Fourth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (XI). Paolo Brunello: Netmap Workshop

Notes from the Fourth IPID ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium 2009, held in the Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, United Kingdom, on September 11-12th, 2009. More notes on this event: ict4d_symposium_2009.

Netmap Workshop
Paolo Brunello

Netmap is a very interesting tool to trace power and influence in networks. The idea is identifying the main authors in a network (e.g. the actors in an ICT4D project: NGOs involved, donors, government, local leaders, beneficiaries, etc.) and see how each actor is linked to the other ones and what’s their respective relationship in terms of influence. A last step in Netmap’s methodology implies identifying also each actor’s goals and then be able to figure out the reachability of such goals considering the influence relationships in the network.

The procedure is as follows: in a big sheet of paper, actors are pictured and then influence arrows are drawn between actors. There are several ways to understand influence. Paolo Brunello proposes the following, adapting the methodology to development projects:

  • Money: who’s giving funds to who. E.g. national aid agency to NGO;
  • Command: to is in a position to command over other people (and who are these people, of course). E.g. the Ministry of Education to the school directors;
  • Information: who is feeding others with information they need. E.g. the health care centre about the number of patients per person and year;
  • Influence: understood here as who has ascendant over others or has an acknowledged authority in a field. E.g. a reputed colleague in the field of ICT4D over you.

Once the several arrows are drawn, influence-towers are built with the help of actor figurines and flat round stackable discs (see the references below). Thus, it is easier to identify who has more influence and, most important, how the differences in influence can ease or play havoc on achieving the final goals of a project developed by that network.

Netmap rules are understood at a glance but it’s apparent simplicity does not subtract from its huge explanatory power. Being very visual, the outcome of the exercise is not only a most interesting map of the relationships of influence, but also a roadmap you should follow (or struggle to redefine, whatever you’re able to…) to increase the chances of success to achieve some specific goals.

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Fourth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2009)