System mapping allows experts from diverse fields to build a common understanding of the resources, authority flows, and stakeholders that comprise the system the innovation seeks to change, particularly through a common visual representation, 

A system map provides the jumping off point for fresh thinking about what relationships need to be strengthened, and what resources and connections will be required for an innovation to change the overall system. It does this by helping you identify key stakeholders and relationships between them, anticipate potential barriers, and picture the effect that the innovation may have on other system actors, both intended and otherwise. 

System mapping process is also effective at helping stakeholders identify additional participants who should be involved in driving system change.



Core Team Program personnel who have the intimate knowledge of the program and who can provide the critical eyes for revision
Innovation Cycle Can be used in any stage, but particularly useful at the beginning of a new initiative
Key Roles Program experts: ring the deep knowledge about the program, including stakeholders, relationships, resources, and authority flow
Facilitator: Collect necessary information and resources, and facilitates the review sessions of the resulting map
Domain experts: Depending on the further research to collect the required data, relevant experts may need to be involved, e.g., interviews of potential new beneficiaries
Essential Tools Visualization of the map: Clear visualization is crucial to make most out of the system map as innovation and communication tool
Critical reviews:
Review the base map with various participants to identify key changes that can result in desired outcome
Outputs System map with a clear list of identified gaps and changes needed for desired innovation to take place
Cost & Time Cost: Involvement of external experts for providing data & reviews, experienced facilitator, graphic designer for visualization.
Time: Data collection may take most time.


Collection of Relevant Data

Gather all the relevant data including stakeholders, roles, resources, relationships between various elements, barriers, authority flows known to you and your team.

It may be helpful to interview stakeholders, such as domain experts, or program grantees, in order to gather richer data. In this process, you may identify gaps in how various stakeholders perceive the current system, which may be useful in identifying opportunities for change and innovation.

Critical Reviews

One of the benefits of a visualized system map is that it can be easily shared with a broad range of people who may have little or no knowledge on the program itself. You can utilize the base map to engage people with different perspectives, or those who may present opposing views to help uncovering the need for innovation.

Map Visualization

The quality of visualization of the system map may have a great influence on how effective it can be used for your purpose. Mapping typically requires you to write down all the individual data elements first, then organize them into natural clusters, e.g., supply/demand sides, or funders. Relationships and relevant interactions between them, e.g., resource flows and influence are marked on top of the basic clusters. Once the basic elements of the map is done, you can also mark and call out other aspects on the map, such as the most critical stakeholder, or parts of the map that need to change to support innovation to scale.

It is beneficial to try different visualization of the map with the same content to ensure the map is easy to understand and represents the critical aspects properly. If you intend to use the system map for broader audience engagements, it may be worthwhile hiring a graphic design expert to make the final visualization.