‘Who’s in the Network?’ When Stakeholders Influence Data Analysis

Abstract

Environmental applications of social network analysis (SNA) are just beginning to emerge, and so far have focussed on understanding the characteristics of social networks that increase the likelihood of collective action and successful natural resource management. We move beyond this discussion to demonstrate how knowledge gained from analysing the social networks of stakeholders can be harnessed for selecting stakeholders, and further, how these analyses can be influenced by the expressed wishes and concerns of stakeholders. Although we began our SNA using concepts derived from the resource-management literature, stakeholder involvement in the interpretation of the results led to the use of SNA techniques that had not previously been applied in the context of resource management. We thus re-analysed our data and modified our selection of research participants. Re-analysis led to the selection of research participants who (1) had unique positions in the network, thus occupying non-redundant communication roles in the network, (2) came from different stakeholder categories and (3) were relatively well-connected to others and tended to broker across different segments of the network. By combining insights from researchers and stakeholders in this way, it was possible to use SNA in an innovative and sensitive way to better meet the needs of the stakeholders and the research project.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The notion of ‘broker’ and ‘brokerage’ stems from Ron Burt’s (1992) notion of ‘structural hole’. A structural hole is a gap in the social network between disconnected others. Brokers can fill these structural holes and gain an advantage for themselves and the entire network. Brass (1992) notes that betweenness centrality is an adequate measure for the concept of structural holes and brokers.

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Correspondence to Christina Prell.

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Prell, C., Hubacek, K., Quinn, C. et al. ‘Who’s in the Network?’ When Stakeholders Influence Data Analysis. Syst Pract Action Res 21, 443–458 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11213-008-9105-9

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Keywords

  • Social network analysis
  • Social learning
  • Peak District National Park
  • Resource management
  • Participatory approaches