Analysing key policy actors with the alignment, interest and influence matrix (AIIM)

By Enrique Mendizabal

Enrique Mendizabal (biography)

How can researchers seeking to change a policy get a useful picture of the key actors involved in that policy space? Who should they partner with? Who will need convincing? Whose arguments will counter their own?

The Alignment, Interest and Influence Matrix (AIIM) was designed to address these questions.

The AIIM tool is useful as far as it can encourage an open and thoughtful conversation. In my experience, the tool is most useful when the people involved provide a breadth of experience and insight into the policy process that they are trying to affect. Users should not rule out having to put the AIIM on hold while they gather further evidence, nor going back to the matrix as they gain new insights during the implementation of their plans.

The process involves 6 steps and can be completed during a participatory workshop.

Step 1

State very clearly what policy outcome you are looking for. Describe in as much detail as possible, who needs to do what, by when and how. If your policy proposal is based on, or informed by, a certain set of values (ideology) make this explicit in your statement.

Step 2

Identify the various actors who may affect the policy outcome. These may be organisations, networks, groups, departments, teams or individuals. Avoid, as much as possible, grouping very diverse actors into a single one, eg., “the government” or “the private sector.” It is unlikely that everyone in government will agree or disagree with your policy proposals.

Step 3

Map the actors onto a matrix, such as the one shown below, according to their level of alignment with your proposal and interest in the outcome of the policy process (each rated high to low). You should place them onto a matrix based on evidence about their current behaviours and statements (from background studies, interviews, direct knowledge, and/or observations provided by advisers).

To determine alignment ask the following questions:

  • Do they agree with our approach?
  • Do they agree with our assumptions?
  • Do they want to do the same things that we think need to be done?
  • Are they thinking what we are thinking?

To determine interest ask the following questions:

  • Are they committing time and money to this issue?
  • Do they want something to happen (whether it is for or against what we propose)?
  • Are they going to events on the subject?
  • Are they publicly speaking about this?

Symbols (acronyms, shapes, logos, names or initials) representing those with positive answers on both sets of questions are placed in the top right quadrant; symbols representing those with negative answers on both sets of questions are placed in the bottom left quadrant, and so on. For stakeholders in the same quadrant, consider where they should be positioned relative to each other. For all stakeholders record the reasons for the position allocated. This will be useful later on if you use the AIIM as a monitoring tool.

If you find it hard to position an actor onto the matrix, this may be because your policy outcome statement is not sufficiently clear, your actor represents a diverse group and needs to be broken down or you need better insights about them. Address these issues and then try positioning the actor/s again.

An example of a matrix recording actor alignment and interest, where actors are represented by different coloured symbols (Mendizabal, 2010). Symbols of the same colour in different positions refer to different actors in the same diverse group. The reasons for their positioning are listed for three of these actors. Symbols crossing two quadrants indicate that contextual factors are important, ie., ‘it depends’.

Step 4

Prioritise by identifying those who are most influential and accessible. This is particularly important when there are a large number of different actors in one or more quadrants; more than can realistically be dealt with in the time available.

You can use a star next to the most influential actors’ symbols to make them easy to identify. Visualising the actors in the alignment and interest matrix can stimulate discussion about who should be the focus of attempts to influence their position.

Step 5

Consider what to do. As shown in the figure below, there will be different strategies for the actors in the different quadrants.

General strategies are:

  • develop an alliance or community of practice for the actors with high alignment and high interest
  • raise awareness of the issue and its importance for actors with high alignment and low interest to get involved
  • try to change their minds or neutralise their influence for actors with low alignment and high interest – maybe you need to change the terms of the debate and move it away from the issues that these actors are very interested in
  • ignore those with low alignment and low interest – or keep an eye out for influential actors who may move to the low alignment and high interest quadrant.
Examples of strategies for dealing with actors in the alignment and interest matrix (Mendizabal, 2010).

Step 6

Develop a “pathway of change” for actors, describing specific changes in behaviour that you would like to achieve, recognising that these are context sensitive.

For example in the figure below, pathways for particular high priority actors are in green. Most of the arrows are self-explanatory; except for the changes suggested for the actor in the bottom left corner (who would generally be ignored) who may be someone who is influential (such as the leader of a country) and therefore worth seeking to get into a position of high alignment and high interest.

This tool can also be used to track progress.

Examples of pathways of change (green arrows) for some of the actors in the alignment and interest matrix (Mendizabal, 2010).

Concluding questions

What has your experience been in analysing the positions of actors in problems you have been seeking to influence? Did you find that your group had all the necessary information about the policy process and the actors involved to accurately map the various actors? Have you analysed alignment and interest or other factors, and what lessons have you learnt? How have you determined whether to develop an alliance, raise awareness, neutralise, ignore or otherwise seek to influence key actors? Has the process told you something about your current strategies? Are you doing the right things?

To find out more:

This blog post is adapted from: Mendizabal, E. (2010). The Alignment, Interest and Influence Matrix (AIIM) Toolkit. Research and Policy in Development (RAPID), Overseas Development Institute (ODI): London, United Kingdom. (Online – open access):

Biography: Enrique Mendizabal MSc (@QQMendizabal) is the founder and director of OTT Consulting and On Think Tanks. His work focuses on promoting better informed decision making on matters of public interest. He lives in Lima, Peru.

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