Constellation Analysis [Brazil]

Análise de Constelação

approaches_1974 - Brazil

Completeness: 92%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Approach

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
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SLM specialist:
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{'additional_translations': {}, 'value': 22, 'label': 'Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Approach (if relevant)', 'text': 'Book project: Making sense of research for sustainable land management (GLUES)', 'template': 'raw'}

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

When were the data compiled (in the field)?


The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


2. Description of the SLM Approach

2.1 Short description of the Approach

Constellation Analysis is a tool used to clarify perceptions of different stakeholders about critical situations or problems. In workshops, participants visualize interrelationships between actors, as well as the associated natural, technical and regulatory factors.

2.2 Detailed description of the Approach

Detailed description of the Approach:

The Constellation Analysis method (CA) aims at a transparent, mutually accepted visualization of factors (‘elements’) that are systematically arranged under the method's four categories: actors; rules and concepts; natural elements; technical elements, with the type of their inter-relationships. The process enables consensus to be found between divergent positions, paving the way for better informed decision-making while facilitating a negotiated process of land management with potential changes/techniques.

During brainstorming and/or literature-based approach, different elements are determined and arranged visually on a board. Element categories are actors (e.g. farmers, energy supply company), rules and concepts (e.g. legal framework, plans and programs, regulations), natural factors (e.g. climate, vegetation, water) and technical factors (e.g. fertilizer, wastewater treatment, hydropower plant). Usually this is done by using differently coloured and shaped cards to help articulate ideas within a working group. Then, connections among and between the elements are discussed and the form of these interrelations are visualized as being (a) directed, (b) conflictive, (c) non-existent, (d) contradictory, (e) reluctant or (f) interactive. Through this approach the way towards developing solutions (or follow-up CAs) is guided.

The approach was applied at different scales and with different stakeholders with divergent professional expertise and educational levels, e.g. farmers, fishermen, employees of the government, representatives of indigenous tribes, associations, trade unions, and researchers. People found the methodology promising as it raises awareness and organizes information. Training in the methodology has been carried out amongst interested people at two universities, but not yet local development agents.

The visualization is carried out through an iterative group process. A moderator is needed to initiate the process by inviting the different stakeholders to a conducive location, and to facilitate the process. Exchange among participants is enhanced, and this leads to better understanding of different viewpoints in situations of tension or in the understanding of what has evolved through specific developments in the past. During a second analytical step, the main lessons of the visualization are extracted and documented. Here, missing factors/relationships, and consequently the need for action, are detected. For example, insufficient communication between actors could be uncovered, or it may be detected that planning programs need to be improved.

2.3 Photos of the Approach

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Approach has been applied



Region/ State/ Province:

Pernambuco, Brazil

Further specification of location:

Itaparica Reservoir, Petrolândia

2.6 Dates of initiation and termination of the Approach

Indicate year of initiation:


Year of termination (if Approach is no longer applied):


2.7 Type of Approach

  • project/ programme based

2.8 Main aims/ objectives of the Approach

The approach can be applied at different levels and for different issues or contexts: all perspectives can be represented and discussed. The application in this case was devised to be an iterative process of consecutive workshops first at the local irrigation project level, and then at the municipal, regional and national levels with the aim of analysing the inhibiting and driving forces behind the current situation in water management, in land management, and around production cycles in agriculture and aquaculture leading to action being taken or decisions made. Farmers and fishermen, employees of government, researchers and experts are considered as the relevant target group to be involved in participatory workshops. In the education sector, the approach can be applied for theses, for field work and for projects as an analytical interdisciplinary approach.

2.9 Conditions enabling or hindering implementation of the Technology/ Technologies applied under the Approach

social/ cultural/ religious norms and values
  • enabling

In some cases, segregation of social or gender groups, especially at the beginning of the exercise, can be helpful. No means has yet been found to reduce ‘mobile phone distraction’ in an acceptable way.

institutional setting
  • enabling

Argumentation promoting the value of the process may help to ‘sell’ the approach.

knowledge about SLM, access to technical support
  • enabling

It may be possible to organize a pick-up service for participants or to choose an easy-access location.

workload, availability of manpower
  • enabling

It is important to discuss potential dates in advance. Some people prefer weekends, others don’t. The lunch break is useful for more informal interaction. However others use the break to disappear.

  • enabling

The iterative process of the CA promotes a re-assessment of constellations during different group discussions. Views of dominant individuals can be modified in the iterative procedure, especially when participants with different standpoints and positions are involved. The goal is the mutual understanding of divergent positions towards entry points for change or adaptation.

3. Participation and roles of stakeholders involved

3.1 Stakeholders involved in the Approach and their roles

  • local land users/ local communities

smallholders of local agricultural community

  • SLM specialists/ agricultural advisers
  • teachers/ school children/ students

students only in observing role

  • national government (planners, decision-makers)
3.2 Involvement of local land users/ local communities in the different phases of the Approach
Involvement of local land users/ local communities Specify who was involved and describe activities
initiation/ motivation passive Interviews
planning none
implementation interactive Workshops
monitoring/ evaluation interactive Workshops
research interactive Data analysis, lessons learnt, etc

3.3 Flow chart (if available)

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Simplified flowchart of the Constellation Analysis Approach.
Planning phase:
Clarify the objective or question behind the analysis. Then, have an overview research about first elements (assembling elements), e.g. which actors can give interesting input and how to contact them. Preparing material for the workshop(s): coloured cards, pens, whiteboard, etc.
Implementation phase:
Explain the objective and methodology to participants, the meaning of the elements: actors; rules and concepts; natural elements; technical elements and their different relations. Clarify rules of respecting each other. Arrange the elements. Evaluate the constellation together with participants, e.g. why are elements far or close to each other? Why are relations conflictive and how to overcome? Are elements or relations missing? Is all information available? What are the next step? Can recommendations be formulated?
Evaluation phase:
Were participants objective enough? How to interpret participant’s activity within the workshop? Which actors should be asked as well? Consolidate participants’ statements with literature and research and document. Documentation could be a photo or digitalized picture of results with an explanation based on literature.


Liron Steinmetz

3.4 Decision-making on the selection of SLM Technology/ Technologies

Specify who decided on the selection of the Technology/ Technologies to be implemented:
  • mainly land users, supported by SLM specialists

Constellation Approach is not linked with a specific technology. Can be used in a planning phase in sustainable land management. Various methods, technologies and management approaches can be derived from the applied Constellation CA Approach, and can be specified depending on the SLM problem.

4. Technical support, capacity building, and knowledge management

4.1 Capacity building/ training

Was training provided to land users/ other stakeholders?


Specify who was trained:
  • land users
  • field staff/ advisers
Form of training:
  • workshops
Subjects covered:

detecting knowledge gaps and clarifying positions of players, and role of natural, technical and regulatory elements from multi-angled viewpoints/perspectives as core of the CA-Approach.

4.2 Advisory service

Do land users have access to an advisory service?


  • workshops

4.3 Institution strengthening (organizational development)

Have institutions been established or strengthened through the Approach?
  • no

4.4 Monitoring and evaluation

Is monitoring and evaluation part of the Approach?


If yes, is this documentation intended to be used for monitoring and evaluation?


4.5 Research

Was research part of the Approach?


Specify topics:
  • sociology
  • economics / marketing
  • ecology
  • technology

5. Financing and external material support

5.1 Annual budget for the SLM component of the Approach

If precise annual budget is not known, indicate range:
  • < 2,000
Comments (e.g. main sources of funding/ major donors):

German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) 100%

5.2 Financial/ material support provided to land users

Did land users receive financial/ material support for implementing the Technology/ Technologies?


5.3 Subsidies for specific inputs (including labour)

  • none
If labour by land users was a substantial input, was it:
  • voluntary

5.4 Credit

Was credit provided under the Approach for SLM activities?


5.5 Other incentives or instruments

Were other incentives or instruments used to promote implementation of SLM Technologies?


6. Impact analysis and concluding statements

6.1 Impacts of the Approach

Did the Approach help land users to implement and maintain SLM Technologies?
  • No
  • Yes, little
  • Yes, moderately
  • Yes, greatly

No immediate impact, however CA-Approach could prospectively contribute to improved sustainable land management and in particular governance.

Did the Approach empower socially and economically disadvantaged groups?
  • No
  • Yes, little
  • Yes, moderately
  • Yes, greatly

No immediate impact, however CA-Approach could prospectively contribute to an improved situation of socially and economically disadvantaged groups.

Did other land users / projects adopt the Approach?
  • No
  • Yes, little
  • Yes, moderately
  • Yes, greatly

Interest from cooperating universities (UFPE-Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, IFPE-Instituto Federal de Pernambuco).

Did the Approach lead to improved livelihoods / human well-being?
  • No
  • Yes, little
  • Yes, moderately
  • Yes, greatly

No immediate impact, however CA-Approach could prospectively contribute to improved well-being.

6.2 Main motivation of land users to implement SLM

  • increased production
  • prestige, social pressure/ social cohesion
  • affiliation to movement/ project/ group/ networks
  • environmental consciousness

6.3 Sustainability of Approach activities

Can the land users sustain what has been implemented through the Approach (without external support)?
  • yes
If yes, describe how:

Attained knowledge on a complex, perhaps previously nontransparent system and established contacts support future decision making. In general CA is a flexible method that can be applied by any group, preferentially mixed stakeholder groups.

6.4 Strengths/ advantages of the Approach

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Results can be used for the planning of regional development.
Space for interchange of ideas and establishing contacts.
Integrates different views of problems.
Facilitates participation possibilites for stakeholders.
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Allows expression and discussion of different views, knowledge integration, both inter- and transdisciplinary, characterised by an iterative and participative nature, able to detect complex situations and questions.

6.5 Weaknesses/ disadvantages of the Approach and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
Insufficient space for all to participate, topics covered in too little time. As more than one workshop is needed, the approach does not necessarily provide solutions in the end. Prepare goal-orientated workshops and finish a workshop by identifying potential solutions and formulating recommendations. I is important to well document and report on the workshops and distribute the reports to stakeholders.
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
One workshop cannot manage to convey the dynamics of a situation. Formulate recommendations for action and distribute a report to stakeholders.
CA only visualizes the current situation. Different future scenarios over a given timespan can be presented only in a series of single CA visualizations. CA could lay the groundwork for scenario modelling approaches (e.g. Bayesian Networks).
One workshop cannot manage to convey the dynamics of a situation. Formulate recommendations for action and distribute a report to stakeholders.

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys
  • interviews with land users

7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

): Rodorff al. (2013a) Driving forces and barriers for a sustainable management of the Itaparica reservoir region - basic milestones towards a constellation analysis.

Available from where? Costs?

Gunkel G. et al. (Eds.) (2013) Sustainable Management of Water and Land in Semiarid Areas. Editora Universitária UFPE, Recife, pp 2

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Rodorff, V., Siegmund-Schultze, M., Köppel, J., Gomes, E.T.A. (2015) Governança da bacia hidrográfica do rio São Francisco: Desafios de escala sob olhares inter e transdisciplinares.

Available from where? Costs?

Revista Brasileira de Ciências Ambientais 36, 30-56.

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