The Net-Map toolbox is a social network analysis tool that uses interviews and mapping to help people understand, visualize, discuss, and improve situations in which many different actors influence outcomes. Social Network Analysis is a research approach used by scholars such as S.D. Berkowitz, Stephen Borgatti, Ronald Burt, Linton Freeman, Mark Granovetter, Nicholas Mullins, Anatol Rapoport, Stanley Wasserman, Barry Wellman, and Harrison White to better understand the implications of the position of individual actors in a social structure.
Individuals create Influence Network Maps using materials from a physical toolkit. The kit includes small figures that represent different actors. Lines are drawn to link the actors and reveal how they are connected or not connected, and “influence towers” are built to reflect the relative power of each actor (the higher the influence tower, the greater the influence). Photos displaying Influence Network Maps are available on the Net-Map blog: http://netmap.ifpriblog.org.
Net-Map was created in 2006 by Eva Schiffer, a post-doctoral fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, DC. Dr. Schiffer developed the toolbox while working on a project in Ghana with the Challenge Program on Water and Food, a system-wide program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. Net-Map expands on the Power Mapping Tool (http://www.ifpri.org/PUBS/dp/ifpridp00703.asp). The White Volta River Basin Board in rural Ghana, responsible for overseeing local water resources, was looking to enhance decision making among its many collaborators. The to identify its partners, its linkages with those partners, and their distinct goals and levels of influence. A representation of the Board’s network map is available in a World Bank . Net-Map was also presented at the International Network of Social Network Analysis' in 2007.
Several researchers have made the case for visual network mapping, specifically in improving development projects. , a monitoring and evaluation specialist based in the United Kingdom, supports the use of a network perspective in representing and evaluating aid interventions. Boru Douthwaite, a Technology Policy Analyst at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has used (PIPA), which draws on many of the same concepts as Net-Map, to evaluate and manage development projects by directly engaging the participants. PIPA has been implemented through several workshops across the developing world, and is being developed by Mr. Douthwaite and other researchers from CIAT, as well as the WorldFish Center and the International Potato Center. The New Tactics in Human Rights Project—led by a diverse group of human rights international organizations, advisors and practitioners—uses visual network representations as one of its various innovative tools to promote human rights and end human rights abuses.
Net-Map has also been applied directly, with the results documented in case studies, also available on the Net-Map blog. A research project on fisheries management in small reservoirs in Ghana, conducted by Ph.D. student Jennifer Hauck through the University of Bonn’s Center for Development Research (ZEF), focused on understanding networks on an individual actor level. Ms. Hauck adapted the Net-Map Toolbox by using local parts purchased in Ghana, including spare bicycle parts, reflecting Net-Map’s versatility.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) funded the rehabilitation of small reservoirs in Northern Ghana, but IFAD also wanted to understand the governance aspects of small reservoir maintenance so that local institutions could manage and maintain the infrastructure. A collaborative project between IFAD, IFPRI, and the University of Bonn, used Net-Map to understand the role of Water User Associations, formed under the IFAD project, and other actors in local natural resources governance networks in Northern Ghana.