Diagramming for development 1 - Bounding realities
Diagramming for development 1 - Bounding realities

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2 The role of diagramming

The diagrams in this unit are designed to help you analyse and reflect on situations, make decisions and plan action. Each diagramming technique is taught around a case study of the Working for Water Programme in South Africa. The case is used to demonstrate what purposes the techniques serve and how they may be used. These techniques can be applied to problems in other contexts, including institutional change and development, or violent conflict and post conflict reconstruction, or project design and management.

Diagramming serves three general purposes:

  1. to note down your thoughts on a particular problem, situation or issue (sometimes called your system of interest) in a way that organises those thoughts so you can see links and relationships between the different factors you've identified
  2. to communicate your ideas to others, possibly across different cultures, in circumstances where the right words can be hard to find to establish the shared understanding needed to enable more meaningful dialogue
  3. to help you, either as an individual or part of a group, to analyse a problem and to think creatively and in new ways about possible solutions, especially around difficult and contested issues.

In planning an intervention diagramming also serves three more specific operational tasks:

  • brainstorming, in which all ideas, concepts, issues, stakes, stakeholders, etc. relevant to an intervention are noted;
  • analysis, where the relationships and links between the items identified are explored;
  • diagnosis, where the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to intervention are examined.

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