignorant non-expert when it comes to matters of the community. I’m curious to hear more from Jennifer Hauck, who is just returning from the field (rural northern Ghana) where she used Net-Map in a second step (after the data collection) as a tool to facilitate group formation of local fishermen. And I feel the urge to go back to doing Net-Maps on the community level to figure out more about what they can do there…
Prakash Kashwan writes:
This is indeed an interesting puzzle. Influence mapping has a lot in common with Venn Diagram technique used in PRA techniques, where it is used side by side with mapping exercises. We know mapping is always a big hit with the communities – it really gets them going. Wood even used maps to discuss the impact of civil war on communities in El Salvador. Maps that her communities drew are available here <http://www.cambridge.org/us/features/wood/default.htm>. Coming back to the difference between mapping in general and influence mapping may really have to do with how community members process information and knowledge. These differences may go much beyond whether they relate to paper maps or not. After all, PRA maps are also drawn on paper sheets most of the times. I could quickly find at least one paper <www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/1468-2451.00393> discusses how mapping was more helpful in developing farmer’s meta cognitive skills compared to Venn diagrams.
This reminds me that many a time, we researcher need to render concrete the information/knowledge that community members may have held only in abstract. This is rather counter-intuitive but there have been many situations where I have felt that I was forcing my respondents to simplify their thinking (for my consumption) in a flash. This may not be easy at all, and I suspect parts of influence mapping may also be affected by similar issues. Many a time, community members are often part of very complex networks. In any case, this is worth putting in some serious thinking and very important for all of us who interact with rural/indigenous communities in a variety of situations.