Make sure you know what they mean by this…

Today I tried to make sense of Net-Maps that workshop participants drew some weeks back in individual silent sessions. We had discussed the procedure, the general question, kinds of links, meaning of influence with the group, but mapping the networks was something that each participant did on their own. During the workshop we used the maps as a sketch and background for a lively discussion and I had the feeling that everybody had learned a lot and structured their knowledge of their field of work in a way that helped them to be more strategic about their networks.

But why did the network I looked at and tried to enter into Visualyzer (the program I use) today make no sense to me? I think I learned something about rushing (or not rushing) facilitation today. About the fact that the same word can mean very different things to different people. And that people who learn something are sometimes not in the position to judge whether they understood you correctly, because they don’t know yet, what it would look like, this correct understanding (I mean, that’s what misunderstandings are all about, you’re absolutely sure you’ve got it, but you’re off target by a mile and a half).

I discussed this with my colleague Noora Aberman, who is a tango teacher besides being an IFPRI researcher and we agreed: You can show your students a Boleo (a fancy tango way for the lady of throwing her leg in the air) and ask them: “So, you know a Boleo now?” They might nod in astonishment, but before they have tried it out AND you have checked it, they won’t be able to know whether they know it.

I take this as a reminder for myself but also as a warning for other users of participatory methods: Slow does it. Far too often we rush through a densely packed workshop day in the hope of maybe somehow squeezing everything in… But if we don’t make sure that we are all on the same page, if we’re not mindful of the different paces, perceptions and ideas of the talkative and the silent participants, if we think we don’t have the time to ask: “What do you mean by this?” then we might be wasting our precious time altogether.

One Response

  1. Hi Eva,
    thank you for your blog: it’s such a wonderful source!
    I’ve just started a PhD in Geography here: and I was planning to use Social Network Analysis within my research project in Burundi, working with high school teachers.
    I’d love to learn more about your experience, as well about the software you mentioned, Visualyzer: is it very expensive? PC or Mac?



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