Change Journeys are strategic planning and assessment ‘road map’ diagrams to plan or assess change over time.

They are the underlying framework for all GAMEChange empowerment processes.

They can be adapted for any issue, used in any context and facilitated for any number of participants from individual level to very large collective planning processes.

Change Journeys are of two basic types that can be combined as a process or done separately:

  • Vision Journeys look to the future. This is generally the first Change Journey used so that people are immediately inspire with possibilities of future change, rather than getting depressed about what may have gone before.
  • Achievement Journeys assess lessons from the past. This is generally used as part of a later review where it is combined with planning the next vision journey to the future.

Change Journeys:
DNA Template

Key Features

Change journeys are based on principles of Appreciative Enquiry, starting with the positive but also being realistic and hard-headed about the challenges. They consist of:

Strategic planning principles

SWOT analysis starting with opportunities

Theory of change developed through action learning over time

Combining these elements into one diagram means that people can always see their vision before them. Although they put details and track their progress, everything can be related to the vision, and also analysed in relation to other elements. The aim being to reflect on processes and strategies that work and do not work in order to improve success from cycle to cycle on subsequent journeys.

The Road/strategic plan

The journey distinguishes between:

  • vision/dream as ‘thinking big’ and long-term inspirational goal/s to motivate someone to get up in the morning when the going is tough.
  • SMART ‘target’ or ‘ambition’ as Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound (SMART) medium-term elements of the dream.
  • Milestones or short-term periodic SMART achievement steps, starting with the first one after one month or earlier so that action starts immediately after analysis.
  • Actions – SMART achievements are distinguishes from the actions to move from one to the next. It is the actions that are the most important for change over time.
Appreciative SWOT/risk analysis
  • Starts with opportunities/strengths and identifies as many as possible (a very minimum of 10) as these are what will lead most to success and keep someone feeling positive.
  • Does a thorough risk analysis because if risks/challenges/weaknesses/threats are not identified then things will happen to divert the road.
  • Balance opportunities and risks – for every risk identify an opportunity so that the balance remains always positive – or maybe you need to go a different road.

Action learning/theory of change

Living action learning plan that is revisited, tracking progress, analysing what works and does not work, and and tracked over time, not left in a drawer until the next workshop or visit by the donor.

Learn from experience: start with a Vision Journey looking forward to the future. But also take time to analyse and appreciate your past achievements and struggles.

Consistent colour coding so that the plan is kept clear. Best to start with a draft in pencil, but then distinguish:

  • red ‘ripe fruits’ are drawings and circles for vision and achievements/actions done.
  • black ‘native fruits’ are what is already there.
  • green ‘unripe fruits’ are drawings and circles of positive things yet to be achieved or actions yet to be done. Once one thing is achieved, think of some new green fruits.
  • blue ‘perished fruits’ are drawings, crosses and circle for things thatare to be avoided, no longer want or you know from experience now will not work.
Change Movement building
  • Share the steps with other people in your households, communities and networks so that they can do their own plan – not copy yours.
  • Meet together regularly to share experiences of what works and what does not works.
  • Develop collective plans over time for individual and collective actions to support each other – change starts with the individual, that is where you have responsibility and some control, But not all things can be done alone. And not everything should be just for you if you want a community, society or world that is good to live in.

Vision Journey:
Common Steps

  • Vision Journey
  • Vision Journey Step 1 Vision
  • Vision Journey Step 2 Current Situation
  • Vision Journey Step 3 Opportunities and Challenges
  • Vision Journey Step 4 Target and Milestones
  • Vision Journey Step 5 Action Plan
  • Vision Journey Step 6 Track, Reflect, Share
Vision Journey Step 1 Vision
1: Vision or dream

Every journey starts with a dream vision – what you are hoping to achieve. This will depend on the type of project, but should be something that will inspire you. You should dream big and as long term as you wish, but not so big that it is impossible.

Put a big red sun circle at the top right of the paper and draw the vision or elements of your vision inside.

In the top left corner put also your name, group/organisation and date symbols. Or write these.

Vision Journey Step 2 Current Situation
2: Current Baseline

Reflect on your current situation in relation to the vision.

Draw this inside a black circle at the bottom left of the paper. Join the two circles with two black lines for the road.

Vision Journey Step 3 Opportunities and Challenges
3: Opportunities and challenges

Opportunities: Draw 10+ opportunities top of the road in green as things you plan to make happen. The more potential opportunities you identify the more likely you are to succeed and keep positive.

Challenges: Draw challenges underneath the road in blue as things you want to perish. Do a detailed but realistic risk analysis so that you can address or avoid them.

Analysis: Things more controllable (individual strengths and weaknesses) go closer to the road. Things that cannot be controlled (contextual opportunities and threats) go further from the road.

Balance the road: finally identify new opportunities so that opportunities still are more than risks. Or possibly abort plan. TAKE YOUR TIME.

Vision Journey Step 4 Target and Milestones
4: Target and Milestones

Vision Journeys have a medium term SMART target as a thick green circle placed next to the vision to make the plan concrete. This could be eg one year, a key festival, harvest, next workshop etc.

2-4 milestone targets are then placed as thinner green circles on the way. The first should be after 1 month so that action starts immediately. The others can be equal distance, or a specific time like agricultural calendar or a project monitoring time. Put circles and planned progress in green.

Vision Journey Step 5 Action Plan
5: Action Plan

What actions are needed to go from target to target? Put drawings in green for all the things you need to do:

  • to take advantage of your opportunities
  • to avoid or address your challenges
  • to achieve the things you have put in each milestone.
Vision Journey Step 6 Track, Reflect, Share
6: Track, reflect and share

Journeys are ‘live plans’ that are tracked over time to assess progress, and also to reflect on reasons for progress or lack of it.

  • Things achieved (milestones, actions, opportunities, challenges) are ringed in red as ripe fruits.
  • Things that did not work/you no longer wish to do are ringed or crossed out in blue as perished.
  • Things that are still in process and still planned are ringed in green. They can be moved from past to future and any new plans/opportunities can also be added in green. Any new challenges added in blue.

The tool, and also your experiences are also shared with other people to exchange experience of which strategies work and which do not.

Some Vision Journey Examples

Change Journeys origins and evolution in GAMEChange methodologies

Change journeys originated as ‘Achievement Journeys’ in the concept of ‘organisational road map’ commonly used by NGOs towards the end of 1990s as a participatory impact assessment tool. Adaptation by Linda Mayoux of the Vision Journey for PALS strategic planning with vision, current circle and multiple lanes to the future started at a participatory workshop Kabarole Research and Resource Centre in Western Uganda in 2002, and consolidated as an individual tool in a ‘burst of spontaneous inspiration’ while facilitating a group of KRC farmers with flipcharts of trees and the back of a jeep. From 2003 onwards Vision and Achievement Journeys became aa core part of any PALS process, and later all the other adaptations of PALS as GALS, FALS, iLEAD etc.

As time progressed, on the basis of experience in community workshops, a number of features were added for clarity and to promote more in-depth and useful analysis by people with high levels of education as well as those who never had access to formal education:

  • stipulation of adequate number of opportunities and challenges and alignment of placing of these nearer or further from the road to align with SWOT analysis.
  • clear separation of milestones and actions – so the actions become the main emphasis rather than everything jumbled together.
  • clearer colour-coding – rather than just attractive picture maps – to facilitate clarity and tracking

Simple Journeys

The first Vision Journey (individual) is a simple one-lane plan to achieve one or more elements of a bigger vision.

Some other vision journeys may also only have one vision. In this case e.g gender issues can be put as opportunities and challenges. Then included in the targets and actions.

Multi-lane Vision Calendars

To plan complex issues like businesses, livelihoods or financial management where monthly targets are important, then vision journeys are drawn with as many lanes as necessary and monthly sections.

Meki Batu champions
Organisational Multi-lane Highway

This is a core organisational monitoring tool. It combines targets and plans on the core intervention targets (eg livelihoods, coffee production, health), gender balance and leadership on one diagram that is tracked over time.

Gender Justice Review 1: Multi-lane Highway Framework
Gender Justice Review 2: Top lane: Economic/physical targets
Gender Justice Review 3: Middle Lane: necessary gender/social changes
Gender Justice Review 4: Bottom lane: peer sharing and organisation

Adaptation questions

  1. What is the vision/ purpose/ question? are these broad interrelated elements, or does each thing need its own journey? or do both?
  2. Whose journey is it? individual? household? community? bringing together many individual plans? developing a collective or organisational cooperation plan?
  3. How many lanes? is it a simple vision journey or a multi-lane highway?
  4. When should the milestones and targets be? Should these be decided by the participant? Or is there a specific organisational/project framework eg loan cycle that has to be accommodated? Is it a calendar with monthly targets?
  5. How will you ensure gender mainstreaming and inclusion/prioritisation of the minority perspectives of people who start with most disadvantage? Specific icons eg woman/man next to elements of the vision to signify ownership? Separate lanes? Facilitation process to share experiences?


Look carefully at distinctive GAMEchange facilitation guidelines

  1. Can be done as an individual or in large participatory and multi-stakeholder workshops but reflection always starts with the individual, then shared in a systematic inclusive and equitable participatory process.
  2. Make sure no one draws or plans for anyone else – all plans need to be honest reflections on reality, or they will not work.
  3. Facilitator should not hold the pen or dominate, participants should facilitate interactively and their voices should be heard at least 90% of the time – particularly those who start less confident and with greater challenges.
  4. Participants should write songs and/or do role plays/theatre that go through and practise the steps (see examples in videos above)
  5. Reversals of power: Continually develop strategies for gender mainstreaming and inclusion/prioritisation of the minority perspectives of people who start with most disadvantage?

Key points

  1. Colour coding of vision (red) plan (green) current (black) risks and negative things (blue)
  2. Spend plenty of time on the opportunities and challenges. These are very important for success of the plan. At least 30 minutes.
  3. Do the target before the milestone steps to keep inspired, but you can adjust this to make it more or less ambitious after you have done the milestones.
  4. Make sure people understand to track and share so that they use their plan, not just put it in a cupboard and forget it. If they share with their family, they can do a family plan and put it on the wall so everyone can track progress.
  5. Empowerment check: are strategies for gender mainstreaming and inclusion/prioritisation of the minority perspectives to change power relations effective?

Toolkit Facilitation Examples

SNV Ethiopia Soulmate Visioning
SNV Ethiopia Vision Journey
Achievement Journey

Developed in 2020 for IFAD with Asel Kuttubaeva, Tribhuban Paudel and Beatrice Gerli for Happy Family Review as part of IFAD’s Rural Women Economic Empowerment Joint Project in Kyrgyzstan and Nepal.

Business Innovation Management Calendar

Developed in 2019 for IFAD with Asel Kuttubaeva for Business Action Learning for Innovation (BALI) methodology as part of IFAD’s Rural Women Economic Empowerment Joint Project in Kyrgyzstan

Financial Management Calendar

Developed in 2017 for Oikocredit with Intan Dharmawati, Malou Juanito and partners NWTF and ASKI in Philippines for Financial Action Learning System (FALS) methodology as part of Oikocredit’s Bridging the Gender Gap in Responsible Finance project.

Leadership Multi-lane Highway

Developed in 2020 for Oxfam Novib with Katja Koegler and partners in Mali, Niger and Pakistan for Marriage No Child’s Play project..

Page updated 07/02/2022
Copyright Linda Mayoux as public resource.
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