Actor network

Being aware of all the actors that have an effect on your design challenge

Practical Information

What is this tool?

A tool to create a visual overview of all the actors that have an influence on the problem you are trying to solve. The Actor Network shows all the actors involved, their relationship and their level of influence on the problem and the solution.

Why do we use it?

Creating an Actor Network will trigger thoughts about your role in relation to the stakeholders involved. It will help you to identify opportunities for new connections beyond the “usual suspects” in your network and it can help to ensure all perspectives are taken into account during the design process.

Design phase:

Setting the scene, Handover


Pen and paper, Post its


30 minutes - 1 hour

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A step-by-step guide

1.  Write down all the actors (person, organization, object, technology, etc.) who are connected to the design challenge that you are working on. 

Note: if you have created a vision, you can also review it to see if that might help you identify other actors.

2. Group the actors in clusters (for instance:  facilitators, donors, technologies, businesses, knowledge inst. etc). Assign a color to each group. 

3. Draw circles representing each actor:

• The size of the circles represent their importance in relation to the others. For instance this organisation is bigger than the other because the relationship is stronger. 

• The colors identify the group the actor belongs to. For instance, Artificial Intelligence and 3D printing are green because they belong to the group “technology”.

• Visualise how the groups relate to each other by using lines and/or arrows.  

Tip: Actors can play different roles: look beyond the first label you put on the different actors. For example: a mother can also be a wife, an Instagram user, a consumer, a dancer, an entrepreneur or employee etc. 

How other organisations used this tool

How to use the outcomes of the tool?

The actor network can help to focus your activities on certain targets or topics according to who is involved. It can help you move beyond the current actors and explore new partnerships.

Related tools

Design challenge
Turning the problem you want to solve into a clear challenge.
Combine this tool with the Design Challenge to see who can be involved in solving your challenge
Creating purpose by describing the future you want to achieve
Combine this tool with the Vision tool to see how what role your identified actors play in the future you want to achieve
Visualising your user as a real person to create empathy for them
Combine this tool with the Persona tool to get a better understanding of the main actor you want to co-create solutions with and for

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