Guest Post: Net-Map and stop swimming up-stream (By Lin McDevitt-Pugh)

Lin was a participant in my Net-Map workshop in Utrecht last December and here is how she describes her experience using the method:

“Working with Net-Map
Hello Eva,
After you introduced me to the Net-Map exercise I have now used it three times, working with women entrepreneurs in Eastern Africa.
I was particularly keen to learn about Net-Map, as I provide a workshop in networking for companies and organizations called Mobilize Networks! – see The first part of the workshop provides participants with a basic knowledge of how networks can be used as an economic resource by any business or organization. The participants are seated four, five or six people to a table and by the end of the basic session (2.5 hours) they have learned to identify their needs and to use the networks of the people at the table to take the next steps in resolving their needs. This is pure magic. We look at the business theory related to networks – that networks provide you with access to markets or knowledge or people that are otherwise difficult to reach, they provide the possibility of developing unique knowledge, an essence of competitive advantage, and they provide connectedness and trust (but can also be exclusive, so beware!).
After laying the basis I usually insert elements into the workshop that are relevant to the organization or company I am working with. In the case of one multinational corporation I worked with, we looked at benchmarks for diversity across several industries and the participants developed a strategy to improve the score of their company. I often have a session using the skills developed in the morning to develop strategies for mobilizing financial resources.  The exact content of the second half of the program is determined after careful consultation with the client.
I am presently consulting with associations of women entrepreneurs in Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia and providing the Mobilize Networks! workshop is part of the work. Between 25 January and 1 February I used the Net-Map exercise in my workshop, to create an understanding of the environment in which women entrepreneurs operate and the network of actors and linkages this entails. In Uganda for example we had a table with poultry farmers and they wanted to know who influences the market for poultry farmers. In Tanzania we had three tables of people in the honey industry and in Ethiopia we had the service industry, the honey industry and the coffee industry. Each country also had a handcrafts table.
We had many and varied maps, and people were glued to the process. We started the Net-Map before lunch. In Tanzania women came in from lunch early so they could keep working together on their maps. I found that 3 hours was a good amount of time to spend on this exercise.
My favorite question, when looking at the finished maps with the whole group (30 – 40 people) was: “What have you learned?” The answer is inevitably that they have a better grasp of the industry and its environment. One great answer was: “We usually discover the actors, the linkages and the power differentials once we have a problem. We are swimming upstream. With this map, we can be ahead of the game and develop better strategies.”
After completing the maps and sharing the results, I ask people to write down what their next step will be to put the learning into action. The poultry people realized they needed to improve their relationship with the bank. In Tanzania the handicrafts people saw that too few organizations and institutions are concerned with quality and their next step will be to work to change this.
At the end of the session there was lightness in the room: people had developed a deep understanding and that was empowering.
All 100 participants received a link to your blog. Quite a number of the participants are trainers themselves, and I hope some of them will take the exercise into their practice.
Lin McDevitt-Pugh MBA, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Have you used Net-Map in your work and want to contribute your experience to our growing community of practice? Write it up and send it to me ( so that I can add your voice to this blog. And feel free to send pictures as well.

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