Rich Pictures

Synonyms: 
Mind map

A Rich Picture is a way to explore, acknowledge and define a situation and express it through diagrams to create a preliminary mental model. A rich picture helps to open discussion and come to a broad, shared understanding of a situation.

This option was originally developed as part of Peter Checkland’s Soft Systems Methodology (SSM), developing a rich picture covers steps 1 & 2 of the SSM which describe the real world:

  1. Identify the issue you wish to address, and
  2. Develop an unstructured description of the situation where the issues lies – how it is

(Other steps in the SSM support systems thinking about the world as it might be. The tensions between the real world as it is, and as it might be and between different perspectives of the real world and how it might be provide sites for creative thing. Refer to “Systems Concepts in Action: A Practitioner's Toolkit” by Bob Williams and Richard Hummelbrunner – 2010 for a detailed guide to using systems thinking in evaluation).

In his original writing Checkland refers to the ‘situation’, the situation may be a program, issue, initiative or other term used in evaluation. Checkland provides some guidelines as to what should be included in the description so that a rich understanding of the situation is developed:

  • Structures
  • Processes
  • Climate
  • People
  • Issues expressed by people
  • Conflict

The description of the situation is depicted as a picture using diagrams, symbols, cartoons and words, it can be drawn by hand or electronically. As Williams and Hummelbrunner point out "There are many ways that this can be done: mind-maps, conversation maps, sketching. However, it is important that the picture should not structure the situation (as in a logic model or process chain). The whole point of a rich picture is to reflect as much going on as possible without privileging, predetermining, or presuming a particular point of view."

Example

Source: http://elabor8.com.au/blog/rich-pictures-and-catwoe-simple-yet-powerful-scope-modelling-techniques

Advice

Advice for CHOOSING this option (tips and traps)

A rich picture helps to open discussion and come to a broad, shared understanding of a situation. It does not tell you what has changed, although this may come up in discussion, and therefore is best used as an initial exercise in an annual project review or when designing the M&E system with different stakeholders.

Think carefully about whom to include in a group. If you want to have a representative picture, then the composition of the group will be different than if you want to have focused perspectives to compare.

Advice for USING this option (tips and traps)

Guijt & Woodhill offer the following suggestions for creating a rich picture:

1. Using a large sheet of paper and symbols, pictures and words, draw a "rich picture" (or "mind map") of the situation (project/group) that you wish to evaluate. This is best done with about four to eight people and takes a half to two hours.

2. Start by asking people to note all the physical entities involved, for example, the critical people, organisations or aspects of the landscape.

3. Ask people to present their rich picture by describing the key elements and key linkages between them.

4. If there is more than one group, compare their pictures and cluster the ideas that are similar and those that diverge. In this way you can identify the most important issues to discuss, such as critical topics to focus on in an evaluation, possible indicators or key stakeholders to include in M&E.

Resources

Guides

Video

You can also watch Judy Oakden's presentation on Soft Systems Methodology: The Use of Rich Pictures in Evaluation (Note: low quality audio).

Sources

Checkland P (2000) Research Paper. Soft Systems Methodology: A Thirty Year Retrospective, in Systems Research and Behavioral Science Syst. Res. 17, S11–S58

elabor8 (n.d.) Rich Pictures and CATWOE: Simple yet Powerful Scope-Modelling Techniques. Retrieved July 2015 from http://elabor8.com.au/blog/rich-pictures-and-catwoe-simple-yet-powerful-...

Guijt, I. and J. Woodhill (2002). Managing for Impact in Rural Development: A guide for project M & E. Rome, Italy: International Fund for Agricultural. Retrieved fromhttp://www.ifad.org/evaluation/guide/index.htm

Bob Williams and Richard Hummelbrunner, 2010, Systems Concepts in Action: A Practitioner's Toolkit, Sanford Califonia, Stanford University Press.

Oakden, J. (2014). The use of Rich Pictures in Evaluation. [Video of slide presentation]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7CTREXtFuk

Updated: 12th May 2016 - 4:17am
This Option is useful for:
A special thanks to this page's contributors
Author
Research Fellow, RMIT University.
Melbourne.

Comments

Anonymous's picture
Heather Livingston

Hi,

 

Excellent article-thank you!  Do you know of any websites I can access which will help me to create my own rich picture?

 

Thanks

 

Heather 

Alice Macfarlan's picture
Alice Macfarlan

Hi Heather, 

Thanks for the question. We're looking into this for you, and will hopefully be able to get back to you with some options.

Best,

Alice

bob williams's picture
Bob Williams

A couple of comments.  The rich picturing process is also described in some detail in another of my books "Wicked Solutions : A systems approach to complex problems".  It's available as an ebook here http://www.gumroad.com/l/wicked and as a 'real' book on Amazon and here http://bit.ly/1SVoOH3

​You won't find much guidance on the web, because there isn't really much to guide you.  The sources Judy provides are perfectly adequate.  However, there is one essential web resource which anyone trying out rich picturing (or any form of systems mapping for that matter) is provided by the Open University in the UK.  The semi-animated guide is invaluable, as are all the tips and tricks it contains in linked material.  No criticism implied, but I'm surprised Judy didn't reference it since it is the resource where nearly all of us using Rich Pictures start.  http://systems.open.ac.uk/materials/T552.  While you are there, it is worth taking a look at another systems diagramming method called 'influence diagrams'; useful at other stages of evaluation.

​Just to re-emphasise Judy's point.  This is not a boxes and arrows form of diagramming. Nor is it necessarily focused on the intervention (a correction I'd make to Judy's comment about the rich picturing).  It is focused on the situation within which the intervention takes place.  Include just the intervention (or at least your imaginings of the intervention and what comprises the intervention in any formally stated sense) will not result in a 'rich' picture but a very poor one. You are drawing aspects of the scope of the intervention not the focus of the intervention.  It is vital to explain what every line you draw actually means, and it is also important to include what you don't know about the situation as much as what you do know.  Indeed one person I know who uses rich pictures a lot considers drawing what you don't know is the real benefit of rich picturing.

 

slore's picture
Sondra LoRe

Fantastic information.  Thank you. Reminds me of "mind maps" which I often use with stakeholders to help define projects.  Would you please share some Websites or Apps for creating rich pictures?

Thank you,

Sondra

Anonymous's picture
Maytinee Opaspanwong

Hi,

Thank for the sharing information.

I've tried to apply in my working. It really help me to prepare myself before discussion.

Also ,sometime some confusing about the level of detailing in the picture  are discussed among stakeholders as their view point are different , how can I conduct them to the same level of detail. 

How detail level should be considered , please suggest.

Thank & Regards

Maytinee O. 

bob williams's picture
Bob Williams

I strongly suggest that you take a look at the reference I gave ( http://systems.open.ac.uk/materials/T552) which will tell you what Rich Pictures are about.  [It also explains the differences between the various forms of diagraming such as mind maps which serve a different purpose]   I say this because I think when you go through the exercises on that web site you will see that the concern you are raising is not a problem but one of the major purposes of using Rich Pictures.  Indeed a major purpose of drawing Rich Pictures is not actually the picture but the discussion it creates (which is why it is never a good idea to draw one yourself unless it is primarily for self reflection purposes).

Anonymous's picture
Tessa Berg

Hi All, I have written extensively on rich pictures and my PhD thesis looked at rich picture interpretation. You might be interested in our recent 2016  publication on rich pictures: Rich pictures: Encouraging Resilient Communities. You can access the  book here:

 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rich-Pictures-Encouraging-Resilient-Communities...

 

Dr Tessa Berg, HeriotWatt university

 

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