Low Tech Tools: Relationship Mapping

K4Health Highlights

Jarret Cassaniti

CCP | Program Officer

At the Global Health and Knowledge Collaborative (GHKC) Share Fair, I attended and enjoyed the session on Net-Map.

Net-Map is an interview-based mapping tool that helps people understand, visualize, discuss, and improve situations in which many different actors influence outcomes. By creating Influence Network Maps, individuals and groups can clarify their own view of a situation, foster discussion, and develop a strategic approach to their networking activities.

Net-Map at the GHKC KM Share Fair


A participant uses Net-Map at the GHKC Share Fair.

Facilitated by Amitaksha Nag of Frametrics Consulting Private Limited and Natalie Campbell of Management Sciences for Health, participants used Net-Map to think about the complex social environment in which they work. The groups mapped a water and sanitation project in Zambia and an integrated FP/RH project in rural Malawi. They thought about the actors are involved, how they are linked, how influential they are, and what each actor’s goals are.

At the end of the session, diagrams on flip chart helped foster discussion about each project’s strategy and where roadblocks and conflict might arise. Although we made impressive insights (e.g. the ministry of health is often where a project begins, community elders hold most of the influence), 90 minutes could barely do the process justice. Nag said that when Frametrics uses Net-Map in the field is often a two day process.

Click here (PDF) for a short step-by-step manual on Net-Map, here for a detailed version and here for a training slide show.

I was intrigued at Net-Map’s process and was reminded of similar tool, the Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA). On April 11 I attended a webinar hosted by USAID’s Learning Lab on PIPA and presented by Sophie Alvarez, consultant to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Columbia. 

While PIPA seemed more complex than Net-Map, it also sought to use relationship mapping to help guide a project.

The process of explicitly defining how outcomes will be achieved, for whom and with whom, lays the groundwork for successful adaptive management. At the same time, it allows stakeholders to respond to emerging needs and opportunities and to see connections to the existing environment and related initiatives. The specific approach, called Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA), is a practical planning, monitoring and evaluation model by which stakeholders make their theory of change for a project explicit.

Part of the conversation during the Q&A portion of the webinar focused PIPA in relation to logical frameworks. Alvarez said that PIPA is similar to logical frameworks but involves more analysis of networks and group actors and a focus on changes in Knowledge, Attitudes, Skills, Aspirations (KASA).

While use of both Net-Map and PIPA are rigorous and require a significant time commitment, they are low-tech and appropriate for use in developing countries. 


Jarret, a list of such low tech tools is a great idea! 

Net-Map is simple and anyone can participate. Like most low tech tools it is not meant to scale, but intense in it's data collection rigor. Key is the Facilitators role to define the question, keeping the conversations relevant and spontaneous. I find it particularly useful in narrating the story and context behind the data. 

more reource on Net-Map - http://netmap.wordpress.com