AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Sep/10

28

Oliwier Dziadkowiec and Trish Peaster on Using Social Network Analysis in Evaluation

My name is Oliwier Dziadkowiec and I am a fourth-year doctoral student in Community Psychology at Wichita State University (WSU) in Wichita, Kansas. My colleague, Trish Peaster, and I recently conducted a Social Network Analysis (SNA) through our work at WSU’s Center for Community Support and Research. The client requesting the SNA was a coalition composed of 139 members across 10 counties. We were hired to determine the following:

  1. Network density of coalition members within and between employment sector
  2. Key coalition members within each employment sector
  3. Current and emerging leaders, mentors, and innovators across the network
  4. Opportunities for enhancing the network

While there are a number of popular software packages for SNA including UCINET , Pajek, and Net Miner, we decided to try Network Genie to collect our data and InFlow 3.1 to analyze the data.

Hot Tip: We had a good experience using Network Genie for collecting social network data. It is administered online and is easy for participants to indicate who they know by simply double clicking on their name. Follow-up questions such as “how often do you communicate with this person” and “how many projects have you worked on with this person” are then asked only for those whom the participant knows. This feature makes answering follow-up questions much easier, especially for large networks. Network Genie is not free, but it is easy to learn and has excellent customer support. Alternative data collection methods can be found in Social Network Analysis (Knoke, D. & Yang, S., 2008).

Hot Tip: InFlow is not as easy to learn, but has several nice features. For instance, data collected from Network Genie can be directly downloaded into Inflow for analysis. These are not sold as a package, however. Inflow also has nice graphical features and good documentation of all the commands needed for analysis. The program has an easy to use “point and click” menu, but the range and flexibility of operations that you can perform are fewer than with other SNA software packages.

Hot Tip: Have a good theory. In order to evaluate the network (size, clusters, key players), we found it useful to use the framework developed by Valdis Krebs and June Holley Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving (pdf). This theory allowed us to objectively judge the strength of the network and make recommendations for enhancing it.

Hot Tip: SNA packages have a variety of measures to evaluate networks. Be sure that you understand the meaning of each measure or have a consultant nearby who does. This is key to making your findings valid and meaningful to your client.

Want to learn more from Oliwier and Trish? They will be presenting as part of the Evaluation 2010 Conference Program, November 10-13 in San Antonio, Texas.

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