Question Mapping


Question Mapping is a tool for framing issues that seeks to both deepen understanding and provide a blueprint for moving forward. It is a process for gaining clarity regarding the central issue while identifying related issues and their respective relationships. It illuminates broad themes and incorporates specific questions, enabling those engaged in collective efforts to make sense of the full context of an issue. The resulting question maps offer multiple avenues for action as well as expanded opportunities for participation, thereby increasing the probability of success.


Question Mapping begins with the simple premise that a clear and shared definition of an issue is essential to collective efforts to address it.

The second premise inherent in Question Mapping is that any reasonably complex issue exists not in isolation but within a web of related issues each of which contributes to framing the central issue.

Lastly, Question Mapping is rooted in the generative power of questions. Questions stimulate thinking, promote conversation, and provide direction for further inquiry.


The departure point for Question Mapping is a working version of the central issue in the form of a question. Four steps or stages follow within the context of the Question Mapping grid.

  1. Articulating the central issue:
    Participants craft and present their individual versions of the central issue.
  2. Achieving consensus on the central issue:
    The group engages in dialogue to reach agreement on the central issue.
  3. Developing the full context:
    Participants generate additional questions which are placed on the Question Map relative to the central issue.
  4. Determining next steps:
    The group reviews the collection of questions and identifies priorities as well as the scope and assignment of work.

In its final form a Question Map provides an explicit representation of the shared response to the two fundamental questions underlying all group efforts: What exactly is the issue and where do we go from here?


Resolving Community Conflicts and Problems: Public Deliberation and Sustained Dialogue, Columbia University Press. Chapter 15 – Question Mapping: A Method for Organizing and Sustaining Dialogue, co-authored by Richard F. Ludeman and Erna Gelles.


NML coverAdapting Question Mapping, Nonprofit Management and Leadership, Vol 19(3) pp. 263-266, Spring 2009. Co-authored by Erna Gelles and Richard F. Ludeman.



Question Mapping as a New Methodology for Organizing and Making Sense of Dialogue. Panel presentation, American Evaluation Association conference.

Nonprofit Organizations and Leadership at the Crossroads: Question Mapping to Help Guide a Community’s Shared Futures. Panel presentation, ARNOVA conference.


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