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Outcome Mapping Practitioner Guide

Collective visioning process to establish a shared theory of change.

A participatory approach to developing a shared vision of change or can be used to develop outcome challenges.

Author: Heidi Schaeffer

Published: Sunday 21 September 2014

Whole Systems Feedback (WSF)

The added value of using this piece of OM:

  • Outcome Mapping is a participatory method designed to foster reflection and learning in development. Whole Systems Feedback WSF) is essentially a facilitated survey that is conducted as a group monitoring and data collection process. The survey is an open-ended inquiry system that uncovers people’s fundamental motivations. Can I include an example of a survey here?
  • Whole Systems Feedback (WSF) is a whole brain approach combining rational responses with feelings and attitudes. People are not always aware of what they feel about situations and picture drawing, combined with asking meaning questions, can bring out beliefs that lie below the surface of our planned actions. The process of using WSF to develop a shared Vision or an Outcome Challenge is an open process that builds trust within a group and can build aclarity of purpose based on shared values. This method supports the possibility for the intentional design (Vision and Outcome Challenges) to ignite inspiration about the possibilities for shared change.
  • Whole Systems Feedback uses an application-specific design for each use. It is based on the idea that feedback from the whole human brain is superior to feedback solely from the rational mind. Verbal, written and numeric communication taps into the rational mind.  This is the place that most science and research is focused, and because of this rational bias, the emotional, creative and intuitive mind is often set aside.  Whole Systems Feedback taps into the perceptions, meanings, emotions and insights from each individual’s whole brain and the collective conscious and unconscious.  It is a powerful tool that literally draws knowledge out of people in a fun, confidential, participatory, honest and rewarding way.

How can we use it within OM?
Whole Systems Feedback can be used in various applications, including:

  • A personal and professional visioning process
  • Project start-up or expansion
  • Testing new products or services
  • Citizen based public opinion research
  • Community outreach and community building
  • Formative, Summative and Developmental Evaluation
  • Strategy development

Why does it work so well?
The human brain is a complex organ that consciously and unconsciously controls our thoughts, emotions, reactions, habits and behaviours.  Whole Systems Feedback uses an open-ended Socratic method to gain access to the whole brain:  the rational ‘left’ brain and the creative ‘right’ brain.  The resulting information is comprehensive, honest, clear, insightful, and often inspiring both for the project team and for the participants.

Challenges of using this piece of OM

One challenge for using the Whole Systems Feedback (WSF) approach is that you have to analyse open-ended qualitative responses and spilt responses to quantify them for common meaning. This requires some skill to group and analyse the qualitative data if you are using the method as a data collection method for evaluation.  However, the approach is also very useful as a developmental process within a project or program for planning and monitoring progress. The discussions WSF enables will strengthen a project team and its boundary partners’ abilities to achieve and own shared results.

Key take-home messages

Strong facilitation skills are required to use this approach.

Whole Systems Feedback facilitated surveys can be adapted in many ways. At first it may take some time to design the survey and over time that skill will develop. See the sample attached. Coaching is available within reason from Heidi Schaeffer.

Always begin with meaning questions to locate participants in their values before they draw pictures. It is not necessary to discuss the meaning questions, though they can be collected, clustered and reflected back to the group at a later stage.

Picture drawing can make some people anxious. Do not force anyone to share their picture if they do not wish to.  Consider hiring an artist to render a composite vision from many individual drawings. The result can be a very powerful and a unifying vision that becomes an opportunity for shared ownership and changed awareness.  The participants find the process very powerful.

  • “I found this session very important and interesting.”
  • “Very valuable questions.”
  • “Had me thinking and rethinking.”
  • “Because it opened my mind.”


This nugget was applied in: 1. African Farm Radio Research Initiative Formative Evaluation, Mali, West Africa, 2009 2. Strategic Leadership Development process with a network of executive directors of community health centres in Canada, 2011

Related Practitioner Guide sections:

Associated resources:

Latin America & Carribean Sub-Saharan Africa North Africa & Middle East South Asia South East Asia & Pacific Far-East Asia Eastern Europe & CIS (ex USSR) Western Europe North America & Canada Australasia