Finding the change pathways in your map
A change pathway is a graphical representation of a change process
Congratulations! You have mapped how your project activities contribute towards several desired impacts.
For each of the impacts on your map, you can now trace the activities, outputs and outcomes that your project believes will lead to that lasting change.
We call this a Change Pathway.
A change pathway is a graphical representation of a change process. Your map is a collection of change pathways.
Sometimes we want to focus on just one change pathway (e.g. to help us with a particular funding application).
How to identify a change pathway
To find a change pathway, we are essentially asking ourselves this question:
For a particular impact, what are the activities, outputs and outcomes that (we believe ) will lead to that change?
On your map, you can trace backwards from an impact to see which elements flow into the impact, and which elements flow into those elements and so on, until you reach the project activities on the left hand side of your map.
This is a way to see how the different parts of your project integrate and support one another to produce sustainable changes. Even an informal examination of the change pathways in your project will give insights as to what is happening, and can highlight important activities and outcomes, as well as suggesting key areas to measure to gauge your impact.
Below is a picture of the Change Pathways Map for the Community Mobilization for Regenerative Agriculture project in Kenya, with the Change Pathway (highlighted in pale green) for the impact Greater Food Security (in orange). The text is hard to read, but this image shows the shape of this Change Pathway.
Q: What do you observe? You can explore a dynamic (legible) version of the map at the bottom of this page.
Do you notice that several outputs and outcomes are needed to produce the one impact? In a Development Sector theory of change, individual activities or outcomes that need to combine with others to have the desired impact might be described as ‘necessary but not sufficient’ on their own. In other words, you need several different outputs or outcomes to work together to produce the desired change. In permaculture design, we might think of the principles of ‘Integrate rather than segregate’ and ‘Each important function is supported by many elements’.
Activity: Choose one impact on your own map. Identify the elements that contribute towards that impact by working ‘backwards’ (against the direction of the arrows) across your map, following the pathway of elements that flow into your chosen impact Record* these in a way that suits you. What do you notice? Make a note of your observations and any insights during this process, and any thoughts that you have about what to measure or your MEL plan.
*There are various ways you could note down or record a pathway. The method you choose may be influenced by the size and complexity of your project, map and the change pathway in question. Whichever method you choose, bear in mind that your Change Pathway is likely to take the shape of a tree, or a diamond.
Some ideas for documenting a change pathway:
- Mark the elements within your Kumu map (for example by changing the element colour, or the element border colour). You will be able to do this for one Change Pathway at a time.
- Note down in a document or a spreadsheet. Expect a diamond or tree shape to emerge.
- Take a fork (copy) of your Kumu map for each impact and change the element colour of the elements in the Change Pathway.
- Sketch out the Change Pathway as a diagram using any tool of your choice e.g. pen and paper, Google Draw, Microsoft Powerpoint.
- If you’re feeling confident with Kumu, you could create a field for each Change Pathway (within the profile sidebar) and denote each element within that CP. Then create a new map view which shows only elements with that field denoted (only recommended for advanced users).
Share: Let us know your preferred method of recording a change pathway by joining the conversation in the forum.
Speaking a change pathway!
Below is an example of the C-MRA project Change Pathway to Greater Food Security written out in sentences. The purpose of this example is to show how you might read your Change Pathway aloud and to show how integrated permaculture projects can be and how efficient a map can be for communication.
The following text was produced by reading (and writing down) the map backwards from the impact. We are not suggesting that you do this for your project!
Activity: Try reading the following text aloud…
“We hope to achieve Greater Food Security (IMPACT) because of:
Increased yield because Healthier plants are grown because the Soil is healthier because of the Improved soil structure and Organic fertiliser replaces synthetic because people are Using animal manure in their veg gardens and Mulching with homemade compost and cut vegetation because people are Adopting permaculture practices (because there is Increased knowledge about permaculture and More farmers learn vegetable production using permaculture practices (both of these because they’ve seen Lead farmers using permaculture techniques for growing veg (because these Lead farmers were trained in permaculture by the project (ACTIVITY)) and they’ve seen Demo veg plots) and because Many farmers are establishing kitchen gardens in their homes ) and more people are Making compost in their farms because they’ve seen Lead farmers making compost at their farms because the Lead farmers know how to make compost because the Lead farmers were trained in permaculture by the project (ACTIVITY).
Year-round production of crops during on and off season because Water is available for irrigation during droughts (because People are establishing water harvesting structures, because Lead farmers have learnt water harvesting techniques and because People have seen them at the demo site because Lead farmers were trained in permaculture by the project (ACTIVITY) ) and because Polycultures are cultivated because people are Adopting permaculture practices (because there is Increased knowledge about permaculture and More farmers learn vegetable production using permaculture practices (both of these because they’ve seen Lead farmers using permaculture techniques for growing veg (because these Lead farmers were trained in permaculture by the project (ACTIVITY)) and they’ve seen Demo veg plots) and because Many farmers are establishing kitchen gardens in their homes )
Increased Resilience to Pests & Diseases because… (etc)
Water Available for Irrigation During Droughts because… (etc)
Many Farmers Establishing Kitchen Gardens in their Homes because… (etc). and so on, and so on.
Conclusion: Although it is possible to write the logic of the project in sentences and paragraphs, it is time consuming, fiddly, and not that helpful. We can see that a picture (or map) paints a thousand words. The integrated nature of permaculture designs and permaculture projects means that web of interactions and mutual support are inevitable. For many projects, a diagram is almost essential to convey the integrated nature of the solution.
Activity: Find (trace) the change pathways for the other impacts on your map. You don’t need to record these ones, unless you feel it would be beneficial. Do record any insights and ideas for MEL that you have during the activity.
“This process (of tracking backwards from impacts to activities to identify change pathways) made me think differently, and enabled me to reflect on what I could really measure.”
– Andrea, CEO, Suyari Semillas Organicàs (seed project), Bolivia.
Here is an interactive version of the Community Mobilization for Regenerative Agriculture map with the Change Pathway for ‘Greater Food Security’ highlighted.