A picture can say more than 1000 words.

Part I: Introduction to my research (5 min) Part II: Ghanaian agricultural extension agent explaining


Don' feel like reading? Watch the videos instead.

We developed a methodology which includes local people and asks them for their ideas about redevelopment of water infrastructure. 

This methodology was developed because local water governing institutions wanted local people to carry out future maintenance of the infrastructure. They wanted to do this because the locals make use of the water or live along the infrastructure. Locals know the situation best and are able to take action in case the infrastructure fails. Having water-users participate could save the institutions work and ensure that those who benefit from the infrastructure also contribute to maintenance of it.

Asking locals for their ideas helps in understanding the circumstances under which they are willing to carry out maintenance work (or not).

Sometimes you need a bit of assistence in knowing which ± 1000 words it means to portray.  

People are not automatically interested in assisting governmental institutions. Institutions do not always know how to ask the public for information. This methodology stimulates communication and helps understand how others perceive a landscape or infrastructure in the present and what their ideas for its future are.

Pictures alone cannot cover the entire story either.

The photograph to the right shows this; two paintings by two painters of the same sight made at the same time [(c)Grabelsky]. Interestingly, the white building (which we see in the photgraph) does not show up clearly in either painting. Maybe this white splotch just does not fit in the "ideal" views of the painters, or maybe there is another reason. This is why, in this research, accompanying text is also seen as very important.


The methodology

Participants are asked to answer 3 questions in images (and in text).  These images can then be used in group sessions where people share their ideas and uncover the similarities and differences between each others’ perceptions. The outcomes of these discussions then contribute to the making of redevelopment and maintenance plans in which the various views are represented.

The methodology (and the webapplication) evolves around three questions:

  1. PRESENT:   what does the infrastructure look like now?
  2. FUTURE:     what should the infrastructure look like in the future?
  3. HOW TO:    how would we get from the present to the future?
                     (what materials, finances, agreements are needed? who should be responsible?)


These questions are answered by making images. In Ghana ideas were drawn on flip-chart sheets of paper, in the Netherlands collages were made. The approaches were different in the two case studies because of practical reasons such as access to materials and because of the preferences of participants and facilitators. 

Most of the web-based examples you find here show a collage-making approach (where a background is decided upon beforehand and photgraphed pieces can be placed on the background). However, similar to our research work in Ghana, we have also made it possible  to use the web-application to make drawings on blank backgrounds.


General steps to carry out


In order to apply the application, a number of general steps were outlined which could be followed. When asking us to assist with your project, we will follow these steps as well.

Click on the how-to guide image for more detailed information about what these steps include. -->


  1. Preparation

    Once it has been decided that including ideas of the others could be beneficiary, determine how best to apply the methodology.

    During this research a number of preliminary interviews were held with water-users, land-owners, local water governing institutions and NGOs. In this we determined which groups to approach and whether image-making should be done collectively or individually. Furthermore, the area was explored, photographs were takenand suitable locations for group sessions were sought.

  2. Carrying out the image-making approach

    Participants and stakeholders involved in the redevelopment are asked to present their answers to the three questions of the methodology.

    Two types approaches of approaches were used in this research. Guiding people to draw requires a different process than asking them to make collages. We have made it possible for the web-application to work for either approache (collage making or drawing on blank sheets of paper). To test either approach, go to create your own landscape.

  3. Sharing images

    Once the images have been made make sure that everyone receives a copy of the made images and of the accompanying information. Preferably they receive this before the group discussion so that they have time to review the images and information.

    For example, for images made via this website you can ask us to collect the images and email them to you as pictures (.jpg).

  4. Group Discussions

    In these discussions all involved collectively review the made images and the accompanying information to determine which steps to take next.

    The results from such sessions as held during the PhD research are presented in the results pages of this website.

  5. Follow- up meetings

    Based on the outcomes of the group sessions, involved parties may want to discuss the follow-up steps. At these meetings gathered information can be presented or actions that have been done in the meantime van be  discussed.







In a nutshell:


  • 2006 - 2010  PhD research of Martine Poolman
  • Section of Water Resources Management, CiTG, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands.
  • Developing a method that enables people to visually express their ideas about redevelopment of water infrastructure and that makes it possible to use those ideas in redevelopment planning processes.


  • PhD thesis, January 4, 2011


Entire thesis 4 januari 2011