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Rich picture

A tool to help participants to grasp the complexity of a problem.

Strength of the method:A rich picture helps to visualize the implicit and explicit knowledge of the participants, to relate various aspects of a problem situation and to decide upon areas of interventions a project wants to focus on.
To be considered:

To discuss different perceptions on a research topic, td-net considers sequencing of rich picture exercises to be especially useful:

  • E.g. Firstly, invite participants to draw a picture individually (or in small groups) and secondly, use these pictures to draw a joint picture
  • E.g. Firstly, draw a rich picture of the whole problem situation (including its context) and secondly, let the participants to highlights those elements the project should focus on or act upon.

Please note that drawing skills are not necessary. You can use simple symbols to populate the rich picture.

Read here about the rationale of the brief factsheets (in comparison to method profiles of the td-net toolbox):

Goal:The rich picture aims to help participants understand the complexity of an entire situation.
Location in td process phases:It is most often used in the beginning of the process to capture how the research problem is perceived. It can also support monitoring when rich pictures are used to reflect on research foci along the research process.
Bridging thought styles:

By drawing a rich picture, participants can express their perspective on the problem at stake. When people draw, they may also express implicit knowledge. Furthermore, people who do not feel that eloquent in talking or writing may find a way to contribute. The picture may also help to find a common ground “without words” as a basis to find a common language to talk about the problem in a later stage.

Time required to implement the method:

Minimum of 1 hour (drawing & discussion; do not skip the discussion)

Rich pictures may be used as reflective tools in several stages of a project, which implies that several meetings are needed, see experience report.
Preparation required:
  • Organization of the material: flipchart paper, markers (several colours), pin walls, …
  • A facilitator and the number of groups – depending on the group size – should be defined
Expertise required:

No specific expertise required.

If the rich picture should guide trough a whole td project, we recommend the facilitator to do some background reading of soft systems methodology

Convener & participants:Everybody can participate
A facilitator should lead the drawing process

See experience report on how rich pictures have been used in several stages of a project:

*Minutes 1-5: Introduction; Minutes 6ff: practical tips/experiences on how to facilitate the drawing; Minutes 13ff (+minutes 24ff): how to analyse a rich picture; Minutes 16ff: summary, Q&A.

Resource compilation in which it appears:Brouwer, H & Brouwers, J 2017: The MSP Tool Guide: Sixty tools to facilitate multi-stakeholder partnerships. Companion to The MSP Guide. Wageningen: Wageningen University and Research, CDI.
Recommended by: td-net