Using Stories, Personas and Mapping

Mapping personal and community networks

Paper presented at #AgeCamp2016 April 4 2016 by Drew Mackie and David WIlcox


The note explains how we are using mapping in the Joined Up Digital project, supported by the Centre for Ageing Better. The project outline, developed by Paddy Hanrahan, and explained below, approaches the delivery and adoption of digital technology from two ends:

  • the possible supply pathways for improved technology products and services for older people
  • The pathways for expressing individual needs and preferences from older people and those who touch their lives to delivery organisations at local and national levels

These were expressed through network maps created at three different, but overlapping, levels (see overleaf):

  • Personal maps cover the individual circumstances of a range of older people based on the IpsosMORI work for the Centre and visualise and analyse their network of family, friends, community and agency support and opportunities.
  • Community maps show the extensive network of agencies, community groups and key individuals that will determine the local assets, opportunities and support available for older people living in the area.
  • A national map will show the spread of agencies, organisations, tech businesses, funders and research organisations and key individuals active in the ageing field.

The purpose of these maps is to explore the various pathways between individual beneficiaries and the policies, programmes, research and commercial activity that create and influence technological innovation. We must stress that these maps are not just visualisations of patterns of relationship. Their properties can be analysed and measured in terms of connectedness, influence, information flow and the distribution of Skills and Resources and such measures can be used in progress monitoring and evaluation. For further explanation of map uses see “Ten Questions you can ask a network map” at

The model integrates a supply system of national and regional funders, app designers, researchers and issue groups with the demand generated by individuals and their support and accessed through friends, family, local services and support groups. The model is essentially iterative and cyclical.


The Model

The diagram below shows the various components of the model with technology supply organisations to the left and demand generating communities and individuals to the right. A continuum from Funders through Products, Marketing, VCS Organisations Communities to Individual older people is shown and this can be read either way. The scale of activity is mapped at three different levels:

  • A National Landscape of organisations and opinion formers
  • A Local Landscape of agencies, community groups, business and individuals
  • A series of Personal network maps

The question is how can we improve the channels and collaborative connections that make technology ideas, apps and products more effective in reaching old people and their supporting organisations and more responsive to their needs, capabilities, perceptions and aspirations.

Personal Maps

Our starting point for personal maps is the Ipsos MORI research Later Life in 2015. This outlines six general categories of older person. We have created a series of personas around these to further explore the interaction (or lack of it) between these individuals and their surrounding networks. Each persona has its own map of relationships. The personas are:

Can Do and Connected

Mary (73) owns her own home outright but feels she has to watch her spending. She has recently become a widow but remains positive with strong support from family and friends and is engaged in local activities.  She has long-standing health issues but feels fortunate compared to others and for a lifetime of happy memories. She’s optimistic that her health may yet improve.

Scores: Happiness:43, Social connections: 66, Finances: 65,
Health: 66

Downbeat Boomers

Kate (63) is in good general health and has regular check ups. She has strong relationships with her partner and family and socialises with her friends at every opportunity. She feels she has enough money to meet her family’s needs but worries whether she is sufficiently prepared financially for later life. She worries about loneliness in older age.

Scores: Happiness:10, Social connections:76, Finances:93,
Health: 91

Squeezed Middle Aged

Rachel (52) lives with her husband and two younger children and is working longer and harder to make ends meet, providing financial support for her own parents and supporting her son who is at university – her outgoings have never been greater. She has little time to spend with her husband or friends, feels that retirement is a long way off and isn’t able to plan for later life.

Scores: Happiness:11, Social connections:55, Finances:53,

Health: 84

Struggling and Alone

Trevor (59) had to stop work as a lecturer because of long-term health conditions. He is separated, does not spend much time with his family and relies on his ex-partner for support. He struggles financially and is desperate to get back into work. He lacks purpose and self esteem and increasingly feels his situation is out of control

Scores: Happiness: 5, Social connections: 26, Finances:38,
Health: 31

Thriving Boomers

Simon (69) is close to his children and other members of his family and is looking forward to spending more time with them. He feels respected, valued and needed, owns his own home and doesn’t worry about money. He leads an active social life, is in good health and exercises every day.

Scores: Happiness:77, Social connections:89, Finances: 92,
Health: 92

Worried and Disconnected

James (79) has lived alone since the death of his partner, renting his home from his two sons and relying on the basic state pension for
income. He has a number of health issues including memory problems. Having little contact with his family or neighbours, he is lonely but resigned to the way things are.

Scores: Happiness:4, Social connections:81, Finances:53,
Health: 58

We suggest that personal maps form a good way of assessing the position of real individuals and their surrounding support as well as mapping the transition into old age and the way that personal networks tend to deteriorate in later life. In workshops with frontline staff working at the opposite end of the age spectrum in Croydon, we have used family network maps to explore issues of joined up support and the roles of friends and fa

We show below an example of a Family Map for Mary. This was developed for a lunchtime session with CfAB staff. Map 1 below shows Mary’s situation prior to the IM description. Her husband, Chris, is still alive and working. Mary and Chris socialise socialise with friends from his work. She has strong links with family and friendships through a walking club (PowerAgers) and a Bowls Club.

In Map 2 we move forward 5 years to the period described in the IM profile. Chris retired and died soon after. Most of the links with his workmates have been broken. She now relies very much on PowerAgers and the Bowls club (green and blue nodes) for her friends. Her family are less close as Tony is very absorbed with his work and the grandchildren move on to other interests.

In Map 3, Mary is unable to continue with PowerAgers, although she retains a couple of friends there. In Map 4 Mary is no longer able to bowl and her circle of friends diminishes again..


The National Map

We have already started to prepare a map of national organisations, their assets and how they collaborate at present. This has been derived from a series of events and workshops organised by Age Action Alliance, Age UK London, New Philanthropy Capital, The London Voluntary Service Council, Croydon Voluntary Action, Croydon Council, Southwark Council, The Third Sector Research Centre and others. Each of these events produced a network map from attendee survey responses. This gives us a starting point for a national map. Of course the collection of the initial information was sporadic and non uniform – i.e. the questions asked varied, some questionnaires were open and others suggested asset categories and so on. However we now have a set of organisations that we can query again in more detail and a set of cited organisations that can be surveyed.

The AAA, AgeUK, NPC network map

In work that we have done over the last 18 months we have developed network maps at various events for a range of organisations. The information on which these are based is drawn from simple surveys administered at the event. Some of these maps refer specifically to ageing groups or to the delivery of social technology. We have selected and amalgamated three maps as a starting point for a strategic map of organisations, agencies and key individuals operating in the field. These have been drawn from events led by:

  • Age Action Alliance

We have used information from two AAA sources:

  • one of the regular AAA meetings convened by the Department of Work and Pensions in London
  • A conference on the use of community tech in the ageing field held in July 2015
  • Age UK London

We organised an event for Age UK London and used a persona development process to focus the experience and expertise of attendees on ageing issues in various situations. We also mapped

  • New Philanthropy Capital

We mapped the attendees at an event on community technology asking them to complete a simple survey on who they collaborated with

These maps have been brought together to form the start of a national strategic map that might be used by CfAB. It could form the starting point for further verification of connections and assets.



Community Maps

These maps are created by researching the local network of agencies, community groups and key individuals play a direct or indirect role in the support of older people. They explore the complex webs of influence and the Skills and Resources held by its various elements. The networks at this level are important in brokering and enhancing the ways in which personal and civic technology may be of benefit to individual older people. Many of the elements represented on the community map will also be present on the personal maps. Community maps will be prepared with the involvement of the organisations and groups that appear on it and will provide a continuing resource for them.


To explore the use of these maps we have developed a simulation of a community. This has been developed over the years by David Wilcox and Drew Mackie from workshops and other events focused on the delivery of policies and programmes at local level. We have adapted it to emphasise the ageing issues facing agencies, community groups and individuals. The model already contains a spread of politicians, local government departments, community organisations, businesses, and so on. These are expressed on a network map and on a geographic map in cases where they have premises. Each actor has its own set of Skills and Resources that it can deploy and a starting set of collaborations with others. So Slipham covers the maps at both community and personal levels.

We will use Slipham to test the flows of demand and supply for various technological initiatives within this project. The approach could also be developed for wider use within CfAB programmes, and by local and national groups and agencies.

The network map

At present, the Slipham network map contains 72 agencies, community organisations, businesses and key individuals connected by 156 collaborative links. Each of those elements carries information on assets held and the “stories” of why they are connected.

The geomap

The map below shows the location of organisations and projects in central Slipham. It demonstrates that we can portray located organisations on the geomap and non located organisations and key individuals on the network map, while drawing the information from a common database. Thus, both the network map shown in the previous section and the geomap shown below can share a Google Sheet as the source of information. Data only has to be entered once to crelate the maps and updating the database updates both maps. This system is being investigated by us and South London Super Highways in work in Croydon and could be used in work for CfAB.



The concept of Network Risk

In looking network maps at all scales we can gain insights into how resilient or vulnerable a map structure may be. All complex networks will have nodes that are very central and others that are relatively peripheral. This is not just a product of the number of connections that they have, but is determined by their position in the map. A network measure called “betweenness” assesses the shortest paths between all nodes on the map and then gives a high score to nodes that sit most often on these paths. This is an indication of how such nodes control the flows of information and influence into various parts of the network. These are the nodes that hold the network together and the resilience of the network is dependent on them. However if these nodes are removed or made ineffective by reducing their resources or their connections, they will have a disproportionately damaging effect of the network as a whole. So how does this apply to ageing or to the support of the aged?

As illustrated in Mary’s example, a person’s social environment changes as they are enter the later years of life. Friends die, children move away, neighbours change. It may no longer be possible to undertake the sports and other physical activities that have created and sustained contacts in earlier life. The pattern of relationships that surrounds you changes and often becomes more sparsely populated at a time when confidence or the ability to interact with others deteriorates through loss of mobility, hearing or eyesight. This process is know as “social ageing” and has been explored by many researchers and writers in the field of gerontology. A list of references is given in the appendix to this paper.

A personal network that has a few very strong nodes based on work or physical activity or geographically located interests may benefit strongly from these but is vulnerable to changes in physical condition. On the other hand a network based on a varied set of interests, activities and premises may be less vulnerable a to the personal deteriorations that afflict old age.


The software that we use to create network maps is called Kumu. It is an internet, subscription based system that uniquely brings together network visualisation and analysis with the capacity to hold many types of information.

A Kumu map can show:

  • The way that agencies, community groups, businesses and key individuals collaborate to share resources and skills
  • The nodes that are most central to the distribution of information and influence
  • Clusters of nodes that hang together because of their position on the map
  • What happens to the above measures if you add or remove nodes or connections
  • Comparisons of node centrality with assets held
  • The development of an organisation or community over time
  • The criteria for evaluating a project or programme

Although Kumu maps are easily constructed from survey material, interviews events etc, the analysis and interpretation of results is more complex. Kumu maps are not mere visualisations of the collaborations that they display. They can be analysed in complex ways and the results used to give insights that steer policies and programmes. We can produce quantitative measures of how connected a map is, which are its most central nodes and how nodes hang together in clusters. This is useful in the evaluation of projects and programmes. Produce these measures at project start and then track their development through to project end. We can create “what ifs” based on the addition or removal of connections or nodes and see how patterns of centrality change and how clusters reform. A Kumu map is a laboratory for testing complex social, political and economic structures.

The Kumu website can be accessed at:

Drew Mackie

David Wilcox

The document at



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