Deepening Network Inquiry for Social Change: Who? What? How?April 26, 2016 1 Comment
In many rooms where networks are the topic of conversation, a typical question of interest is “Who is connected to whom?” This is an important question, often the focus of social network analysis (SNA), and can lead to important and strategic information about things like hubs, gatekeepers, strong and weak ties, etc. And this is not the full extent of useful inquiry when thinking about social change.
Another important question is, “What is flowing?” That is, what kinds of value are flowing through these connections with respect to information, natural capital, money, cultural expression, etc. This is the focus of value network analysis (VNA) and is important to help understand the overall vitality and health of a network or system.
And there is another important value-related question to ask: “How is value flowing?” Answers to this question can help people better understand in what direction different forms of value are flowing.
To what degree do mutuality and equity (of access to the means of production and exchange) exist?.
Answers might also speak to the degree of freedom and velocity with which value flows, which are other key indicators of network/systemic health and vitality, and whether these flows lead to “regenerative returns” that support the long-term resilience and thriving of the network/system. Which connects to another key question –
“What ends do these connections and value flows serve?”
Digging a little deeper still, another important question relevant to social change in our experience at IISC is, “Who holds power to exert any influence over any of the above, including the determination of what constitutes ‘value’ in the first place.”
Where are the questions you are asking of and about networks taking you in your work for social change?
I have been interested in mapping network growth for many years, starting in 1994 when I began to use GIS maps to show where non-school tutor/mentor programs were located in Chicago. I hosted a leadership networking conference every six months from May 1994 to May 2015 and began to try to map participation using network analysis software in 2010. Here’s a section of articles on my blog focusing on network analysis. http://tutormentor.blogspot.com/search/label/network%20analysis
Here’s another showing efforts to map participation in the conferences. http://tutormentor.blogspot.com/2015/05/report-looks-at-tutormentor-conferences.html
I’ve never had the money or talent to do the network analysis that is possible, especially showing the value of a network in impacting the lives of urban youth and families, but I continue to build a library with articles such as yours, with a goal of providing ideas to others, and of finding people already focused on the same goals as I am.