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T.54 Venn Diagram

A Venn Diagram is a participatory tool used to explore how different stakeholders perceive the relationships between different factors

Venn Diagrams can demonstrate people’s different perceptions of the context, including the power dynamics and the needs of key stakeholders within the community. The group draws circles of different sizes to represent different structures, organisations or variables in their context. The circles are drawn so that they overlap, depending on the degree of contact that the structures have with each other. The size of the circle represents the importance people attribute to the different variables. The distance between the circles also reflects the relationships between the variables. The exercise is not a test; there are no right or wrong answers. One purpose of the activity can be to explore how the community works - who makes the decisions and how organisations or different groups of people relate to one another. Community perceptions may differ from the perceptions of the WASH team. Key groups to be considered (depending on the context) could include local or international organisations, government, community leaders, elders, youth leaders, religious leaders, health staff, community mobilisers and hygiene promoters, engineers, teachers, refugees/ displaced/ host populations. The findings are recorded, shared, discussed and used for programme planning and monitoring. The main resource needed is a good facilitator. The Venn Diagrams can be drawn using a stick on the ground or paper (flipcharts), scissors, marker pens and pencils. The participants need to gather in a suitable location. Depending on the context and the objective, the activity can take about an hour, including discussion time.


Venn Diagrams can be used in a variety of settings and contexts. They are a useful tool as part of an Assessment (chapter  A ) and can be used in conjunction with other tools (e.g. Stakeholder Analysis, T.49) and planning for a WASH programme A.9.


  • Ensure the facilitator can explain the process to the participants and lead a discussion without interfering

  • Make the participants feel comfortable so they can talk freely 

  • Compare different Venn Diagrams; discuss similarities and differences


  • Do not invite an unmanageably large group of people 

  • Do not jump straight into the activity; give the participants time to understand, discuss, practice, experiment 

  • Do not use Venn Diagrams on their own; they should be used with other tools such as Community Mapping [T.7]

Practical Example

As part of a review of a WASH programme in Southern Africa, the WASH team was divided into two groups: engineers and hygiene promoters. They were asked to draw Venn Diagrams which included as variables the people they were working with, different sectors of the community, other organisations and key stakeholders. A comparison of the Venn Diagrams from the two groups revealed that the engineers did not overlap their work with the hygiene promoters, demonstrating that the two teams were working with little collaboration and coordination P.9.

Key Decision Critria

Response Phase
Acute Response
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Protracted Crisis
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HP Component
Preconditions and Enabling Environment
Community Engagement and Participation
Assessment, Analysis and Planning
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Social and Behaviour Change
Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL)
Target Group
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Older People
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Persons with Disabilities
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Local Leaders
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Society as a whole
Application Level
Individual / Household
Community / Municipality
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Detailed description of Venn Diagrams and how to use them

IFRC (undated): Venn Diagram. EVCA Toolbox

IFRC (undated): Enhanced VCA Toolbox Including a Variety of Participatory Tools

Ferron, S., Morgan, J. et al. (2007): Hygiene Promotion. A Practical Manual for Relief and Development, Practical Action Publishing. ISBN: 978-1853396410

SSWM (undated): Venn Diagrams