Validate the map before you start driving

Imagine the following scenario: You are on a conference call with your colleagues and you plan how to get to the central market square of the city. What you don’t know: Each one of you is looking at a street map of the city – unfortunately, not of the same city. While you start giving each other directions, you first grow slightly irritated and finally think something must be seriously wrong with your colleagues – or maybe they are just plain stupid? And: Will you ever get to the square together?

This would be a strange way to do project planning? It would, wouldn’t it.

However, when it comes to the social landscapes of our projects, this (often) seems to be exactly what we are doing, we start planning our concrete strategic interventions without even trying to find out whether we are navigating with the same map. After mapping water governance in Ghana, one of my interview partners insisted: “This is how it is! Everybody will see it this way!” Just to be shocked a few weeks later, when we had a group mapping workshop, where we displayed the very diverse maps that these team members had drawn and asked them to map together.

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