Community Planning: Methods
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Diagrams and charts are a highly effectiv visual way to collect, discuss and display information at all stages of the planning process.

Individuals or groups use the construction of diagrams as a basis for gathering and analysing information. Fairly complex issues or processes can be represented simply if the right type of diagram is chosen.

The diagrams provide a focus for discussing issues - by both literate and non-literate people - and help stimulate creative thinking.

The diagrams are used for ordering and presenting information, prioritising issues, decision making and monitoring.

Making diagrams can form part of a workshop or be undertaken as an activity in its own right. A group diagramming process is similar to a group mapping process. (see also mapping) .
top: Sri Lanka, 1992, John Thompson
bottom: Kiambu, Tamil Nadu, India, 1991, Irene Guijt

Showing seasonal changes in work patterns by plotting peoplešs activities on a monthly basis.


Assessing the value of different tree species by placing stones to score various attributes.

  • If diagrams are made on the ground, photograph or draw them to keep a record.

  • Involve people who are particularly knowledgeable, and involve as many others as possible. Facilitators should sit back and watch, not interfere too much.

  • Minimise text. Use colour coding, symbols and local materials wherever possible.
  • Few expenses necessary. Main cost: facilitators' fees. May be worth spending money on materials to improve presentation.
Common diagram types and their uses
  1. Calendar.
    For understanding seasonal patterns, eg planting, tourism or rainfall.
  2. Flow diagram.
    Showing the components of any activity and the linkages between them. For understanding the impact of an initiative.
  3. Matrix.
    Grid allowing comparison of two variables. Used for assessing options and prioritising.
  4. Mind map.
    Showing people's perceptions of trends and linkages. Used for collective brainstorming to develop common outlook.
  5. Network diagram.
    Showing flows and linkages between people, organisations or places. Used for highlighting strengths and weaknesses in institutional relationships.
  6. Organisation chart.
    Showing who is responsible for what. Used for understanding how organisations work.
  7. Pie chart.
    Dividing a circle into different sized segments. For showing population structure, distances to work and so on.
  8. Time-line.
    List of events over time. For understanding historical trends.
  9. Timetable.
    For analysing daily routines, street activity and so on.
  10. Venn diagram.
    Using circles of different sizes to indicate roles of different organisations and the relationships between them.
Network diagram

Network diagram
Identifying institutional changes needed by plotting flows and links between villages.

Venn diagram

Venn diagram
Showing relationships between village institutions.

Mind map

Mind map
Showing perceptions of trends and linkages.
top left: Kiambu, Kenya 1993, Jules Pretty:
top right: Burkina Fasco, Africa 1993, Jules Pretty
bottom: Anon

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Last updated on: 27 June 2008