Tool: Diverse Relations Mapping

This method is useful for the creation of a hand-drawn inventory of the diverse social and material relations that you can count on to sustain your livelihood.

This inventory also constitutes your starting ground for taking actions in the here and now to foster your own transition to solidary, sustainable and resilient modes of living and producing. By making visible the assemblage of social and material relations that sustain you, it becomes possible to see where there is potential for creating empowering exchanges (that are not necessarily based on money).

The map allows for a better overview of where it would make sense to put your energy, time and material resources for becoming a resilient as well as prolific actor in the great movement towards solidary and sustainable modes of life.

collaborative thinking, making visible, lateral thinking, connecting the dots

3 hours

This tool assumes that all of us are never an isolated individual, but always a Nested-I. People recognizing themselves as Nested-I realise that in their interdependence with other humans, the rest of nature and the materials world, self-interest and larger collective interests are not opposed to each other, but can be aligned. This tool also acknowledges that our livelihoods are never sustained only through money but through a wide and colourful multiplicity of material and social elements, many of which often remain unnoticed by us.

Round one
Each person starts out on their own with a large sheet of paper (at least A3) and maps on the sheet the answers for the following questions:
• Who are the people in my life that I can count on?
• Who are earth others that are important in my life?
• What material resources do I have access to? For example, tools, land, buildings, infrastructures, vehicles, …
• What skills do I have? Those useful in your work as well as those useful for a fulfilling life more generally.
• What access keys do I have? For example, diplomas, institutional affiliations, citizenship, social contacts with lots of resources attached, legal forms I can mobilise…
• What sources of monetary income do I have?

Where do I have a surplus of resources or resources that are especially enabling? Draw circles around them or highlight them.
While producing this inventory of elements that sustain your livelihood, take note of the ideas that might already be bubbling up.

Round two
Once everyone has made their own map, take each 10 minutes to share your inventory with the others. As everyone speaks in turns, the person facilitating this moment of collective thinking makes a collective relations map. One person acts as a time keeper to make sure everyone gets at least 10 minutes to speak.
During this round of sharing, it can be helpful to use the following questions as prompts for the collective conversation:
a) Which resources could be used more strategically to enhance your own and others ability to act?
b) Which possibilities have yet been untapped?

Round three
Take 1 hour to reflect together on what new knowledges have emerged:
a) What do you know you were not aware of before?
b) Do you see other people’s relations that they can’t see from their own position?
c) What could a recombination of the relations in your collective inventory allow for?
d) Where would the least effort unfold the biggest potential for more resilience and collective action in the long-run?

Big sheets of paper (A1 size – even improvised will do), pens in three different colours, sound object, watch, drinks, snacks

Helfrich, S., Bollier, D., Free, Fair and Alive. The insurgent power of the Commons.
Community Economies Collective, Community Economies Research and Practice.


Cite as: Elzenbaumer, Bianca. ‘Tool: Diverse Relations Mapping’. Alpine Community Economies Laboratory (blog), 2020,