Eco-maps and genograms as a network perspective in socio-spatial case work

One way to look at the opportunities that lie in relationships is through eco-mapping (cf. Colorado Child Welfare 2001, Evangelische Jugendhilfe Borken o. J., Seeger 1992). It supports clients to reconstruct their networks. The persons appearing in the Eco-Maps also stand for resources which can become useful in the case.

Dani, 17 years old, father Bavarian, mother Phillipin, has "pulled himself together" and managed to graduate from high school. What won’t you do for 2/3 detention. After all, 6 months were suspended. When Dani was just 15 years old, he was caught after a robbery of a gas station, for which he had been the lookout, not even 100 meters away from the crime scene. His youth was credited to him, his department store thefts as a 13 year old didn’t butter him up. The brutal treatment of the gas station attendant had been arranged. He found the sentence somehow okay. His parents didn’t even visit him, although the jail was in the same city. The father has continued to forbid his mother to contact him. Dani is happy to move into a youth living community. The probation officer Otto B. fits, he finds the right tone with Dani.
The first visit to the probation officer’s office also went better than expected. The social worker did not ask the boy a hole in the belly. They first drank a cappuccino with almond aroma. Mr. B. has been interested in Dani, what he can do, likes to do, has been amazed every now and then that the boy has done amazingly well in sports, but also in cracking vending machines. Dani has a very good feeling. The guy obviously appreciates him. From the beginning it is somehow clear that it will be about how Dani gets a training position. This is hard enough for a secondary school student. Dani dreads an endless and unsuccessful application marathon.
B. suggests him to first make an Eco-Map. This is something like an overview in which people you know are written down. But it is not only about the names. More important is what the "people have on their heels". B. Gets a roll of paper from a closet and the two separate one meter. The sheet is tablecloth size. And then the social worker divides the sheet into different parts. Four long lines crossing in their middle lead to an "eight-field map", in which Dani enters names. His people" appear in the first segment, Mother, father and the rest of the family, i.e. uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews. It is amazing for them how many people Dani knows, from his sports club, from his former neighborhood, and that he had a good connection to many of them. One segment turns out to be particularly exciting. His mother has had a good contact for years with a group of other Philippinas who are married to German men. Dani went to these meetings every now and then.

Dani starts to transform the network map into a treasure map in his shared apartment. "Treasure map" means, the names are completed by what the people can do, know and have. Dani is not only gobsmacked by how many people he knows. Somehow he is proud that there are people who have really made it. Several of his mother’s acquaintances have reputable business enterprises. Maybe there is a training position in it.

The steps in eco-mapping


It is unusual to ask people about their networks. That’s why inhibitions exist among professionals. Experience shows, however, that those affected feel quite comfortable with such questions, because here they experience themselves as experts. But a mandate to do something like this is already important. That’s why a detailed introduction clarifying the goal of the exercise is absolutely essential.

Introduction: The 8-field card

Since networks are latent, the Segments of the 8-field map in doing so, to focus on different sections of everyday life – on family relationships, work colleagues or classmates, neighbors, friends, members of clubs or associations to which people belong, or even on the segment of professionals with whom there is contact. But the categories must not be in the foreground during the conversation. They are only finding strategy, never means of order.

Of course, it can happen that one and the same person can be assigned to several segments. But it is enough to record it once. Proximity to the center can express social closeness, but it is not important to be precise about it. Primary goal is to find as many people as possible. It is sometimes helpful to think of second-order networks. D. h. Of course, each person mentioned has other contacts, e.g. the husband. B. also has a network again. If sufferers find it difficult to remember many names or come up with many network people in fifteen minutes, you can do the 8-field map in several stages. Certain areas of the 8-field map can be reserved for places, (z. B. the village where one works, lives, was born), times of day (morning, afternoon, evening), biographical stages (childhood, adolescence, adulthood). The categories should help in the conversation, but must not disturb it. Order is not the goal, but mass.
Who writes, who talks when you fill in? It depends. If possible, always the network expert, i.e. the interviewee. In any case, it is advisable to always place the sheet so that the interviewee can read it. That means at least A3 format.

The beginning sometimes runs bumpy because it is unusual to talk about the network. Questions can make it easier to get started and also create orientation: Who is your favorite uncle?? Which field do you want to start with? Who should I put down first? Since networks are latent, finding network people is sometimes no easy matter. Network questions can help here, focusing on different situations in everyday life.
These questions are not listed here so that you can work through them like a questionnaire, but so that you can incorporate one or the other into the course of the conversation (cf. also Kahler 1983b):

  • Who are your friends at school or in the neighborhood?
  • Who do you inform about important events like pregnancy or marriage?
  • Who do you ask when you need advice?
  • When you feel good/bad, what do you do, who do you go to??
  • Who would you take with you to a desert island??
  • From whom could you borrow a large sum of money?
  • Who do you listen to when you have an important decision to make?
  • Who you can visit at any time?
  • Who tells you from time to time that you are really good at what you do??
  • Where is your favorite place in this city? What do you do there?
  • In your kinship, who is important to you and how?
  • Who in the workplace do you talk to the most?

In addition, there are still questions that place special emphasis on faded and weak relationships:

  • Who used to be your friends at school, during training? Who else do you have contact with? How often? What occasions? With whom you no longer have contact, but would like to have some again?
  • Who would you invite to your wedding? Who would invite you to their wedding?
  • With whom did you meet/phone/email last week?? Evtl. also go through names in the address book or the entries in the cell phone.
  • Who lives on your street/in the same house??

Make a treasure map

The next step of the treasure hunt is to look at each person with resource finders. The point is to find out the potentials of the network in order to build solutions to the problems.

Thus, from the beginning, the conversation is more than "naming people, but an invitation to remember, report, and represent" (Herwig-Lempp 2004, p. 356). Essential for success are the reactions of the professional: what is found is in principle seen as valuable, which encourages those concerned to further discoveries. The more "appreciative curiosity" (ibid. S. 357) professionals, the more productive this expedition will be. Resource finders describe the network people z. B. in terms of place of residence, hobbies, life experiences. It is not an end in itself. It is not about the data as data, but about capturing potentials that are in the persons of the 8-field map. It is easiest to do this by looking at each person from different angles by default.

  • Places of residence (because they can contain geographical mobility resources)
  • Profession or professional training (because it contains knowledge and connections)
  • Hobbies (ditto)
  • Relationships with important people or entities
  • Overcome crises (because crises are an essential part of our life experience)
  • Professional or private successes
  • Special material equipment such as motor vehicles, tools, living space, etc.
  • Employer
  • Skills and characteristics

Every experience, every hobby, every special skill, every good relationship, every VW bus or impact drill, every biographical success, whether in dealing with a life crisis, a landlord or employer can be the material from which a current or future support arrangement can be made. When logging these resource conversations, treasure maps emerge that look very different from each other.

It is critical to document, because the "reality" the potential grows with its objectification. However, it is also important that the form of documenting suits the addressees, if possible developed by them themselves. This is a way to support the ownership of the resulting document by the addressees. Treasure maps are perceived by people as something of their own, as "a piece of themselves", not only because of their content, but also because of the form and the way they are created seen. Experience shows that clients like to take treasure maps home, continue to work on them, refine them, embellish them, and use them.

Occasion-related and occasion-independent treasure maps

Just as networks are latent, treasure maps are always only a slice of the possible. They are often occasion-dependent. If you have to renovate, certain people come to mind, and their wallpaper table is more likely to catch your eye than their skill at filling out tax returns. Occasions streamline treasure maps. Thus, good experience is also made with proposing eco-maps unspecific to the occasion or at least encouraging people to be detailed and elaborate in describing treasures. One does not know in advance which resource will be needed later for a solution. Sometimes particularly unusual resources inspire solutions that can be approached with "professional" repertoire would never have come. In other words, the more one collects and the less one evaluates whether what one has collected is any good, the greater the likelihood of achieving tailor-made suits (Fruchtel 2001, S. 18).

Resource Atom

The technique is a further development of the "social atom (cf. for example Spiegel 1997, S. 197f), d. h. a snapshot and exploration of a child’s important relationships. It can be an age-appropriate way to go in search of resources with a child.

Steps in the application of the resource atom

  1. As a first step, the child is asked to name people, animals and objects that are important to him or her. The professional writes down the names and asks the child to check the list to see if it is complete.
  2. Next, the child is provided with different sized wooden disks. For older children, coins of different sizes can also be used. The differences in size of the wooden letters make the people, animals or objects distinguishable in their different meanings to the child. The wooden discs are labeled with the names of people or objects.
  3. The child is given a large sheet of paper divided by three circles lying inside each other, places himself in the center as the nucleus of the atom, and then arranges the people, animals, objects around him like electrons on the circular paths. Distance from the core can increase the degree of availability over the "resource" represent. During this arrangement and also during all further steps, of course, new "resource electrons" can be come to it.
  4. The rather abstract atomic model is now transformed into a treasure map, a resource picture that uses the child’s symbolism: Houses, homes, ships, animal parks, treasure chests, mountains, doors, suns, etc.
  5. Casual glance: Children are usually amazed and proud when they see themselves as part of a resource atom. This in itself has a strengthening effect. Opportunity view now means looking at the treasures from the point of view of their usability and marveling at the possibilities that lie within them. The occasional look may be driven by an occasion (isolation during free time, school tasks, conflicts in the family, . ) or can be used without a specific reason to think about what to do with the treasures they find.

1.2 Genograms once differently

Mrs. Siebert, single mother of a three-year-old and a five-year-old daughter and recipient of unemployment benefit II, is a touchstone for the municipal housing association. Although she has fulfilled her tenant obligation to renovate her two-room apartment. But somehow she must have lost track. The apartment resembles a battlefield: dismantled shelves, upholstered furniture covered with plastic sheets, partially torn woodchip wallpaper on the linoleum floor, curtains hanging over the television and on the coffee table, ironing clothes next to the daughters’ toys and over the telephone. In between – and for the past eight weeks – an increasingly perplexed Mrs. Siebert.
The responsible employee of the Wohnbau GmbH gets in touch with the ASD via the homeless prevention office. Here Mrs. Siebert is known, because her family already counts in the third generation to the customers of the youth welfare department and for her two daughters therefore a temporary maintenance care existed. The newly hired district social worker is not impressed by this, however, and drafts a genogram with Ms. Siebert, a completely new experience for the young woman. Until then, her family was always considered something disreputable by the administration, as a welfare case. Now a treasure map is to be created with her family. Getting started is not difficult. A paper flag the size of the vacated coffee table serves as a canvas. Mrs. Siebert places herself and her daughters in the center. Then technical difficulties arise, because it gradually becomes clear to her that the maternal "family branch" much more profitable than the paternal one, but the space is not enough. A narrow strip of paper is glued on, and later even another to accommodate everyone. Solving these craft problems does not help against the enormous pressure to renovate, but it does open up the view to a pleasant discovery: from a "renovation" point of view is the far-reaching "Siebert clan" – as Mrs. Siebert affectionately calls her relatives – is a real treasure trove full of surprises. An uncle once worked for "Farben-Froh" worked in the inner city, a cousin is a painter in a company in the district. But these are only the resources that help superficially. In passing, she notices that her sister has been receiving social benefits from the social affairs office for years. She remembers that two years ago, money "flowed" for a renovation, at least for wallpaper and paint. There she "must ask". Mrs. Siebert has never thought about her relatives as this genogram suggests. Her aunt has an allotment in G. Their eldest daughter is a hairdresser. With her boyfriend, she has a VW camping bus, which they use to travel to a nearby recreation area in the summer. At the moment the friend is on assembly. Whether the bus can be borrowed in the summer? In their relationship there is more than she thought.

Genograms as resource finders

In systemic counseling concepts, working with genograms is an established technique (cf. z. B. Mc Gotdrick 1985). Genograms can be used not only to work on intergenerational issues as in family therapy, but also to mobilize resources. The goal then is not to uncover problematic patterns, but to illuminate the kinship support potential. Families and clans are almost always abundant resource stores. Genograms offer a different search strategy than Eco-Maps. You do not search the different areas of everyday life, but systematically trace kinship lines (s. Fig.).

This has a similar effect as the dissection of everyday life into individual segments: You look in unfamiliar directions, which quite often turn out to be new, viable paths. The uncle in a landscaping and gardening company who has a considerable arsenal of tools and buddies suddenly shows up, or the cousin who tried a support group when you divorced and is now a freak on the scene. The systematic tracing of kinship lines forces our everyday mind, so to speak, to consider, in addition to the usual exchange relationships, a wide field of normally untapped but existing sources of social capital – which, as we know, becomes more when it "works" – to be considered.

Steps in the application of the genogram

  1. Work out mandate: Since it is unusual and, of course, private to make a detailed genogram in social work contexts, a rationale for the proposal is important, combined with an agreement on what the "data" will be used for are used and for what not. The term family tree is usually better here, because you can immediately picture something with it. Examples of family trees can help to make the procedure descriptive. You can use historical material here or the family tree of the social worker itself, which might be part of the room’s furnishings as a screensaver or framed picture anyway.

  2. A flip chart paper or a paper tablecloth is a good material to place over the table or on the floor. Different colored pins are often helpful to mark special features.
  3. One begins with a box or a circle for the person, whose family tree is painted, writes the name in it, asks for the partner, the children, the brothers and sisters and works itself over the kinship relations ever further into the width. Three generations are usually enough. Often people are not aware of the people themselves, but they know someone who does. Then you can postpone the expansion to another time and start to use the resource finder (s. Eco-Map section) to apply.
  4. To populate genograms with strengths, resource finders are also used here. The resource map is a simple list of treasures, either separate or incorporated into the genogram.
  5. The "opportunity look" step works like the Eco-Map.

Effects of the genogram

Genograms as resource seekers have a strengthening effect throughout. This is partly due to the discovery that the kinship is larger than thought and holds a handsome wealth of material, cultural and social capital. The discovery of a "powerful Family is a project that is fun and empowering for most people. Admittedly, it takes some time, but usually people enjoy the project so much that they take the graphics home and complete them. You see a treasure in the graphics. Such genograms also change the view of professionals. Someone may visit a social service because he is in one or more serious problems and can’t get on at the moment, but he is not reduced to these problems, but perceived as a node of a resource-heavy family network, whose treasures, initially hidden to the professional eye, are systematically searched for and utilized.

1.3 Requirements for the professional

Mary Richmond, the pioneer of individual case work, knew almost 100 years ago how strongly successful individual case work goes beyond the individual case and connects case to field. In her concept of the "resisting self" Emphasizes that effective social work must not filter away people’s social contexts, their networks and connections to others if it is to achieve sustainable solutions. Genograms in our files, which do not go beyond the nuclear family and which already lack names and birth dates at the grandparent level, illustrate the. What remains is a distorted image: a human child in need of help, seemingly without juice or strength, called client, de-rooted and repotted in the hothouse of well-meaning individual help. This makes social workers powerful with their tools and contexts meaningless, in their "responsibility" as in their potentials. This is not to say that all social problems can be solved with the natural resources of the people concerned; you just have to make an effort with your own. Welfare state services are not up for grabs, but they are better invested if they supplement natural services instead of replacing them.

Of course, the use of the techniques presented so far also has manual aspects:

  • The work on an eco-map is organized as a home game, that is, the used material reflects the strengths of the client. Does he like or dislike writing? Is he able in terms of age to fulfill the graphic as well as content requirements of, for example, a genogram?
  • When someone fills in the segments of his 8-field map or converts them into his treasure map, the professional does not interrupt the work or even try to improve the work, but practices amazement.
  • The professional follows what is happening with curiosity and reinforces the results in eye contact, facing posture and through confirming and appreciative comments that make it clear that it is just about treasures.
  • At the same time, the professional does not push the client, but allows time.
  • If the professional is asked to do the typing, he makes sure that he writes legibly – writing with felt-tip pens has to be learned.
  • What is written is always visible to clients so they can control and direct "what happens".

1.4 exercises



Evaluation for both parts of the exercise

  • Which steps of the work did you find easy to do?
  • In which passages did you take a break or interrupt your work?
  • What would have helped you in this passage?
  • How much time did you spend on work?
  • What would you have done with your 2. Eco-map (genogram, treasure map) do differently?

1.5 Material

Network map
The network map uses the format of a table in which the important people can be entered. Some people are more comfortable with this orderly and systematic approach to resource seeking. The names are supplemented by the everyday range of support and detailed information on type availability.

Resource map oriented to social capital types
The table is a list of different types of social capital, certainly not entirely conclusive, but illustrative. The acronyms try to bring the social capital types to a concise denominator and summarize similar things.
The graphic assigns the persons found with the 8-field map to the types of capital.

Social Capital Varieties

ZEG Affiliation: to trust, to have the same opinion, to make fun together, to accept a newcomer into the clique, .
Emotionality: Expressing sympathy, "relationship market", Intimacy, .
Sociability: gossip, common leisure activities, morning chat in the bakery shop, .
BBB Advise: information about legal issues, quality of doctors, cheap shopping, second hand stores, advice on construction work, who repairs cheaply? Where to find fair loans? Asking questions, being able to listen, .
EncourageHave time, be understood, comfort, have a good cry, show alternatives, tell about your own experiences, congratulate you on your journeyman’s exam, support you in a conflict, show you respect, motivate you to take a VHS course, encourage you to take a dance class without your partner, .
Relationships: accompaniment when going to the authorities, talk to the landlord, vitamin B: let his connections play for someone, .
SoKO Social control: honest and benevolent feedback, keeping an eye on the neighbors’ children, .
Orientation: shared values, being a role model, coaching", .
TheSL Services: childcare, caregiving, shopping, repairs, forms and tax returns, installing computers, tutoring, involvement: exercise leader at the sports club, active in the parish, .
In-kind support: Borrow a car, give away baby clothes, pump money, make donations, store a caravan or share a garden, arrange rooms from organizations, "waste products", Bulky waste, flea markets, .
Nimmkraft Being asked for advice, being asked for support, being invited to communion. (Nimbleness is the term used to describe the potential that lies in the demand for support. Who asks for help, gives the giver z. B. An opportunity to feel valuable, useful, free-spirited, meaningful, or to improve your image.)

VIP Card

VIP stands for "very important persons (Herweg-Lemp 2004). The card systematizes in only four everyday situations, but it works in the same way as the 8-field card.

The VIP will v. a. then considered or. consulted when .

  • One affected person says they have no one around them.
  • a person is ambivalent about a decision question.

Then the people recorded in the VIP card can be asked what they would do or advise (perspective change effect, s. Chapter "Organization").
Scaling questions can be used to clarify how strongly an affected person wants the support of certain people.

Standardized interview guide to identify support networks

The items are not randomly compiled, but represent, in a way, the condensate of an extensive research on everyday situations in which we activate our networks. The selected situations are characterized by their particular frequency of occurrence.

". I am going to describe to you a whole series of different situations in which some kind of problem occurs – just as it can occur in everyday life. Let’s take an example that may have happened to you: you come home and find that the key is stuck from the inside. You alone do not get further.
In a situation like this, you immediately start thinking about where you can turn for help . "

"Who would you turn to first?"

"The following situations are also similar to this. I describe a problem to you and will ask you in each case who you would turn to for help . "

  1. You are going on vacation and need someone to water your flowers.
  2. You have ordered a microwave oven, and it is delivered just when you are at work. Who could step in?
  3. Your bicycle has a flat tire and you urgently need to go to town. Where could you borrow one?
  4. The iron suddenly breaks and they need a fresh shirt for a funeral. Where do they get support?
  5. You get a good used freezer for cheap. How do you manage transportation?
  6. Your son is having trouble with math at school. Who could give him help?
  7. You get the long-awaited cure approved. Who would watch the children during the day for 2 weeks??
  8. Your daughter is about to graduate from school and wants to work in the office. Who do you consult when choosing a career?

Frank Fruchtel, Wolfgang Budde, Gudrun Cyprian
Social space and social work.
Fieldbook: Methods and techniques
VS-Verlag, Wiesbaden 2007

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