The Three Phases of Social System Mapping

The Three General Phases

What ARE the three phases?

There are no hard and fast absolutes about the process of Social System Mapping. As you proceed, your network will naturally constrain, re-frame, and co-generate its own path to your collectively-desired end-point. And you should invite that, because w/o the community's ultimate ownership, the map won't live up to it's greatest potential for guiding and giving insight to your network.

Still - without at least a little planning ahead, the project can quickly spin out of control, or just as easily grind to a halt. I don't want that to happen to you, so I offer up our experience as a starting point. Therefore, consider what follows as a place to begin thinking about the process - based on experience in a lot of different contexts. But know that it's a start and you should indulge your creative impulses and make it your own.

Similarly - the phases offered here could be further sub-divided into smaller phases, as well as merged into one another, depending on the context and the mental models of those managing the process. There is overlap, circling-back, fuzziness. I'd advise not to spend a whole lot of time over-thinking it - because whatever you think when you begin, the process will take you somewhere different.

I'd advise you to just jump in. Start where-ever the people are. Do what you can, go back & re-visit it and do some more. Iterate. Iterate. Iterate. Let it emerge.

Having said all that - here's how I think about the 3 phases
By this I simply mean - everything that has to happen to get a project underway - before there is something meaningful to look at. If a map doesn't yet exist for a specific group, and you want the group to make one - you're envisioning. You wear the 'Visionary Hat' Your imagination is engaged with what could exist, but you can't make it happen on your own - because Social System Mapping is an inherently collaborative process.

Therefore you need to get others on board - and we have some ideas that will help you in getting that to happen.
Mapping in this context means everything related to the online interfaces - sumApp set-up and administration, Kumu set-up and map design, the data-flow decisions and process necessary to getting data from sumApp into Kumu, and whatever interface choices & implementation you choose to make the Kumu map accessible to your community. If your questions fall into this category, you're most likely wearing the 'Technician Hat' for your community.
SenseMaking is the what you do with a finished map. How you use it to gain the insights you wanted it for in the first place, how you engage your community members in learning to use it for their own goals and purposes, the processes you put in place to use it in an ongoing way. If this is where your imagination goes, or if this post-map-phase is when your interest really kicks in, consider yourself one of 'SenseMaker Hat' wearers in your community.

And finally, SenseMaking is how you learn how your map needs to evolve so it can do an increasingly-better job of serving your network's purposes - and that, then, cycles you back into the Envisioning phase, to iterate again.

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