Relationship maps (also known as Circle, Venn or chapati diagrams and systems maps) are used for systemic analysis of organisations and networks, their stakeholders, interrelationships and power relations in order to prioritise actions for change.

They can be adapted for any issue including: social support networks, leadership, markets, institutions. They can be used in any context and facilitated for any number of participants from individual level to very large collective planning processes.

Types of Relationship Map
  • Empowerment Leadership Map looks at support networks and power relations to plan and track peer sharing.
  • Market and value chain mapping: to look at possibilities for market diversification and increasing gender balance in markets:
  • Financial resource mapping: to look at the range of different sources of finance and their opportunities and challenges.
  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Institutional governance mapping: institutional governance map to look at inter-organisational decision-making and power relations and how they can be changed.
  • Institutional advocacy mapping: mapping powerful institutions and strategies to influence them.
  • Information Systems mapping: to look at information flows and structures of power and transparency within and between organisations.

Relationship Maps
DNA Template

Relationship Maps are attempting to clarify very complex realities of systems of interrelated elements in order to identify priorities for action.

They are a snapshot analysis of elements and their interrelationships at a a particular point in time. Sometimes they analyse completely separate topics from the other tools – for example family and community relationships, markets, organisations. They may also focus on or incorporate opportunities, challenges or elements of vision/targets/relationships from the Change Journey, Action Tree or Diamond Vision. Individual maps can also be quantified in groups and/or aggregated for an overview of for example local institutions, markets. Maps that start by looking at ‘big’ and therefore complicated issues, may need to be subdivided into smaller and more manageable questions before being put back together on a ‘parent map’.

Although all maps can be adapted for research and impact assessment, the aim is not the analysis itself, but to generate a clear idea of ways forward, with new or improved relationships or access to opportunities that can be tracked over time.

All GAMEChange Relationship Maps combine on one diagram in some way:

  • systems elements : symbols and shapes
  • interrelationships: lines, arrows and boundaries
  • priorities for change: action learning and building networks with details and timeframes.

Combining these analyses into one diagram means that people can analyse in detail how different elements are interrelated within a whole system, adding details as they go along. The aim being to reflect on strategies that strengthen or create positive elements or relationships and help address negative ones.

System elements: symbols and shapes

The elements of a system or concept are represented making use of the whole surface available:

  • a system may radiate out from a single middle person, institution or concept or they may have several different starting ‘nodes’.
  • shapes or symbols show common and distinct features between different elements eg people, institutions, markets.
  • colours, shapes and/or symbols signify which elements are similar and which are different.
  • elements are grouped spatially and/or as overlapping shapes, shapes inside or next to other elements.
Interrelationships: lines arrows and boundaries

the types of interrelationship between the elements are shown as lines and arrows of:

  • different direction
  • different colour
  • different thickness
Action learning/building networks

Living action learning map 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.

Consistent colour coding so that the map and action 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.
leadership and Change Movement building

Relationship maps are often used to build networks and develop leadership.

  • Share the steps with other people in your households, communities and networks so that they can do their own map – not copy yours. NOTE: some maps must remain confidential, particularly those showing interpersonal relationships.
  • Meet together regularly to share experiences of what works and what does not work.
  • 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.

Relationship Maps:
Common Steps

STEP 1 empowerment VISION: how will i look if i am empowered and happy?
  • Think first how you are now. Are you happy or sad, confident or frightened, healthy or sick, educated or not, never had the opportunity to attend school, what work do you do?
  • Then think about people you admire and people you think are not so good. What are their characteristics?
  • Finally think how will you be as ‘the ideal you’ – the future you who brings about change for your self and those around you.

Draw yourself in the centre of the next double page in your notebook. You are the centre of the relationship web you will build. Draw in pencil so you can change at the end if you wish. Take your time. And put the date at the top.


The next step on your individual leadership webs draw around you the different people and institutions who are ‘important’ in your life; working outwards from the centre, putting those who are most important closest to you. Make sure you draw people in different colours, shapes, sizes, characteristic objects etc so you can recognise them later.

Include any groups you are a member of eg savings groups, religious groups, ‘important people’ are not necessarily only your immediate household or even the wider family. It could include eg banks, or even the president.


For these people/institutions:

  • Ring in red any who are already part of your network
  • Ring in green any who are likely to be sympathetic but who you need bring into your web. Put a very thick ring around those who may be most powerful in support.
  • Ring in blue any who are likely to oppose your vision. Put a very thick ring around those who are most powerful in opposition. These are people you can either leave, or persuade through working with others.
  • Put arrows between people and institutions who are linked – differentiate the type and strength of the linkage through colour and thick/thin line and direction.
  • Put a very thick green circle around the main entry points as key targets for a change strategy.
STEP 4: ACTION priorities

Then put very thick green circles around about 5 targets and think concretely about:

  • what will you do? eg will you share any of the tools? lobby or provide other information? put people in contact with others?
  • what will be the timeframe? at least one activity for each target within one month, however small, and other strategies over a longer time if necessary.
Step 5 Track, update and continue

These webs should be periodically reviewed on both individual and collective levels for progress – turning green elements red. Identifying new targets and actions in green.

And feel free to make the new empowered you in the centre of the web even more beautiful. And appreciate the strength and reach of your web.

Logo and songs

Some time should be allocated to adding elements from the empowerment web to the song and logo design process.

Toolkit Facilitation Examples

Change Leadership Map

Developed in 2017 for SNV Ethiopia with Sara de Smet and SNV staff and champions as part of a PALS Toolkit for Gender and Youth in Horticulture Markets project.

Leadership Web

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

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 Empowerment Map

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.

Peer sharing and leadership drama and songs

Page updated 07/02/2022
Copyright Linda Mayoux as public resource.
Conditions of use: for ethical development purposes, provided original sources are fully accredited and a link to this website is clearly provided so that users can access further updates.