Process Mapping

Regina Birner (IFPRI) has been one of the first people to really push me to go forward with Net-Map. And right from the beginning she has been bugging me: But how to I look at processes with this, not just snap-shots in time? One option is a time series of Net-Maps as discussed earlier. But now there is something else cooking.

I caught her freshly returned from India and she is excited: “We did Process Mapping there and it was amazing!” What I love about it is that Net-Map turned into Process Mapping because this was needed to understand really pressing questions and not just because it is fun to play around with methods.

So, while Regina has promised to write more extensively about it, here the basic steps of what she did to understand the program implementation of a rural employment guarantee scheme in India:

She asked the interview partners, to tell her the story, while she wrote down actors and drew the network links between them accordingly. Each new actor was written on actor cards as he or she came up in the story and as the actors were linked, the interviewer would indicate next to the link, what the flow was and when (e.g. the date when someone told someone else about an idea, gave an order to them or received funding to do something). All this ended with the question of how influential the actors were in the process and putting them on influence towers.

Regina said that doing this was really helpful to understand the details of the administrative process, discuss sticking points, bottlenecks and alternatives and be sure to avoid misunderstandings and generalized statements that mean nothing. So instead of saying “the community requests this from the administration” you find out who exactly went to whom to ask for what. From my own experience I know it is easy to sit in an administrators office and be flooded with “development speak” that sounds great and tells you nothing about what actually happens. So there it pays that drawing it is kind of pedantic and to the point.

The other thing that is great about following the process with your mapping is that you are not pressing your structure on the interviewee but follow the natural flow of how someone would tell you a story.

How they – by mistake – gathered data about “Who takes how much bribe in the process?” is a different story that Regina will tell us in another post next week.

One Response

  1. These are exciting times for anyone interested in methodological developments…I am sure, not only scholars and researchers but many in the policy community will be hugely interested in Regina’s research on NREGS. NREGS hits at the intersection of development, governance, politics, and resource management. Net-map seems to be developing into quite a versatile tool. I am looking forward to learning more about the tool before eventually using it myself (and hopefully contribute a few cents of my own).

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