Threat analysis - Vision and Actor Mapping

From Gender and Tech Resources

Title of the tutorial Vision and Actor Mapping
Kind of learning session Holistic
Tutorial category Discussion
Duration (hours) 70m
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Learning objectives Identification of the communities and people participants work with and for: allies, who can also protect them.

Identification of actors who are opposed participants, their resources, and their modus operandi in opposing them.

Prerequisites Ideally some notions of political, economic, social, technological situation
Methodology Methodology

Activity & Discussion: Vision mapping (25 minutes)

Within the socio-political context in which we are working, as human rights defenders we have identified issues we see as unjust and want to try to alleviate. It is useful to assert the change we want to see in our society in order to think critically about how we go about achieving this change.

Process for groups from the same organization:

Step 1. On an area of wall space if possible, using butcher block paper, get participants to write the name of the organization on a piece of colored paper or sticky note and place it in the middle of the paper. Draw an arrow from this paper to the right-hand side of the paper and here, ask participants to brainstorm the goals they want to see achieved in their society, write them on stickies and place them at the end of the arrow, representing the organization's objectives.

Step 2. Ask participants what activities they carry out in order to achieve these goals. For each answer, write it underneath the name of the group or organization in the centre.

Step 3. Give the group sticky-notes or papers of one color (e.g. green) and here, possibly in groups according to their role in the organization, brainstorm the other actors in society which are SUPPORTIVE of the work of the organization, or share these goals. Allow them to brainstorm these (10 minutes) and place them on the left-hand side of the sheet.

Process for groups from different organizations

Step 1: Give each participant a sheet of flipchart paper and ask them to write their own name or that of their organization in the centre, with an arrow going to one side representing their objectives. Here, they write the changes they wish to see in their society.

Step 2: Underneath their name or that of their organization in the centre, they note the activities or projects they carry out in order to achieve these goals. On the left-hand side of their flipchart, they identify their allies (as above).

Input (20 minutes)

The next step in the exercise will be to carry out actor mapping, including our allies, our adversaries and the neutral parties ambivalent to our work. From an analytical perspective the mapping helps us: identify our allies and build security networks (we can return to our allies when it comes to building strategies and plans); identify our adversaries, their resources and the ways they may try to stop our work; identify opportunities for building acceptance of our work among neutral elements in society so that they become our allies;

The mapping exercise also helps us understand the perceptions each of us may have and to verify our assumptions. Furthermore, through the process of the mapping, we are able to elaborate on the dynamics that connect the various actors, and how the dynamics affects our security (positively or negatively)

Deepening: Mapping Allies, Adversaries and Neutral Parties (30 minutes)

Step 1. Using two different colors of paper or sticky note, participants brainstorm and add neutral parties (centre) and adversaries (right, between the organization and its goals) to the map. Ask participants to also consider whether adversaries are: intellectual authors of attacks against HRDs or journalists, as opposed to material authors of attacks. Introduce the legend (attached) and give an example for each type of relationship. Give participants 10-15 minutes to map out the relationships between the adversaries, neutral parties and allies identified according to the legend.

Step 2: Questions for discussion with the group: Do they have any activities which provoke a particularly strong reaction from adversaries? Should they consider these activities priorities for making security plans? What are the interests of adversaries? Why are they opposed to our work? Which adversaries do they consider to be the most dangerous? Why? What threats do they pose to HRDs/journalists? How can our allies help to protect us from our adversaries? What resources can they offer us? (can include material resources, but also inspiration, hope, friendship, solidarity). What opportunities are there here to foster acceptance of our work among neutral parties or adversaries? What opportunities are there here to deter attacks against us through our relationship with powerful allies?


  • Understanding the actors around us helps us to make strategies which will open a space for us to continue to work, through protecting ourselves and building networks with our allies, or raising the cost of attacks against us for adversaries.
  • A key element we must now look towards, however, is information: information about ourselves and our work is a valuable asset to our adversaries, and much of it now lives in digital devices, so we must consider how it is stored and moves between us, and which new actors we must add to our map.
Number of facilitators involved 1
Technical needs Hand-out/legend, flipchart paper for each participant OR a large sheet of butcher-block for the entire group, colored stickies or paper, markers.
Theoretical and on line resources [[Theoretical and on line resources::Holistic Security Guide

Front Line Defenders Workbook on Security

Protection International: Protection Manual for Human Rights Defenders]]