TIP Resource Lab: Snapshot of experience

Thinking & Analysis

A snapshot of experience testing the pentagonal map for system analysis tool. This blog will be added to the resource collection when the TIP Resource Lab goes live.

The pentagonal map for system analysis tool was tested in June 2022, with a 90-minute online session that formed part of an extended learning workshop. Around 25 people took part using Zoom, supported by one facilitator and one digital coordinator. Most of the participants joining this session were relative newcomers to TIP practice and theory. In preparation for the session, we created six copies of the master board on Miro, labelled from Group 1 to 6.

The facilitator started the session with an introduction to the tool in plenary, and a walk through the instructions for the task.

They then divided the cohort into four groups to test the tool, with four-to-six participants in each group. This group size worked well, as it was large enough to cope with any drop-outs, while small enough to allow for deeper discussion.

The facilitator stayed outside of the small groups in the main room, inviting groups to request assistance if they were having any difficulties.

We had chosen not to allocate a facilitator to each small group for this exercise. The tools are designed to help scale up implementation of TIP, so they need to be accessible for independent use. However, the facilitator and digital coordinator did need to enter all groups to make sure people were using the correct board.

This test session indicated that groups could cope with the tool autonomously, although more time may be needed if participants do not know one another. Some groups got started quickly, particularly if they included a participant with prior knowledge of some of the concepts; others took a while to form and to work out what was required for the task.

We used a common example of a sociotechnical system for all groups: an urban mobility system. The purpose of this session was to stimulate discussion and prompt thinking about how participants would use the tool in in their own context. We felt an urban mobility system was relatable for people from many differences contexts, yet still provide substantive differences that could be explored and discussed.

Participants were invited to think about actors, materials and rules in relation to the following five system dimensions:

  • Science, Technology and Infrastructure
  • Policy and governance
  • Investment and finance
  • Society and culture
  • Markets

Step by step, they identified actors, materials and rules in boxes (or some used post-it notes) and then dragged these onto a pentagonal map divided into the dimensions.

The finished map provided an illustration of a regime for the notional urban mobility system – the alignment between dominant actors, materials and rules that makes a system stable.  This output will help participants use the multi-level theory of change in the next section of the Lab, as this tool asks users to identify landscape pressures and the emergence of niches in relation to a particular regime.

After working for around 50 minutes in the small groups, participants returned to the plenary session. A rapporteur for each small group shared the group’s work and reflections on the experience.

The exercise was designed to give a flavour of how the tool might be used and we were not expecting to see comprehensive system maps. However, some groups had developed quite detailed maps. Participants also shared other observations and some of these are shared below.


Reflections and recommendations

  • Groups valued the opportunity to talk about rules – these were very different across geographical contexts and provided scope for rich conversation.
  • There were some discussion notes on the board to prompt talking and thinking, and provide opportunities to go deeper. One of these asked users to consider which system dimension they belonged to. This generated discussion, and one group noted that it revealed blind spots and silos, as some dimensions were not represented in the workshop.
  • Facilitators should familiarise themselves with the tool in advance of a session, with particular attention to how boards will be duplicated and assigned to groups (in this case, a test version was used for the introduction, which led to some confusion later in the workshop as some participants were still on the test board).
  • Facilitators should also ensure plenty of time is allocated for the plenary, as this proved to be an important and meaningful part of the session.
  • For those very new to TIP, allow more time for the exercise or allocate a more experienced user of the tool to the small group to help get started, before the group moves on to working independently.
  • The role of rapporteur (on the instructions) is important and provides a structure for the plenary discussion.
  • If participants don’t know one another beforehand, an icebreaker in the small group might pave the way for faster progress on the exercise.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *