Moving from frustration to empowerment

Colleagues of mine use Net-Map to interview unemployed men and better understand their (more or less successful) job hunting strategies. They told me about very mixed experiences with the pre-testing: Some interview partners found the interview helpful and said they learned a lot while others found it made them feel even more power-less and desparate as they layed out their whole sad situation and talked about it in depth with the interview partner.

This is an important observation and something that I have struggled with a number of times: Net-Map interviews can go pretty deep and depending on the situation, talking about who has how much influence can leave people feel disempowered. Especially if it is an interview about your own life (as opposed to “How does policy making work in this country”), it is tough if you end up drawing a picture that shows you feel like you are not in control of your own fate.

My recommendation to my colleagues: Don’t end the interview just there, after drawing the current situation. But add a next step (whether you will use this as data or not), where you ask: “What are things you could do in the future to improve this situation?” Draw links where appropriate and write next to each future link, what it stands for (e.g. “talk about job search” or “send Christmas card” or whatever else it is). If your interview partner comes up with things that they want to do which don’t translate into links (e.g. “Get outfit for interviews” or “look for jobs in other cities/fields”), make a list of these things in a corner of the Net-Map. Putting these next steps on paper makes them more tangible and it is empowering to have concrete things to do as an outcome – instead of just having a snap-shot of your dire situation.

If at all feasible, give the Net-Map back to your interview partner after entering the data, so that they can use it as a network to do list.

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