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Social network analysis

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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Social network analysis examines the relationships between actors in a network. The method can be applied to assess how the quality of the coalition has influenced campaign outcomes, or to gauge to what extent a mobilization campaign enhances networking and movement-building for social change. Social network analysis can also be used as part of situation analysis, in the campaign planning stage, and as part of the monitoring process.

Typical questions addressed by a network analysis are:

  • Who is the most central actor, i.e. who is most connected to other actors and is therefore best placed for connecting with others?
  • How dense is the network? How many and what types of actors are involved in the network and what is the overall shape of their connections (e.g. hierarchic network, extent)?
  • What is the quality of the connections in the network (i.e. unidirectional “giving support”, or reciprocal “exchange of ideas”)?

In order to define a network, evaluators need network data which can be collected through standardized interviews or by direct observation. Specialized software helps visualize networks. A simple and user-friendly open source program is Social Network Visualizer. More information is available on the INSA (International Network for Social Network Analysis) internet platform.