The eighteenth of our 20 Leadership Lessons Learned in East Africa: network analysis is a simple and powerful tool that can help you understand the connections in your network that act as a channel (or a barrier) to your own leadership development. The innovation in this approach lies in highlighting how your entire community is connected. But it’s not just about understanding your network—it’s understanding how that network influences your ability to thrive as a parent, community member, and entrepreneur.

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Understanding Social Connections to Build Community

Photo by Aaron White

There’s a dynamic web of connections that influence the way we interact and react to each other, make decisions, take risks, and live out our lives. There are people, social structures, and even environmental factors that create an ever-changing network of influence.

Our big idea is that network analysis can be done in situ, among groups, to enable women to gain agency and increased decision-making.

How does it work?

In situ network analysis is a simple and powerful tool we use with groups at many levels to help them understand the connections (or lack of connections) that exist in their network that act as a barrier to their own leadership development.

This can be done on a piece of flip-chart paper in a field, as in the picture, or can even be done with stones, sticks, and other items representing different people or social resources. Because of the flexibility in facilitating this activity, the emphasis can either focus on a “name generator” approach where actual names are given, or by using a “position generator.” The position generator (an approach adapted from sociology) measures social capital or structural positions in the community or society, allowing the women in the group to understand where they are in relation to everything else. Things that might get mapped out include:

  • Health facilities
  • Relationships (positive and negative)
  • Community layout
  • Water resources
  • Conflicts (interpersonal, clan, etc.)

The innovation in this approach lies in helping a disenfranchised group understand the entire network of their community and how it’s connected. Women that go through the process are better able to understand the types of people they are connected to, or what social services exist but they feel they cannot access.

It’s not just about understanding an individual’s network; rather, it’s how that network influences that person’s ability to thrive as a parent, community member, or entrepreneur.

Questions for Further Reflection:

  • How is understanding community networks relevant and important to you or your work?
  • What social connections could be made that would benefit you or your community?
  • What assets does your community network have and how can they be leveraged?

Tell us your big ideas in the comments.

<< Our previous big idea | More to come!

Leadership Beyond Boundaries - Center for Creative Leadership logoThis series, 20 Leadership Lessons Learned in East Africa, was brought to you by CCL’s Ethiopia office and Leadership Beyond Boundaries, an initiative by the Center for Creative Leadership to democratize leadership development and unlock the power of human potential around the globe.

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