The results presented here are organized according to the two categories of actors who participated in the data collection process. Because the focus of this article is on methodology, only the main results needed for a discussion of the concept mapping method are presented. A more detailed presentation of the results can be found elsewhere [4, 16, 21].
The appointed officials
The ICPs expressed 80 statements. In studying these, one of the most important observations, in our opinion, was that these officials brought up fundamental processes associated with social justice for which the responsibility for implementation was most often located far outside their own sphere of activity. For most of them, social justice is perceived as attributable not so much to individual behaviours, but rather to the way the whole society, and particularly the State, operates. Thus, the nurses put forward relatively abstract ideas such as human rights, democracy, or even good governance. With the exception of a few specific items, these three latter concepts seemed to us to outweigh, for the nurses, all other propositions relative to social justice in Burkina Faso.
The consensual labelling of the clusters (devised as conceptual groupings) by the ICPs provided the results presented in Figure 1 (see Additional file 1).
If we look at the importance attributed to each of these nine concepts for explaining the idea of social justice, we note that three clusters of concepts stand out. Two clusters are made up of a single concept, the most and the least important, and the seven others are ranged between these two.
While the process of managing public aid for development did not actually appear in the individual groupings, the nurses attributed to it the greatest importance in describing social justice. It was the synthesis of individual groupings using statistical analyses that ultimately generated this new and distinctive category. A useful feature of concept mapping, in its participative aspect, is that it gives participants a chance to validate such an analysis, which they did gladly. Thus, to the statements regrouped by the statistical analysis, they assigned the label: rational and efficacious management of aid. This way of seeing things, on the part of the ICPs, is probably best explained by the fact that they experience and perceive every day how this dimension of social justice is distorted. They are partly responsible for this situation, but this does not prevent them from placing the concept at the top of the pyramid. The fact that the most important concept (4.33) is at the centre is probably not a statistical accident. We might offer the hypothesis that the existence of all the other concepts depends upon this one. In other words, without rational and efficacious management of international aid, there is no good governance, no justice, no social security, and no fight against poverty. We would add that this concept is also very close to the way the State works, since it participates in the management of aid (although not alone, which is what justifies the existence of this unique category).
The concept which least represents the ICPs' idea of the concept of social justice is that of social security, the only one below the mean of three points. Conceptually – and this comes through in the map – this category is similar to the one that touched upon equity of access to health services. However, after careful discussion, the participants decided not to merge these two concepts and to identify social security as a dimension in its own right. This decision is most probably attributable to a desire to dissociate health services from social services in general and to adopt a broad vision of the nature of social security. In fact, on closer examination of the statements that make up this concept, we observe that the ICPs included, within social security, the concepts of security of employment and of income. The notion of social security must therefore be understood in the broadest sense of social protection. It is hardly surprising that they gave this category the lowest score (2.78), because even if the nurses believe it is fundamental to social justice, they are nevertheless realists and know it is probably the most difficult objective to achieve at this time, in the current context.
Between these two extremes, which stand out by a wide margin, seven concepts were provided by the nurses to describe social justice. The second position, in order of significance, is allocated to equity of access to basic social services. We must point out here that we unfortunately did not discuss with the participants their definition of "equity". If they use this term, it is most likely because it is in some way a common expression. It seems to us this concept means, above all, that access to services should be the same for everyone and that there should not be any positive discrimination for one group or another. In this category, equity for the indigent received the lowest score (2.89), in contrast to access for all (4.67).
After this comes the cluster of justice and social peace. The map shows this concept to be conceptually very close to that which follows immediately, in decreasing order of significance, which is good governance. On closer examination, it is clear they could have been merged without any real change to the importance attributed to this dimension of social justice (the mean would have gone from 3.62 to 3.57). While these two concepts are not the most significant in terms of weight, they are in terms of the number of statements. Together they represent almost 40% of the total statements produced, with good governance having the greatest number. The equitable and rational management of resources and the respect of human rights do not "weigh" as much but are placed in the same region of the concept map, as two extensions of justice, social peace and good governance. Resource management seems to be understood by the participants from a distributive perspective, since they mentioned primarily issues related to equitable distribution (of salaries, equipment, honours, allocations) – that is, in terms of wealth, of risk, of abilities, and of needs. At the heart of the map, these five concepts ultimately form an arc of a circle that is relatively dominant and consistent, all being very much linked, in our opinion, to the role of the State.
Finally, two concepts received very similar mean scores: fight against poverty and community participation. These two concepts are very connected. The community is associated with poverty. Given that poverty in Burkina remains a phenomenon that affects the countryside more than the cities, it could be inferred that the ICPs link the concept of community with that of rurality and poverty. When they think of community, they think mainly of the poor and the peasants.
All in all, what is most interesting in looking at the positions of the nine clusters is that three entities seem to emerge. The State, whose essential role is to guarantee the benefits represented by the four concepts located at the top of Figure 1, seems to control a population concerned with the four others located at the bottom. Between the two, as a concept resulting from the process of their conjunction, we find the management of aid. Beyond the clichés of "North-South" or of the "developers" and the "developed", it may be that the participants are telling us that the manner in which aid is managed is depends very much on this conjunction and is embedded in the particular relationships that connect populations with government.
The participants produced a total of 59 different statements. They particularly stressed honesty, truth, and transparency, mainly terms opposed to corruption or to the misappropriation of aid. Political action, if it corresponds to these prerequisite qualities, represents one modality of social justice. The State or the government has an undeniable role to play in social justice, according to the peasants. No clear idea emerges from the analysis as to the society's ability, as a whole, to act collectively and to guarantee equity. On the one hand, solidarity is put forward, while on the other, there appears to be little confidence in the efficacy of collective action. Notably (among other things), the members of the management committees made no connection between social justice and improvement of living conditions for subgroups of the population commonly described as vulnerable (women and indigents), except perhaps for children.
The consensual labelling of clusters for the interest groups produced the results presented in Figure 2 (see Additional file 2).
This map, characterized by nine different concepts expressing the idea of social justice, appears to be split into two entities: one having to do with values, and the other, with action.
If we simply analyze those concepts with the highest scores after the statistical analysis and the labelling by participants, honesty and truth emerge clearly, and integrity, coming in third place, remains very nearby in terms of importance. However, adding to these three concepts the next two in decreasing order of importance, i.e. self-confidence and the transparency is good, appears to reveal a conceptual entity very clearly oriented in the same direction, i.e., that of values. These five concepts are quite near each other on the map and we observe a T-form where the three categories at the top of the map express the same idea. For the COGES members, these five concepts would be the fundamental values of social justice. Although the peasants, in their definitive statements, did not try to connect these designations to individuals or groups, or even organizations, we can see, on looking more closely at the wording of the clusters, that these values relate to all the concepts.
The second entity, within which the other four concepts can be grouped together, highlights action as a key component of social justice. For the peasant members of the management committees, social justice is a dual notion, with values on the one hand and action on the other. It is through intervening that we are able, they tell us, to achieve a certain level of social justice. What is interesting in the labels attributed by the participants is that these actions seem to arise foremost out of collective considerations. Thus, people must support each other and help each other. Then, along the same lines, the two concepts designating action that are ranked lowest in order of importance are those that can be associated with individual behaviours. We can thus establish that needing others and spontaneously helping individuals seem to carry less importance for COGES in the conceptual definition of social justice. While these orders of importance have to be considered, we must not forget that this map should also be read from a global perspective, taking into account the spread of the concepts, to understand equity from the emic perspective. In addition, we should add that the concept with the least importance is also the one with the highest bridging index. It is also the concept that garnered the least consensus among the participants when it came to allocating statements to it. The statement with a perfect disagreement score (1.00) with regard to its being positioned in one category or another is that aimed at aid for those most in need. It seemed to be the odd one out, with the participants not knowing whether it belonged with values or action or, quite simply, with social justice.