In response to climate change, significant volumes of aid have been either allocated, re-allocated, or redefined to support developing countries’ adaptation efforts (Donner et al. 2016). Just as aid has long created winners and losers (Gibson et al. 2005), the same is true of development aid projects to support climate change adaptation projects.

As such it is important to understand the political economy of such projects (see e.g. Sovacool and Linnér 2016, Chu 2016, Chu et al. 2016). An influential typology for analysing the political economy of adaptation projects was proposed by Sovacool et al. (2015). This sets out four types of change process: enclosure, exclusion, encroachment and entrenchment (4Es hereafter), by which certain groups or actors may benefit from adaptation systems at the expense of others.

These all describe processes by which the system changes, and how relative benefits accrued change as a result. The 4E typology is one of the analytical frameworks used by the Conflict Prevention and Low-Carbon Development research project led by SEI.

The argument of this paper is that the analysis of system dynamics is usefully situated in an analysis of the system structure. And hence we should improve our understanding of how frameworks for analysis of systems dynamics, such as the 4Es, may be combined with tools for analysing system structures, such as system mapping.

This paper seeks to illustrate how one approach to system mapping can be combined with the 4E typology of processes. This serves to set the 4E processes in the context in the actions, actors and resources that comprise the existing system, and thus helps to connect the 4E processes to observed empirical reality.

This paper describes experience gained from analysis of the solar electricity system in Turkana, Kenya. The social system was mapped to present the sequential set of actions that comprise the social system, then the 4Es were analysed in the context of this system map. An example is provided of how this mapping informs construction of causal pathways from adaptation projects through to impact. The implications for operationalizing the 4Es are discussed alongside possible insights into the nature of the 4E framing.