1.1 – The Idea Behind Group Concept Mapping

What is Group Concept Mapping (GCM)? What is the idea behind it? This module will introduce GCM, its benefits, and how it is used.

Once you review this module, you will:

  • have a good definition of “Group Concept Mapping”
  • describe an example of when GCM can be used
  • know some key benefits of group concept mapping
  • understand how GCM develops data from people and structures the data

Read the Scenario: Sally Needs to Make a Decision


Sally works for a large foundation whose focus is on public health. The foundation is re-assessing how it can make the biggest impact, and they know the best way to do this is to get input from a broad range of stakeholders. Sally is looking to gather input from different groups of people in many locations–service recipients, NGO staff, government officials, and more.

What would be the best way to gather that input?  And once she has it, how can she best make sense of it?

A colleague mentions to Sally that they recently used a process called Group Concept Mapping to reach develop an inclusive framework on an issue. Sally is intrigued, and decides to look into it.

Is GCM something she can use for her challenge, or is it really intended for something else? What can it do for her?

A Practical Look: An Overview of Group Concept Mapping

Click below to learn how organizations like Sally’s can use Group Concept Mapping to answer important questions. Then, continue on to make a recommendation for Sally.

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What Is GCM?

Group Concept Mapping (GCM) is a process that seeks and embraces the range of opinions of stakeholders related to an issue.  Managers and researchers use it to guide planning, implementation, and evaluation where many individual viewpoints should or must be included in developing the solution. Using GCM, an organization can take the ideas and opinions of many individuals and create a “map” that reveals the relationships among those ideas and opinions, eventually facilitating a decision or direction that considers them all.

Unlike some approaches to decision-making, GCM is a highly participatory method that actively values the voices of participants. It asks people what they think about a specific concern or issue, how they think about it, and what they value. The methodology allows the group to arrive at a shared vision and understanding — clearly describing the group’s thinking and reducing the influences that sometimes shape a decision. At the conclusion, all participants in the process know that their ideas and values helped to shape the final decision, whether or not that decision is exactly what they would have recommended on their own.

How Does GCM Work?

At a high level, group concept mapping is a mixed methodology that helps a group identify an issue and contribute views and values about that issue. The process includes analysis and interpretation of the participant responses.

The group concept mapping process has seven steps.


7 Steps

As you can see from the diagram, the first step of the process is planning: identifying participants, and developing a central question, called the “focus prompt,” that will be used for the project.

Participants provide responses to the focus prompt in the idea generation, or brainstorming, step. Then, during data development, the full set of ideas is curated to form a smaller set that fully and adequately represents the full range of focus prompt responses. Each individual participant then sorts the ideas and rates them, in the organizing step. The sorted and rated responses are the basis for the “data set.”

In the analysis step, the sorted data is used to construct a conceptual model, a map, of all idea and how they are related in meaning. This map reveals the relationships among the responses, based on all participants’ views, facilitating a decision or direction that considers them all. During interpretation, participants review the results and interpret the map and outputs. In the use step planners decide how to apply what they have learned.

GCM captures group wisdom from people’s ideas, perceptions, and values.

When Do You Use GCM?

Groups that are solving a problem, developing an innovation, creating a strategy, or building a program use GCM. They can use the map that emerges to plan purposefully and evaluate efficiently and effectively.

GCM enables:

  • theory development
  • decision making
  • strategic, operational, program planning
  • action
  • measurement and scale development
  • evaluation

Take this quiz to check your knowledge.

Knowledge Check

Make the Recommendation: Is GCM a Good Fit?


This module explained that GCM is a tool for decision-making and other related activities, such as evaluation and strategic planning. It captures group wisdom from people’s ideas, perceptions, and values. It is a mixed methodology using both qualitative and quantitative methods.

Now that you know something about GCM, apply your knowledge to the scenario involving Sally. Can you make a recommendation? Take the quiz!

Knowledge Check

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