SNA TIG Week: An Introduction to Network Canvas by Gregory Phillips

Hello! I’m Gregory Phillips and I work with both the EDIT and CONNECT research programs at Northwestern University’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing. Here at EDIT, we use evaluation, data integration, and technical assistance to foster a learning community to improve the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ populations in Chicago and beyond. At CONNECT, we create innovative methods of collecting and using complex data and build partnerships to solve critical issues in health equity using big data methods grounded in a systems theory approach. Applying social network analysis in evaluation work is a promising intersection of the work that we, and many of you, do every day. I wanted to share a resource we’re developing to make your life collecting social network information easier!

First, I want to thank all of the previous AEA365 posts as part of SNA TIG Weeks. They offered some great examples and tips about collecting and using network data in the field of evaluation. However, I’m sure they would all agree how challenging and time-consuming these projects were. For those of you who haven’t collected network data before, it frequently involves a process of long and tedious data collection, followed by exhaustive (and exhausting!) data entry and cleaning procedures. Each of these steps creates an enormous barrier to evaluators who may want to incorporate network analysis in their work, but are intimidated by the complexity of the process and the associated time and effort. This is why we’re developing Network Canvas.

Rad Resource: Network Canvas can capture data about an individual (person or organization) and their network through an intuitive and engaging touchscreen interface. By representing abstract relationships and attributes visually, complex structural data becomes more tangible, while data capture and storage become more simple, straightforward, and cost-effective. Internal pilot testing of the software supports the fact that it makes the collection of network data more efficient and streamlines the more repetitive parts of data collection.

There are three components to Network Canvas:

  1. Architect: Intuitively build surveys with built in survey logic and an easy to understand wireframe so you know what your client will be seeing when administering/taking the survey.
  2. Network Canvas: The actual application built to divide data collection into a series of simple, interactive screens. This design minimizes the need for instruction and empowers survey takers to engage during the interview.
  3. Server: Data collected during the interview are stored on the server and can be exported in whatever format you use for analysis.

Rad Resource (to learn more): We will be moving Network Canvas out of the lab and into field testing with collaborators. Find out when you can start using this technology by visiting:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Social Network Analysis TIG Week with our colleagues in the Social Network Analysis Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our SNA TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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