Use Context Maps to learn more about a situation

Are you at the start of a change process? Do you need to better understand the context in which you are working?

Consider creating a Context Map to help you learn more about this situation.

A Context Map will allow you to become more informed about the current situation and the forces shaping change. And the insights that follow from this will open your eyes to the many possibilities of harnessing and engaging change as a force for good.

Doing this with a team? Even better! By developing the Context Map together, you will be able to engage in conversation as you assemble information. You can probe the data, consider what it means, explore what options are present. By making a visual report of what you are learning about the current situation, you can become aware of your blindspots, notice areas that need deeper investigation, and spot trends that might impact your work.

There are many ways of developing a Context Map.

Begin with gathering information about the current situation through:

  • Interviews and Focus Groups – speaking to people individually and in small groups is a good way to hear a variety of perspectives.
  • Surveys – this allows you to hear from a large number of people. Surveys can be designed for responses to be more closed (e.g. Prioritize the following issues) or more open (e.g. What do you see as the main challenges?).
  • Document and Literature Reviews – this can be especially useful in collecting more quantitative information (e.g. demographics), past evaluations, and assessments of approaches being used by various organizations.

Then gather together (which may require a series of conversations as you continue to learn and assess) and dig into the data, and the connections between the data:

  • What are the dynamics in the current situation?
  • What are the forces in support of change?
  • What forces are in support of the status quo?
  • What assets might be available to support/invest in the change?
  • What high-level risks need to be monitored?


“Shared Display”

From the start, you can assemble the information and your analysis in a public place, a “shared display.” While the view might initially be limited to those involved in creating the Map, it can be helpful to share with others at a later stage. This allows you to share your thinking, and to receive feedback from those seeing the Map for the first time.

The format of the Map can range from:



Helpful Resources

Context Map – video introduction

Template for a Context Map


Do you find resources like this useful? Contact me to learn more about how I support leaders as they manage change and growth.

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