Friday, July 08, 2011

Mapping complexity

All of us working in organisations, city administrations, companies...practically everyone knows this:
Having a very complex situation or issue to deal with, many different actors involved, that all have different goals and attitudes and that are , on the top, formally and informally linked with each other in different ways.


How to deal with that?
One way is to try to think hard and keep everyone in mind and think back and forth tryinig not to forget someone or something. Then there is the way to write it down; who is involeved and what is the situation actually about.
That´s already a good start, then what we have black on white is not as easily forgotten.
But what if the situation is really messy and complex?

There are many tools and methods out there how to structure and analyse and getting a grip on this situation. One of those I´d like to introduce here as I had the chance of getting to know it just recently and will certainly going to use it in teh future:

NET-MAP is a mapping tool, that helps to understand and visualize, discuss and improve complex situations with many actors, goals and links involved. It is in fact based on facilitated discussions and interviews, possible with individuals and bigger groups.

NET-MAPping makes complex situations visible; with paper and pens and different colours and with small wooden "stones", the "influence towers".

In practice:
First you determine your starting question/situation and then
  •  which actors are involved
  •  what kind of formal and informal links exist
  •  how are the actors linked in between
  •  what are their goals

With the "influence towers" you can visualize the influence an actor has on the situation; the highter the tower, the higher the influence. You can also visualize if that is positive or negative influence.

This aspect makes NET-MAP special: the clear visualisation of who influences whom, where and why can be very eye-opening and brings more clarity in difficult situations.
Picture: Paolo Brunelli, NET-MAP Summer School, 20.-21.06.2011 Vicenca

Visualizing links, levels of influence and goals of the actors allows the user to be more strategic about how they act in these complex situations. It helps to answer questions like:
  •  Should I strengthen the link to a certain influential actor with the same goal?
  •  Do I need to be aware of other influential actors who have contradictory goals?

More information about NET-MAP, it´s development and people working with it can be found from the NET-MAP blog

Esther Kreutz

1 comment:

  1. Hi Esther,
    Great that you enjoyed the course! I'm curious to hear how the first mappings at your workplace turn out and what decisions and strategic plans you will develop out of them. Let's stay in touch!