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Rich Picture

Aim of the tool
Rich picture helps you to understand the complexity of the environment in which the development intervention is operating, providing a spatial overview of the situation

When to use it?
You can use this tool to get a quick overview of the situation. It can also be a useful starting point to get the general agreement of your stakeholders on current and future action. So, you can use this tool during the planning process. It is also a good tool to use to find out whether the intervention has had some measure of impact at different stages of the M&E process

How difficult is it to use it?
Easy – moderate– for experienced users/facilitators

Tool for thought or tool for action?
Tool for thought and action


  • Few resources are needed
  • It is enables you to think holistically and provides a good starting point for deeper analysis

Issues to be aware of
If people in the group don’t share their opinions, some key information might be omitted

Description of the tool
A rich picture is used to identify the main connections, influences, interactions and relationships that have a bearing on the development intervention. It was originally developed by Peter Checkland as part of the Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) to identify areas that need improvement in an unstructured way. It is called a rich picture because it illustrates the richness and complexity of a situation.


The drawings show key physical features, groups of people and organisations. Arrows indicate direction of resources and strength of relationships.

Steps needed when using the tool

  • Ideally , the rich picture should be developed in a group of between 4–7 people
  • Place a large piece of paper on a table so that everyone can easily contribute to drawing the picture
  • It is a brainstorming exercise, so encourage everyone to contribute to the process. Make it clear that not being able to draw very well is not at all important. What is important is to start drawing as soon as possible so that bit by bit a clearer picture emerges. Use pictures, text, symbols and icons to graphically illustrate the situation
  • Use the situation analysis questions as a guide for developing the rich picture (see Section Error! Reference source not found.8). Start off by drawing the most important physical features of the situation and the main stakeholders. Indicate the links between these entities. Consider also the problems and issues, vision and opportunities, infrastructures , institutional setting, economic issues and social and cultural issues that may affect the intervention
  • You can ask the group to write a story about the picture using numbers to link the pictures to explanations

Source or further readings