Can you see into the future?

I just received an email asking: Can you use Net-Map for mapping out future networks or does it only work for existing ones?

My answer:

There are a number of ways how you can use Net-Map to develop a vision of your future network:

1. You could draw a Net-Map of the existing situation. That is a good thing to start with so that you have a fixed point to anchor the next step. Because whatever you do has to somehow start with a present situation. Then, after thinking about the current situation and how and why and where it could be improved, you draw (in different colors) the future links you would want to establish, add future actors you would like to add and set the influence towers up again (after noting the values of the present set-up).

2. You could set out just to draw an optimistic-realistic vision of the future network, for example: “This is the network we would like to achieve within the three years of our project.” This will be a very interesting document to revisit half way through and at the end of the project. You won’t necessarily achieve exactly the network you set out to achieve. But by comparing your vision with your achievements, you will learn a lot. Ask yourself how and why it went differently and what that means to you.

3. You could draw an optimistic and a pessimistic vision of the future network. This would be a really interesting exercise to do with a team (1. and 2. could also be done in a group), because it would help you clarify how different people in the team define success and failure in terms of network development, agree (maybe) on a common vision and discuss strategies to get there.

Get the big guys (or ladies) off the fence!

picture by Jim Hejl

When trying to push for (any kind of) change, I always thought it’s most important to figure out who the powerful actors are who play against you and do something about them.

Funny, the more I analyze situations like that with people who want to make a difference, the more I realize: It’s the big guys (and ladies) on the fence, that you should be most concerned about. While there might be some big antagonists in these games, it’s often startling to realize that most people are not even aware of the issue you are passionate about. And, most likely, that also holds true for the people who really could make change happen because of their position and power.

So when drawing a strategic NetMap and putting smileys, negative and neutral faces next to your actors according to whether or not they support your goals, have a very close look at the neutrals – by their lack of interest, they may well be the ones who slow down any of your activities. But even more importantly: They are not against your goal. So it’s much easier to win them over than to do anything about your antagonists. And together your converted neutrals and your old friends might be a big enough coalition, that you don’t even have to worry about the die-hard “anti-the-good-cause” guys any more.

Catching the devil in the detail: Process Net-Map

Making a beautiful looking plan is one thing. Having actual impact on the ground is another. Sometimes the two are related…

When you think about projects that did or didn’t deliver, you see that very often the problem (or the reason for success) was in the details of the actual delivery process. This is why we (myself, Regina Birner at IFPRI, Jennifer Hauck at UFZ and other colleagues) felt that if you were able to map out these processes step-by-step you might understand something really powerful about success and failure of implementation.

We call the resulting method Process Net-Map and as you can see I’ve added a new page to this blog, dedicated to this approach. Read it, comment, ask questions, use it in your work and tell us what happened!