When Is It Appropriate to do a Social Network Analysis?
Measuring Interpersonal Communication and Information Sharing
Most often social network analysis is applied to two sorts of questions in relation to extension:
- Questions about social structure (i.e. who knows who?)
- Questions about who shares or exchanges specific types of information (e.g. on IPM practices for a particular context)
Social network analysis can, be appropriate both in classical pre-post type studies (see also Planning and Designing a Survey in the Survey module) in which we want to document some change in network structure or size, in response to extension and/or research efforts. It is also used in "snap shot" mode, in which we simply gather a view of the structure of the network at a single point in time.
Deciding when a social network analysis is appropriate is a simple task, in concept. Since social network analysis deals with interpersonal communication and information sharing in one form or another it is not useful if your impact analysis demands information on economic performance, environmental practices for individual stakeholders. On the other hand, if you want to know how information on these topics (or any others) is being shared within a community then social network analysis is likely to yield useful results.