Where forecasting techniques investigate potential futures and help prepare you to be adaptive as the future unfolds, mapping strategies help investigate what is happening right now. Mapping is powerful in adaptive planning because many mapping techniques will surface patterns of influence, key levers you can pull to cause change on the issue, and/or dynamics in the environment that may undermine or support your work. These then become things you can either actively seek to change or monitor along the way so you are ready to intervene if they become barriers to your intended results.
You may notice that many of these tools pick up elements of a traditional environmental scan; however, they go deeper than many environmental scans. If you are just entering into an issue area, an environmental scan may still be an appropriate approach, as it will provide you with a good 10,000 foot overview of the issue and potential solutions unlike the tools below, which dig deeper into specific aspects of the complex problem and its potential solutions.
Once again, similar to the forecasting methods in this toolkit, many mapping activities may not feeling dramatically different from a strategic, thoughtful dialogue about what is happening in the environment. What is different is the level of systematic, rigorous information collection and use that goes into creating the maps and the intentionality of how they are used. They push the learning to another level, drawing on more than intuition surfaced in group dialogues. For that reason, they can be powerful tools for helping planning groups to take their process to the next level.
- The Systems Grantmaking Resource Guide from GEO is an exciting tool, which offers the ability to sort through a variety of systems tools and resources, including mapping techniques, to identify which tools work best in different settings.
Systems mapping is a structured method for representing a system and all its complexity, focusing on visually mapping how people and organizations relate. Systems maps are particularly useful when you need to surface beliefs about how change will occur, identify new avenues for change, or know where to monitor the environment for the expected and unexpected changes resulting from an intervention.
Systems maps can focus on relationships of many types, from how different organizations influence each other to how larger systems such as communities, private market, local government, etc. influence each other. Systems maps can also include intangibles, such as political climates or norms around accepting government assistance. In the context of adaptive planning, the type of map most that is useful is described as an issue systems map. Regardless of what types of tangible and intangible elements are on your map, the goal is to surface the levers by which you can cause change on your issue and to help you articulate the boundaries of your problem, so you aren’t overwhelmed by the idea of having to solve everything.
Systems maps can partner very effectively with Strategic Roadmaps. When a systems map is undertaken, it can surface major drivers of the problem, thus identifying important places to intervene. The Strategic Roadmap can help you break down what change would look like in that point on the map.
- For a fascinating example of a systems map that contains both tangible and intangible examples, visit the Hewlett Foundation’s causal loop diagram of how to influence change in Congress to create an environment where members can deliberate, negotiate and compromise.
- For an quick read that outlines different types of systems maps and gives helpful examples, check out Innovation Network’s Spotlight on Systems Mapping
Social network analysis is the mapping and measurement of relationships between people or organizations. It is useful when there are uncertainties or concerns about how the network of people or organizations will or are functioning, such as how information flows or where trust needs to be built.
At its most simple level, network analysis is documenting the presence and absence of different types of relationships. The questions you ask determine the type of relationship you will document, from relationships based on shared action to trust to sitting at the same collaborative tables together.
While there can be great value in network mapping, many network maps are attractive visuals that provide little new or useful information. This is because the relationships are quite often not very different from your current expectations of how they will function. For a network map to be useful in adaptive planning, you need to think about how you hope to influence the networks and overlay other information that helps explain the network.
For example, in a network map of advocates working on healthcare access, questions about the extent to which the organizations prioritized health equity were included along with questions on the types of advocacy capacity in each organization. This allowed the network map to surface that the core of the advocacy network has ample capacity to influence decision-makers, but less capacity to engage the public. The core of the advocacy network lacks the equity frame and consistent reach of the organizations on the far periphery of the network. Without these overlays, the learning would be limited to knowing some organizations are less connected than others and identifying the most connected advocates, both things that intuitively anyone in that field of advocates could have told you.
- For a brief introduction to social network analysis, visit orgnet.com, a website dedicated to the method that provides straight forward examples.
Power mapping is a tool to visualize relationships among people and organizations and to assess the relative impact of these pathways. It is particularly powerful when there is uncertainty around the best avenues of potential influence over specific decision-makers. When the issue you’re trying to tackle includes influencing key individuals or institutions, understanding what it will take to have that influence can be invaluable.
For example, if you are trying to influence a governor’s choices during the budget process, you would assess all the organizations and individuals who are likely to have an effect on her decision. In the process, you want to be both creative (think beyond usual systems players), be strategic (consider the range of constituency groups, donors, or others) and thorough (include personal and professional influences). From there, you explore the power of the relationships – what direction does the influence go, how strong do you think it may be?
With this map in hand, you can identify specific points of influence (e.g. media or the legislative planning and budget agency) that could have an impact on the Governor’s choices and where you have influence yourself. You can also extend this map outward two or three steps if you find you don’t have access and influence over any of the decision-makers immediate influencers.
- The DFA Training Academy has a great guide to Power Mapping that is at the individual decision-maker level.
Stakeholder mapping is another tool that helps in understanding the relationships of individuals to the issue, but which are focused on examining what is underlying the stakeholders’ engagement in the issue: it is a method for understanding the stake people have in an effort and how that might affect the work.
When completing a stakeholder map, it is often helpful to generate an initial list and then ask for help completing the list from some of the stakeholders you named. The lists include not just the stakeholder type/name, but also why they have a stake in the issue, how they are related to or dependent on each other, and the roles they are taking in your process or intended process. Stakeholder mapping can be a powerful tool to use prior to a simulation exercise, so help the simulation stay grounded in the reality of each stakeholder’s reasons for being part of solving the problem.
BetterEvaluation.Com’s Stakeholder Mapping & Analysis page has a straight forward, short description of stakeholder mapping processes along with links out to other useful resources.