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The Joining of Science, Art and Aid. Visual Ethnography and MEVMS

Updated: May 20, 2022

Visual Ethnography and MEVMS (Multidimensional Ethnographic Value-Chain Mapping Strategy).


The MEVM is an intuitive, user friendly approach to creatively documenting, organizing, understanding, and explaining Value Chain networks for a product or service that generates critical income to an economically insecure population. Because the resulting map is built of highly graphic icons that illustrate intuitively pan-human symbols for action, emotion, threats and rewards, they can be used as mediums for quickly sharing massive amounts of information with other aid practitioners as well as catalysts for engaging beneficiary populations. The data can be gathered relatively quickly, as the strategy pulls together existing information from traditional focus groups, key informant interviews, surveys, and Cultural Consensus Analytics. Once mapped, the value-chain is framed in the most powerful understanding of society that social sciences has to offer: the formulation of the infrastructure (environmental, demographic, technological & economic resources and constraints), structure (social and institutional resources and constraints) and superstructure (ideological resources and constraints). The material-institutional-ideological model is then used as a framework for identifying the resources and constraints that bear on the value-chain. Identifying these resources and constraints leads to an understanding of the practical possibilities and limitations for humanitarian intervention. The ultimate objective is to identify opportunities to repair broken production and market chains or to improve the chain and thereby improve the economic well-being and resiliency of vulnerable populations.[i] [ii]


The mapping strategy is based on five steps.

Identify the map elements and dimensions (basic information the map comprises)Select or create graphic icons and colors that illustrate those elements and dimensionsMap those highly graphic icons and colors so that they illustrate the flow and relationships of the subject value-chain.Couch the resulting map in relevant information regarding the environmental, economic, social and ideological resources and constraintsIdentify the most promising points of intervention to strengthen the value chain.

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