Topic 5 Initial mapping and significant sample

After these first steps, it is time for us to realize the extent to which many of the social forces and sectors that could be are not incorporated into the process. For this, it is interesting that everyone can provide fairly complete lists of the sectors they know or have reference to. The objectives of a first workshop can be the following:

  • Prepare a first “mapping” (Sociogram) of the relationships between the different social actors present in the territory (institutions, associative fabric and population in general).
  • Check that, in addition to organizations, we take non-organized people into account. To what extent do we have similar or friendly sectors, with opposite or simply different sectors. To what extent do we have sectors of economic or symbolic power, or with precarious sectors, etc.
  • For some local groups it can serve as self-criticism when they realize for themselves that they barely know other groups or sectors that also act on these issues. This exercise has a part of locating groups, institutions and unorganized sectors, and another part of knowing the relationships of trust or fears.

It is an instrument that will allow us to visualize the actors and social groups present in the territory and trace the existing connections between them. It serves to realize how isolated or not we can be in the tasks that we propose, and the alliances that we need and must make; and in this sense, which “bridge” elements or groups should we interview in order to know how to collaborate on common tasks. We will also visualize what antagonisms are foreseeable that appeared to us and how to counteract them. All this considering not only the numbers of people who may be in each situation, but also what are their weights and real socio-political forces and their ability to help in our strategies.

A possible application of the technique is to hand out blank cards: some with a triangular shape to represent actors with a lot of symbolic or convening power (and possibly external to the specific place); other rectangular ones to represent the organized and local social actors; and other circulars to represent unorganized sectors of the population, which are usually the majority, or for people who are considered relevant to the process. Each one fills in the cards with the different protagonists existing in the territory and puts them on a blackboard or continuous paper on a wall or a table to later relate them.

Basic scheme to establish a map of social relations (initial sociogram)

We will use arrows that unite the different actors in terms of a strong relationship (dependency, collaboration…), weak (isolation, disinterest, temporality…), conflict, no relationship, indirect relationships (an actor with another through a third party), etc. The group discusses until a certain consensus is reached. We reflect on the areas where the map becomes denser in its relationships, where these become more intense, the existing blocks, the articulating elements (dynamizers) and the empty spaces of actors or relationships.


This is the Sociogram of the Citizen Participation Program in a neighbourhood, with the organization agreed to carry out the Action Plan through the Monitoring Commission and the specific working groups. Together with the technical group that advises, the Neighbourhood Association and some other entities would form the action set of the Process.

When making these maps it is also very interesting to try to define those “communicating” elements (people, groups, etc.) that acquire an important weight in the connection of some levels with others: for example, the “bridges” between the associative, or with sectors of the population, or with some Institutions, etc. 

When developing the sociogram, we will begin to define which are the spaces for alliance and those for conflict (which must be unlocked) in order to have the closest possible idea of ​​the leading actors in the proposals for action. This will be much more concrete in the next phase of return and negotiation. Below is an example of some sets of action or groupings of interests and trusts (blue and green) taken from a real case in Peru of the conflict of peasants who grow coca, where the intermediate groups and collectives must decide what their own strategy.

In the following graph, what is most interesting is to know the location on the map of the actors, the meeting spaces where relationships take place in a special way, the most significant places for people, as well as the links between the actors that can be represented on the map.