Capacity development, learning, change, poverty/power/progress
I am a self-made woman when it comes to Social Network Analysis: just picked it up along the way and learned from doing. Joitske Hulsebosch (twitter @Joitske) however recently finished a short SNA course with Patti Anklam (twitter @panklam). Joitske gave me some food for thought about the way I might introduce SNA to those who are new to it.
The group I recently worked with had all sorts of surprising expectations about SNA which could not be met (e.g. see how information was actually flowing). This is a sign of poor client intake on my part. So what can I learn from this?
Social Network Analysis is about making sense of patterns
First of all, SNA generates questions, not answers. It produces visuals of how people/organizations are connected and work together. Seeing these connections can generate reflection, for instance “does this pattern explain why some in the network are informed and others do not get information?” Here are typical questions that SNA can generate:
Monitoring and evaluation of network support efforts
Social Network Analysis can be used to evaluate change in a network over time. The illustration shows a network one year ago and the same network now, a year later. We can see a tighter network, with the 9 respondents apparently working more closely together. This doesn’t tell you how that change has happened. People involved in the network need to reflect and discuss what may have contributed to the change. A year ago, this picture might have been used to discuss strategies with a network facilitator to get more connected. Now the result of those strategies can be checked and discussed.
Facilitation is critical
This brings me to a very important point about facilitating Social Network Analysis with organizations or networks. I can work with the social network analysis software, and I can distill interesting patterns. However, I am not part of the network and therefore I cannot come to any conclusions about it. I can only share the patters I discover, and explain what they seem to suggest, but then the floor is to the network members.
For facilitation to work, it needs to be clear from the start why we are doing Social Network Analysis. Next time, I will be in a better position to help a client define this purpose.
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