Map Your Context


First, you must decide which institution you want to monitor. For example, let’s suppose you are interested in monitoring the corruption and integrity issues around getting a driver’s license in Kabul. Then, you would SELECT the traffic department as the main INSTITUTION to monitor.


After you select the institution you want to monitor, you must decide what you want to ACHIEVE by monitoring. If you monitor the traffic department, maybe you want to make the procedures to apply for a driver’s license simpler. Or, perhaps you want to eliminate the opportunity for people to pay bribes to pass the driving or health exam. You may have hear reports of sexual harassment of female applicants at the driving school, and may want to force the traffic department to investigate and stop such incidents. Generally, monitoring shows you if a system or an institution is performing its activities as intended. Monitoring can thus, be a powerful tool to generate integrity.

No matter what you decide to achieve, make sure to clearly articulate your goals:

By regularly monitoring the traffic department’s written and practical exam practices, we want to collect information on whether applicants are passing the exams through bribery or using personal contacts. If we regularly collect objective data, we can identify where the problems of integrity are taking place. Then, we can present this data to the traffic department, other government agencies and media agencies. All of this data will become a source of pressure on actors to perform correctly and eliminate corruption.


CONTEXT MAPPING is used to identify the relation between the different actors in the system and the manner in which the system functions. the map should also describe how the system interacts with its environment. In our example, the system is the process of getting a drivers license.

The monitoring process first identifies the blockages in the system of getting a driver’s license. In the case of integrity-related monitoring, the blockages can be of three types:
1 Actors or processes that are key in a system, i.e. decision makers or persons in contact with external actors [traffic clerks]; a process that generates the most money [registration fees]
2 Points or places where integrity can be at risk, i.e. place where products or customers are transiting and can be easily stopped [traffic health office], such as places where the public and institution interacts or points of internal control [written exam at traffic office].
3 During reporting on procedures, i.e.audit reports, evaluation reports [traffic department annual review of personnel and practices], field visits from donors.

So, let’s see how we can MAP and understand the Driver’s License Procedure Steps in Kabul:


STAKEHOLDER MAPPING is used to identify the primary actors who work in the institution or process you are monitoring, those who have the power to change the policies of the institution and those that are affected by the institution.

In our Community-Based Monitoring program, we created something called the Provincial Monitoring Board to bring together all the stakeholders involved in the reconstruction of infrastructure projects where we work. We selected the actors as follows:
1  Actors who have the POWER to change the policies of the institution or process, i.e. Donors, representative of Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation & Development.
2  Actors who work in the institution and IMPLEMENT policies and actions we are monitoring, i.e. Construction contractors, monitoring agencies.
3  Actors who are AFFECTED by the institution or process, i.e. local community members, civil society groups, direct beneficiaries of the project.

So, let’s see how we can MAP and understand the stakeholders involved in the reconstruction process at the provincial level in Afghanistan:


POWER MAPPING is used to identify the power relations in communities. It is now widely acknowledged that development and humanitarian interventions cannot succeed without considering local power structures. Power mapping can hep us tailor our interventions to the context. But how can we understand local power structures?

One way is to create a POWER MAP. There are different ways, like taking a theory-based versus empirically-based approach, to create this map. We have used a participatory method because we want to understand how the individuals where we work see the power relations in their own community.

It is also important for you to choose the participants of the group carefully, based on what kind of information you are looking for. It is hard to form a group that is representative of the entire “community.” So, after learning from our experience, we chose to do power mapping with different types of groups. We sometimes worked with a group of local elders (all male), or with members of a female shura, or local youth who are active in their community or a group of local monitors. Usually, we have separate focus groups for men and women, since we have felt that women tend to be more vocal when in same-sex group. But, it is for you to decide whether you want mixed-sex or segregated groups.

Though there are similarities between all of the above groups’ perceptions of who is powerful and who is not in their community, there are also critical differences in where they perceive themselves to be on the power map. Or, they can perceive the power gap to be larger or smaller between different actors.

There are many different ways to do power mapping, but this is our process:
1  Sit in a circle with all the participants, place a large sheet of white paper in the center and give pens to each participant.
2  Draw concentric circles on the sheet of paper,and explain that the inner circles are where the most powerful individuals/institutions should be placed. The outer circles are where the less powerful should be placed.
3  Ask the participants to start placing individuals/institutions on the map, i.e. local leaders, mullahs, heads of CDC shuras, teachers, farmers, our CBM local monitors, doctor, police and so on.

powermapping1 powermapping2 powermapping3

4 Discuss why some peope have power and others do not. Ask whether these are fixed relations or can they be changed? How can those with less power gain more power? In our experience, the results have been quite diverse depending on the community, however mostly local leaders, mullahs and heads of CDC shuras are placed in the center and mostly women are placed in the outskirts of the diagrams. On many occasions, the presence of a warlord would push other people far from the center to create a ‘power gap’ that seemed almost insurmountable for the participants.


DEFINE YOUR CONCEPTS just as we defined our KEY CONCEPTS, such as “corruption,” “community” and “monitoring” above before you start a monitoring program. This is because different people within your group or outside will have different understandings of these concepts. Without a common vocabulary, there can be a lot of misunderstandings regarding your work objectives that can prevent you from creating a common vision among your team.

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