Generating ideas, connections, and action

News Brief: Social Network Analysis, Network Governance, Informal Networks, Innovation, Diversity, Collaboration, Network Map

● “Ethics in Social Network Analysis”
    Author:  Eva Schiffer
    Date:  October 13, 2010
    Source:  Net-Map blog
Social Network Analysis:  Traditional surveys ensure that the respondents remain anonymous, as each respondent is simply meant to be representative of a particular demographic.  However, in using network tools to facilitate change,  the identity of each individual becomes key. This brings up an ethical issue involving social network analysis – should the respondents have it made very clear to them exactly how their answers will be analyzed?  The answer, for Eva Schiffer, is “yes.”  And not only is it the ethical thing to do, to provide full disclosure of the analysis methods, it is actually “one of the strengths of network mapping”; it allows interviewees to “reflect on the complete picture and see if that’s what they actually wanted to say.” 

● “The Networked Nonprofit Board”
    Author:  Beth Kanter
    Date:  October 13, 2010
    Source:  Beth’s Blog
Networked governance:  Beth Kanter in this blog post looked at the concept of networked governance, using a museum board with whom she met as an example.  She described how she asked everyone on the board if they used Facebook, and almost everyone indicated they did by raising their hands.  However, when she asked how many of the board members “liked” the museum’s Facebook page, few responded in the affirmative. 
This triggered the question for Beth about whether board members should be at the top of “the ladder of love” for the organization on whose board they sit.  What ensued was a great discussion about how the museum board could support the museum through social media. Some ideas Beth mentioned included – in addition to a social media policy – education and training, maybe even including a live demo of how social media in fact works and why it is important.

● “The Chili Mine Disaster: Self-organizing through informal networks”
    Author:   Jim Kent
    Date:  October 13, 2010
    Source:  Jim Kent Blog
Informal Networks:  The author points to the episode involving the 33 miners in Chile trapped for 67 days as “an absolute classic case of ‘self-organizing’ that take place in informal networks for survival.”  They used “community archetypes that serve a community survival function”; they rationed their food, created separate geographic spaces for sleeping, eating, privacy, exercise and so forth.  They also set up routines for day and night and work schedules.  All of this, the author points out, is intriguing from a social ecological perspective, and he believes that a Discovery framework gives a unique insight into this episode.

● “Ideas are Networks”
    Author:  Pete Plastrik
    Date:  October 12, 2010
    Source:  nuPOLIS 
Innovation:  This article is an interview in WIRED (Oct 2010) featuring Kevin Kelly, author of What Technology Wants, and Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation.  The authors share their thoughts on the social aspects of innovation.
Steven Johnson describes his and Kevin Kelly’s shared interest in simultaneous innovation and its long history.  Examples he lists include calculus, the telephone, the radio, the steam engine and the electrical battery – all invented by different people at the same time, all without knowledge of the other.  Kevin Kelly then mentions the “myth of the lone genius” and points out that “simultaneous innovation has always been the norm.”  Johnson adds that innovation is nurtured in environments where people’s ideas can connect.  Kelly agrees that ideas are not self-contained entities but rather “more like ecologies and networks. They travel in clusters.”

● “The World Needs You to Be You”
    Author:  Rosetta Thurman
    Date:  October 12, 2010
    Source:  Rosetta Thurman blog
Diversity:  In this blog post, Rosetta Thurman takes a very personal, yet very relevant look at identity diversity in the nonprofit sector.  While professionals in the nonprofit sector may be working toward a common goal of effecting social change, they are not necessarily coming from identical backgrounds.   And that’s okay.  In fact, it’s an asset which is highly conducive to innovation.  Rather than hiding their diverse backgrounds and life experiences, nonprofit professionals should embrace their diversity, shine a light on their unique passion for social change.  As Rosetta puts is, all of us in the nonprofit sector need to embrace our diverse identities and “unleash the nonprofit rockstar within.” 

● “What a Physicist Taught Me About Leading Change”
    Author:  John Kotter
    Date:  October 6, 2010
    Source:  Harvard Business Review
Diversity:  The key to successfully creating large-scale change is diversity and a real desire to work together (“not appointed to be on one more task force”), according to Kotter.  This “relevant diversity” means the group is diverse on many levels:  education, tenure in the organization, leadership or managerial skills, functional background, and so forth.   The one dimension of diversity that Kotter identifies as being most difficult for people to grasp is level in the organization’s hierarchy.  As he puts it, “You don’t often find a 55-year-old senior vice president and a 25-year-old customer service rep on the same team, unless the focus is rather trivial and the time span of the group is short.”  Yet the diversity of perspectives, relationships and information sources resulting from these different positions in the hierarchy can, in a fully-facilitated setting, lead to great results.

● ““Finding Incentives for Nonprofit Collaboration”
       Author:  Garvester Kelley
    Date:  September 29, 2010
    Source:  Philanthropost
Collaboration:  Despite the positive outlook on collaboration and strategic alliances expressed by many nonprofit leaders at the beginning of the economic downturn, “collaborations have been minimal, if they exist at all,” writes Kelley.  Why would this be the case given that foundation funding to nonprofits continues to remain below pre-recession levels?

One key obstacle to more widespread collaboration among nonprofits is the fact that traditionally nonprofit leaders have been accustomed to differentiating themselves from their colleagues in order to obtain funding.  In order to move away from this tradition and instead establish a new tradition of collaboration, Kelley offers the following suggestions:  1) the identification of possible synergies by foundation program staff members – information which would then be shared with the potentially collaborating nonprofits; 2) “conversation starters and skilled intermediaries” to identify and help carry out collaborations; 3) the allocation of time and creation of a safe space for nonprofit leaders to talk about collaboration; 4) the availability of capital specifically for helping organizations with strategic alignment.

● “Node XL:  Network Mapping Made Easy”
    Author:  Noah Flower
    Date:  September 17, 2010
    Source:  Working Wikily
Network Mapping:  NodeXL is a free, open-source tool for mapping networks.  It is a Microsoft Office Excel add-on.  The author recommends it over previously-available tools such as UCINET and KeyHubs for a couple of reasons.  It allows users to easily create elegant network maps ; and yet despite the simple interface, NodeXL still offers Excel experts the option of customization.  As an example of the enhancement capabilities offered by NodeXL for more advanced Excel users, the author describes how he color-coded the dots on his map using conditional logic formulas. 

To learn more about this new tool, the author recommends that one “ pay attention to the little ‘tooltips’ embedded in the spreadsheets.”  For more in-depth knowledge about the ins and outs of NodeXL, he recommends the following book: Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL. To download NodeXL, simply click here