by Paolo Brunello
Almost everyone was new to Net-map so the challenge to learn it in such a short time was big. After a short introduction to the basic steps of the method, three subgroups were created and started to work right away on their maps: they first chose a case study and identified the core question: "Who influences the success of...." and then started writing the names of all the different stakeholders on post-it notes to be placed on the map. Then they selected some relevant links connecting the different stakeholders, like money flow - who is paying whom? - or training - who is training whom? - and they drawn these links using different colors. Then they started assessing the relative influence of each actor in answering that original question, using some wooden discs to build "influence towers" besides each actor.
The final result was a map that portrayed the perceived distribution of power in the system under exam. But perhaps even more important was the process that lead to that map, since every member of the group had to explain why they thought a certain actor was more - or less - influential, thus making their premises explicit. This in one of the key feature of Net-Map: having to draw together, net-mappers are "forced" to share their implicit knowledge of the system under exam making it visible to others, so that we assist to a mutual "perception tuning" that can greatly help the coordination of any subsequent action. While the exercise was going on, some participants volunteered to take an observer's role, to focus on the process of net-mapping without being caught into the specific details of the case study. This then allowed the trainers to address the most burning questions in the final plenary discussion. Finally, as an evaluation, we asked the participants to line up according to their degree of willingness to use Net-Map in the near future and we were pleased to see that the majority of them were optimistic in trying it out in their context.