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Venn diagram

Aim of the tool
To illustrate the extent to which individuals, organisations, services and interventions interact or overlap with each other, their importance and relationships with each other

When to use it?
To be used when you want to understand the relationship between your intervention and other stakeholders as well as their relationships and importance relative to each other. You can use this during M&E to see changing relationships

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

Gives a better impression of the relationship between organisations than what you would otherwise get from reading report.

Issues to be aware of
If group work is not properly facilitated, dominant members of the group will influence the group and you run the risk of creating a diagram that is biased. 

Description of the tool
A Venn diagram (named after John Venn (1834-1923) who created it) comprises circles of different sizes that depict key institutions and individuals, their relationships and importance within a particular context.

Steps involved in using the tool
The diagrams can either be drawn or created using cut out circles (see Examples):

  • Identify key groups, organisations and individuals who are responsible for making decisions linked to the intervention issue being addressed
  • Each stakeholder is represented by a circle. The size of the circle indicates the relative importance of this stakeholder in relation to the process. The larger the circle, the more important the stakeholder is. Identify the size relevant to each of the actors and write the name of the stakeholder on it.

Note: first describe the importance of each stakeholder in the process before you decide on the size of circles.

  • Identify the degree of contact between the stakeholders and arrange the circles accordingly. The more frequent or better the contact, the more interactions between stakeholders (in terms of passing on information, co-operation, decision-making).

Large circles represent powerful organisations, overlapping circles represent interacting organisations and a small circle within a larger circle represents a component of that organisation.

  • Identify the problem areas (especially those with high importance in de the decision-making system but with poor links/communication to the others).
  • Optional: the group may combine their diagrams and discuss any differences.


The images show Venn diagrams being developed as a result of group work.

Source and further readings
Adapted from:

  • Theis, J. and Grady, H.M. (1991) Participatory Rural Appraisal for Community Development: A Training Manual Based on Experiences in the Middle East and North Africa. Save the Children Foundation and IIED, London

Useful links