My name is Sophia Guevara, and I am the Program Co-Chair for the Social Network Analysis (SNA) TIG. I am currently pursuing my MPA degree at Wayne State University.
Like many graduate students, I spend much of my time studying traditional evaluation techniques for identifying and measuring the success of programs. I first learned about social network analysis by being mentored by a professional who did evaluation work at a large nonprofit.
For newcomers to SNA, knowing where to start can be intimidating. Based on my experience as a beginner, here are three tips to get you started:
Hot Tip #1: Get Involved and Learn from Others. One of the best ways to learn about SNA is to get involved in a community of practice. Each day, more and more evaluators are adding social network analysis to their toolkits, and many of us are learning together. I joined the AEA SNA TIG to learn from other AEA members who are active in the field and using SNA in their work.
Rad Resource: Join the expanding Network Weaving Facebook group to learn from other practitioners. Not only can you learn from others, ask questions, and interact with the growing group, but you can also discover innovative resources like Marc Smith’s NodeXL office hours via Google Hangout.
Hot Tip #2: Explore Online Resources. In addition to getting involved in learning communities, you can find a wealth of resources for SNA beginners on the web.
Rad Resource: This introductory slide show from Giorgos Cheliotis provides an overview and introduction to key concepts in SNA, including networks, tie strength, key players, and cohesion.
Hot Tip #3: Read Past Studies. One of the best ways to figure out how to bring SNA into your work is to learn from how other evaluators have used it. If you are an AEA member, you can find examples by searching the AEA journals for “social network analysis.” For example, New Directions for Evaluation has 19 articles, from 1992 to 2012 that incorporate and highlight SNA as an evaluation method, including the 2005 special issue on Social Network Analysis in Evaluation.
Rad Resource: Learn about how the Young Foundation mapped social networks to improve public service delivery in England (powerpoint summaryhere). This study examined relationships between residents and public service agencies and made recommendations for using networks to improve service delivery and communication.
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Social Network Analysis 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.