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Mapping Social Landscapes: A Guide to Identifying the Networks, Priorities, and Values of Restoration Actors

The publication offers two different approaches to understanding social landscapes. The first, Mapping Connectivity, is used to understand network connectivity, or the degree to which individuals and organizations are connected. The second, Mapping Priorities and Values, is used to reveal the attitudes and cultural systems behind social networks. The guide highlights two methods for each of these approaches.

The guidebook takes a new approach to environmental governance by focusing on identifying the social capital of actors within the landscapes. It centers on two main approaches: 1) mapping actors’ resource flows and 2) mapping actors’ priorities and values. Co-written by WRI international offices, this methodology has been tested in Brazil, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, and Rwanda. The guidebook focuses primarily on restoration, but the same methodologies can be adapted to broader analysis of natural resource governance. By using this guidebook, environmental practitioners can be more efficient with resources, collaboration, and outreach, and better anticipate potential conflicts and bottlenecks.

Traditionally, forest and landscape restoration has been concerned with mapping the biophysical opportunity to plant trees and shrubs. But, it is not just about the trees. This guidebook introduces a new focus for mapping: the people who live, work, and depend on the landscapes. By translating methodologies frequently used in the crisis fields of health and national security, the guide offers actionable, environmental-related strategies to build a movement around restoration.

Why Map Social Landscapes?

Understanding the social landscape, or how people organize themselves on the land, is essential in creating a larger social movement and bringing about the large-scale change needed to achieve a restoration movement (Rowson et al. 2010). By emphasizing early understanding of the social landscape and measuring progress, restoration practitioners can be more efficient with resources, improve collaboration and outreach, and anticipate conflicts and bottlenecks.

This publication brings together different approaches to social network analysis and priorities and values mapping to understand forest and landscape restoration governance. The guide supplements the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) through its focus on social aspects—such as landscape governance—not covered in the road-test version of ROAM (IUCN and WRI 2014). The guide is designed to support policymakers, researchers, and those involved in restoration decision-making and implementation by offering a social landscapes assessment methodology for use in restoration efforts.

This guide focuses on actors, specifically the way their connectivity, priorities, and values influence the social landscape. When social relationships and knowledge flows are visualized, they can be evaluated. The guide encourages practitioners to ask the question “How do people act in their landscape?”

▪ Biophysical opportunities mapping is a well-established technique used in forest and landscape restoration. However, there is also a need to map social opportunities and better understand social landscapes. For example, landscape connectivity and resource potential are important for geospatial mapping and are equally important for social landscapes mapping.

▪ The authors have adapted established methodologies of social network analysis and values mapping to create a user-friendly guide for restoration-specific social landscapes mapping.

▪ This guide presents a methodology to better understand landscape governance through two main approaches: mapping actors’ resource flows and mapping their priorities and values.

▪ The guide presents the initial results of restoration-specific social landscapes mapping based on research conducted in six countries across Africa (Kenya and Rwanda), Asia (India and Indonesia), and Latin America (Brazil and Mexico).

▪ This guide is intended to be used and adapted to identify opportunities to build stronger networks and to measure changes in the network. This methodology can help drive positive change on the ground in forest and landscape restoration efforts.

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