How to: social network analysis

Social network analysis (SNA) is a strategy for investigating social structures through the use of network and graph theories. It characterizes networked structures in terms of nodes (individual actors, people, or things within the network) and the ties or edges (relationships or interactions) that connect them.

Businessman explaining how Social Network Relationships work


Social Network Analysis takes data from a defined network and helps you visualize the information so that you can ask some questions...

  • Is our customer relations network collaborative or fragmented?
  • Does our office staff cooperate or are their gatekeepers?
  • How does our policy network support efficient communication?  How can we improve?

We help answer some of these questions using a multi-step process to collect relevant data, support an analysis and develop powerful communication tools for decision makers - helping make wiser choices!

Social network analysis provides a useful visual management tool that provides a snapshot of a current policy or management arena.  Your social network map can be compared to network archetypes so that we can comment on the efficiency of your network.  To read more about comparing networks to archetypes check out Nelson's MA thesis.

"Network data is applied to create benchmark Okanagan water governance network diagrams and these diagrams are compared and contextualized using previously developed network archetypes. Social network diagrams are useful to develop a benchmark or snapshot in time of the water governance network and provide practical insights into how policy and communication strategies may be applied to improve communication and social learning among actors in the network." Nelson Jatel (2013)

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Why apply Social Network Analysis

"Any transformation towards more sustainable and equitable water use and management will need to work through the complex webs of social relations." Stein et al. (2011)

"Identifying actors, clarifying their roles, determining how they will be engaged and ensuring that they have adequate capacity to participate effectively are necessary first steps in water governance processes." de Loe et al. (2009).


Visualizing your social network can be incredibly helpful in supporting wise decisions and better policy development. 

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What does your social network look like?

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