System mapping, the process of creating visual tools that describe a system, is a critical step in systems change that brings together stakeholders from across organizations and sectors to develop a common understanding of a given system. Breaking down the mapping process into 3 stages—preparation, facilitation, and revision—this guide provides detailed instructions, helpful hints, and visual examples for practitioners to follow as they create one type of system map called an actor map.
- Actor maps identify individuals and organizations that are key players in a certain space and shows how they are connected.
- Due to the complexity of systems, no 2 actor maps will be exactly alike. This guide helps practitioners create an actor mapping process customized to the specific context of their evaluation or initiative.
- Creating a comprehensive actor map requires both explicit data from evaluations and studies, and implicit knowledge from the participants. Making sure you have the right actors at the table, as well as a variety of supporting data, will lead to a more useful map.