Cognitive Mapping

Resource Type

Visual Mapping

These resources result in a visual representation of systems, each through a particular lens (e.g., social relationships, political power, issues and concepts).

Systems Questions


What are the events, activities, actions, behaviors, and forces that affect the system, and how can we influence them?

Patterns and Structure

What are the patterns of behavior, structures, and archetypes in the system, and how can we influence them?

Grantmaking Stages

Develop grantmaking strategy

Resources in this category can help you understand the system, identify outcomes and determine grantmaking interventions.

Identify and select grantees

Resources in this category can help you understand who is in the system, the strength and content of their relationships, who is missing and the power dynamics among them.


Flexible from no/some participation to highly participatory


An expert with specialized knowledge or technology


1-5 months

What is it?

A visual mapping technique that shows the multiple, interconnected variables in a system. This technique is similar to Causal Loop Mapping, but specifies both the direction and weight of influence among variables. Thus, it can quantitatively model system dynamics, test possible intervention scenarios, and identify differences in how stakeholders perceive a system. It is helpful in the context of a specific issue or field. For more information, you can read “Fuzzy Cognitive Maps for Modeling Complex Systems” by Maikel Leon et al. and the Mental Modeler online platform for creating cognitive maps.