Social network analysis needn’t be complicated

Category: Media & Technology
Published on Jan 19, 2009

In an age of highly-complex and often highly-expensive social network mapping and analysis tools, it’s good to know that some people still appreciate the value of getting back to basics. Net-Map, a simple network analysis tool, was developed by Eva Schiffer while at the International Food Policy Research Institute to help farmers in rural Africa better understand the complex realities in which they work and make most of their influence networks.

As pictured above, the tool is extremely low-tech and low-cost and can be used when working with rural community members with low formal education as well as with policy makers, or international development actors. To better appreciate the simplicity of the tool, check out the list of required equipment:

  • Large sheets of paper for the network map (one per interview)
  • Felt pens for drawing links (different colors according to different links)
  • Adhesive paper as actor cards,
  • Flat round stackable discs for building influence-towers (e.g. checkers pieces, bicycle spare parts), a
  • Actor figurines (different board game figures, optional but especially useful when working with illiterate interviewees)

Net-Map may not offer much to stir the blood of the average Facebooker, but Schiffer’s tools and site provide an excellent resource for people seeking to bring the benefits of social network analysis to communities that are currently underserved. You can view more images of the project in action (in Ghana and Chile) on Schiffer’s flickr stream.

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