As journalists know, connections can be key when investigating a person, company or government. Kumu.io is a free tool to visualise easily relationships or organisational charts. These diagrams can be useful to illustrate a story or to organise notes and findings.

How to use Kumu.io

First of all, you need to create an account. Go to the main page of Kumu.io, click on “login” and follow the instructions.

Kumu.io homepage

In your dashboard, click on “create a new project”. Name it, add a description and select whether you want your project to be private or public.

On the next page, you can choose between four maps:

  • System: recommended for better understanding the underlying structures and the best option for loop diagrams.
  • Stakeholder: useful for explaining relationships between people.
  • SNA: for network structures. The template lets you identify key influencers, power structures, funding flows and more.
  • Custom: a blank template. Choose it if none of the other templates fits your needs.

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Don’t worry if you are not sure about the template you need – you can change it any time.

In this example, we will use the stakeholder template, since we are mapping a family.

Click on the button “add element” to create a new element and write a name.

Create another element following the same process. To draw a relationship between two elements, select one of the elements and click on “add connection”. Write the name of the element you want to connect.

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Add more elements and link them. On the right hand side of the page, click on the “settings” icon to customise your map. You can change the size of the elements, the font, the colour and the template.

How to upload a spreadsheet in Kumu.io

The spreadsheet you use in Kumu.io should have the following columns:

  • Label, type (optional) and description (optional) to map only elements
  • From, to, type (optional) and label (optional) to show relationships

Based on recent news, I have listed some of the companies that don’t pay the corporate tax in the UK in order to map them. This is how the spreadsheet looks like:

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Once you have your spreadsheet, go to kumu.io, create a new map and select the icon of the right hand side.

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All the companies listed in the spreadsheet in the column “label” are now elements of the diagram.

If you want to show the relationships between the elements, you can do it manually, upload a spreadsheet with specific columns – from, to, type and label – or use the option cluster, which lets you draw the connections based on one column of the dataset.

To personalise the map, you should change the attributes. Select any element of the diagram and click on “new attribute.”  You can add text, an URL or images. To add an image, simply look for the URL of the image and copy it in the attribute.

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At the bottom of your map, use the option “decorate” to group your elements into different colours or, if you have numeric values, to show them with a different size.

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To export your map, click on the button “share” in the right hand menu and choose the format you prefer.

 

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You can export your map as an xlsx file, embed it or make a screenshot of your diagram to share it.
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Do you know any other tools to shape relationships? Leave a comment with your recommendations.