The aim of social network analysis (SNA) is to understand a community by mapping the relationships that connect them as a network, and then trying to draw out key individuals, groups within the network (‘components’), and/or associations between the individuals. A network is simply a number of points (or ‘nodes’) that are connected by links. Generally, in social network analysis, the nodes are people and the links are any social connection between them – for example, friendship, marital/family ties, or financial ties.
Improved connectivity is created through an iterative process of knowing the network and knitting the network. (Valdis Krebs and June Holley)
One can use SNA to bridge silos, create awareness of distributed expertise distributed in the network, and identify and draw in peripheral network members. Moreover, SNA can be used to identify people who are linked, but who may not be part of a formal community. These people can be invited to join a community relevant to them.
We suggest the following approach based on the United Kingdom’s Home Office Guide:
- Step 1: Define your focus
- Step 2: Decide what data you will use
- Step 3: Collect data (e.g. identifying sample, data coding)
- Step 4: Analyse your findings
- Step 5: Validate your findings
One tool to use is the Social Network Visualizer (SocNetV) which is a cross-platform, user-friendly free software application for social network analysis and visualization: https://socnetv.org/.
We recommend this tool appropriate for project levels 6-10 (see the M&E Capacity Checklist tool).
Social Network Analysis, showing the relationship between the funding country of the research (nodes) and the country where the study area is located (edges). The number of papers that share the same relationship is represented by the thickness of the links. Countries of the Global South (gross national income (GNI) < 25,000 U.S.$ per capita) are represented in green, and countries of the Global North (GNI > 25,000 U.S.$ per capita), in purple. (Source: Maria Fernanda Reyes, National University of Comahue)
Find out more about Network Development in this video by Innovation for Change (I4C).