Thursday, 13.45-14.45 (Balcony C)

Visualizing what connects us: Social network analysis 101. Anne Laesecke, IREX; Danielle de García, Social Impact
Visualizing networks can reveal critical insights for understanding relationships between organizations, social movements, and/or individuals; supply chains; and even information flows and knowledge transfer. This session will introduce attendees to Social Network Analysis (SNA) as a tool that can be used throughout the program cycle for learning about and assessing trust, perceptions, collaboration, influence, and sustainability. We will also compare and contrast several software tools for different types of SNA applications; including through demonstrations. 

Session Level:

Beginner, Intermediate.

Session Resources:

Session Details:

This session is meant to introduce attendees to Social Network Analysis (SNA) and provide a demonstration of several types of software used for SNA. We will aim to discuss contexts where SNA proves useful, go over the basics of conducting SNA, and give a demonstration of analysis and visualization using Gephi, NodeXL, and potentially others.

After introducing the aims of the session, we will briefly explore how SNA can inform monitoring and evaluation. While traditionally associated with social media, social network analysis is a useful tool that can shed light on many underlying systems and relationships that may not be explicit. This makes it useful tool for understanding potential champions and spoilers of an issue and thus helpful for baseline assessments and political economy analyses. SNA is also a useful method for evaluating programs where building networks is an explicit goal, such as exchange programs. For example, in IREX’s work on the Young African Leaders Initiative, we have conducted SNA on a subset of Mandela Washington Fellows across regions and cohorts to better understand how program efforts to stimulate collaboration are working.

We will also discuss how this type of visualization and network analysis can be useful in less traditional contexts: in using big data, understanding relationships in qualitative data, understanding biological ecosystems, exploring unintended consequences, determining organizational risks and processes, and making projections about program sustainability. During this discussion, we will engage attendees by eliciting their ideas or examples from their work about why SNA is useful.

After discussing potential reasons to conduct SNA, we will delve into the specifics of how to do this, focusing most of our time on demonstrating different applications. We will go through the basics of preparing for SNA: first deciding if the analysis will be sociocentric (looking at a whole network) or egocentric (looking at networks around individuals) and the pros and cons of both. We will share a few data collection tips, including surveys, and consider other external data sources.

As we introduce analysis, we will demonstrate Gephi and NodeXL and their capabilities for analysis and visualization. We will focus on on centrality for analysis (degree, in-degree, out-degree, closeness, betweeness) and discuss the pros and cons of each tool. We will also introduce a number of other platforms to the audience, listing their most common applications and some pros and cons of each.

Session Leads:

Anne Laesecke, M&E Officer, IREX. Anne is the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Since joining IREX in 2014, she has supported several projects in IREX’s Center for Collaborative Technology, including the Advancing MOOCs for Development Initiative (AMDI) and IREX’s Global Libraries and Ukraine portfolios. Prior to coming to IREX, Anne worked at World Learning supporting the creation of organizational performance metrics. She also spent six months in Nepal researching child labor and human trafficking and lived in Ukraine where she taught English through the US Peace Corps. Anne has an MA in International Education from the George Washington University and a BA in Linguistics and French from the University of Colorado. Find out more about her here or at IREX.

Danielle (Dani) de García, Director of Performance Evaluation, Innovation and Learning, Social Impact. Dani oversees a portfolio of monitoring, evaluation, and learning contracts. Dani’s recent work includes leading and participating in a number of evaluations and strategic planning engagements for USAID, Carter Center, MasterCard Foundation, MCC, US Department of State, and MacArthur Foundation initiatives around the world. Throughout her career, Dani has provided performance management and organizational development assistance to the World Bank, CATHALAC, and international NGOs; and has worked in more than 25 countries. A lover of social network analysis, adaptive management, participatory methods, and technology, she also has developed and delivered trainings to thousands of governmental, multilateral, and NGO staff around the globe. More about her here or at Social Impact.