Social Network Analysis

Brief Description:

external image sna2.jpg
"Social network analysis is the mapping and measuring of relationships and flows between people, groups, organisations, computers or other information/knowledge processing entities." (Valdis Krebs, 2002). Social Network Analysis (SNA) is a method for visualizing our people and connection power, leading us to identify how we can best interact to share knowledge.

A related practice is Network Mapping.


When to use:

  • Visualize relationships within and outside of the organization.
  • Facilitate identification of who knows who and who might know what - teams and individuals playing central roles - thought leaders, key knowledge brokers, experts, etc.
  • Identify isolated teams or individuals and knowledge bottlenecks.
  • Strategically work to improve knowledge flows.
  • Accelerate the flow of knowledge and information across functional and organisational boundaries.
  • Improve the effectiveness of formal and informal communication channels.
  • Raise awareness of the importance of informal networks.

How to use:

external image 436285097_5c39aeeb74.jpg?v=0 From the UK's NHS KM Library: "In the context of knowledge management, social network analysis (SNA) enables relationships between people to be mapped in order to identify knowledge flows: who do people seek information and knowledge from? Who do they share their information and knowledge with? In contrast to an organisation chart which shows formal relationships - who works where and who reports to whom, a social network analysis chart shows informal relationships - who knows who and who shares information and knowledge with who. It therefore allows managers to visualise and understand the many relationships that can either facilitate or impede knowledge creation and sharing. Because these relationships are normally invisible, SNA is sometimes referred to as an 'organisational x-ray' - showing the real networks that operate underneath the surface organisational structure."

"The process of social network analysis typically involves the use of questionnaires and/or interviews to gather information about the relationships between a defined group or network of people. The responses gathered are then mapped using a software tool specifically designed for the purpose (see Resources and References below for examples). This data gathering and analysis process provides a baseline against which you can then plan and prioritise the appropriate changes and interventions to improve the social connections and knowledge flows within the group or network."
external image sna.jpg

"Key stages of the process will typically include:
  • Identifying the network of people to be analysed (e.g. team, workgroup, department).
  • Gathering background information - interviewing managers and key staff to understand the specific needs and problems.
  • Clarifying objectives, defining the scope of the analysis and agreeing on the level of reporting required.
  • Formulating hypotheses and questions.
  • Developing the survey methodology and designing the questionnaire.
  • Surveying the individuals in the network to identify the relationships and knowledge flows between them.
  • Use a software mapping tool to visually map out the network.
  • Reviewing the map and the problems and opportunities highlighted using interviews and/or workshops.
  • Designing and implementing actions to bring about desired changes.
  • Mapping the network again after a suitable period of time."

Informal Face to Face Network Mapping

To highlight the value of our social networks, at a face to face gathering create an informal map using Post-it notes on a large piece of paper. Ask participants to write their names on Post-it notes and put them on the map; then, have them draw relationships lines to other people they know. As a second layer, have them add another name of a key knowledge resource they know - in a different color - and add it to the map. Then others can see how they can connect with these new knowledge resources through the people they already know.

Tools and Software for SNA

onasurveys Highly recommend. Combines the survey and data analysis tools into one package. And it's online so there is no need to get permissions from IT to install a solution. If there was one hassle it was having to manipulate data from surveys to input into analysis/visualisation tools.

yEd I've been very happy with yEd. It's a Java based (cross platform) programme for drawing complex diagrammes, developed by the University of Tubingen. It's not highly sophisticated (a plus), but it's powerful and it's free.
We sent out an online survey in a European network asking people (in five different countries) to name the five people they talked to most about their work, and what they talked about. It was fascinating to have that visually mapped out as a starter for reflection and conversation about how people interpreted the visual representation of their network. The presentation of the map is good in the way you can zoom in and out of the whole network or to particular hubs (and you can save it as a PDF).
Two things I learned in the process:
  • entering the data is more time-consuming than I anticipated
  • the simpler the questions the less room there is for different interpretations and different types of answers (making it more tricky when you enter the data).
Even given the limitations (losing out on the context and complexity) people appreciated the way it was a springboard for talking about themselves, their relationships and their communication practices.

Netdraw We have used several SNA mapping and analysis tools, and so far we have preferred Netdraw. It's free, easy to use, and constantly being upgraded and checked by its creator, Steve Borgatti and the folks at Analytic Technologies. Combined with Ucinet (not free), a very complex and powerful tool. We use SNA, among other things, as a tool for Participatory Impact Pathway Analysis (, where project staff draw their own networks, and our team map them with the software. The process and resulting diagrams are, as Bev says, a fascinating springboard for conversation, and very useful to help people grasp the complex relationships around them and their projects.

UCINET6 and NetDraw: While I do not have extensive experience mapping out social networks. I have generated a number of maps using two applications provided through Analytic Technologies (UCINET6 and NetDraw.) The applications can be downloaded for free via the following website: . I found them intuitive and was able to use them to relatively good effect after about five hours of playing around.

Proximity I have learned to use Proximity, open-source software under development by the Univ. of Massachusetts Knowledge Discovery Laboratory. It is specifically designed for social network analysis and other similar applications.
At my last job I had it running to analyze a database of 100,000 conservation practitioners. We needed to identify "authorities" in conservation to lead a project (You need to have a database with individual's data to analyze.) Due to a time limit I wasn't able to complete my analysis. But I do understand how to use it and would be happy to provide suggestions.
The senior software developer, Augustin Schapiro, has been helpful in explaining how to use the software. I have expressed the need for this software in development applications. I believe with enough interest perhaps the university would consider making it more user friendly. At this point it is research software. In some cases it requires Python programming skills. In other cases the tutorial, which is well done in my opinion, may be sufficient.
you may also check the software pange on the homepage of the International Network for Social Network Analysis (
You should also ask the experts in their forum for assistance (

InFlow I have used InFlow for a few analyses, and once the data file was formatted properly, the GUI was very easy to use. I am not sure of the cost/software licensing etc, as I was using a corporate license that we have.

Pajek Look at Pajek - a social network analysis software. It is freeware. There is also a book for this software - de Nooy, W., Mrvar, A., & Batagelj, V. (2005). Exploratory Social Network Analysis with Pajek. . New York Cambridge University Press.
I used it for my research to map concept networks in policy documents. The data for drawing the maps was provided by Leximancer - a text analysis software. Leximancer can also do the job that you want - organisational networks etc.

GenIsis The GenIsis Tool Suite does not specifically do SNA (we are leaving this to the expert applications like UciNet and Pajket), however we do provide VNA capability and enable relatively easy generation of network visuals in Power Point (all objects manually editable within Power Point), Visio and in VRML for interactive 3D visualization. We also have a proprietary viewer (OpenGL/Java) that allows for hyperlinked interactive 2D/3D visualization. The goal in all cases is to allow non-experts to generate and manipulate the visualizations, plus share them widely as editable maps (rather than image formats). Some of these functionalities are open source ( and hence free, while others are for a fee and require a little customization. People hence do not need double PhDs to create, edit and work with maps :) The main use our customers are making of the tools is enabling large wide-spread groups to being using network thinking as a normal tool for decision making - ok, you do need Power Point and ideally Visio.

Net-Map (not IT-based) Using influence network visualization as a tool for knowledge management to improve collaboration
When trying to achieve goals in collaboration with others, we face the problem that a lot of the really crucial knowledge about processes, formal and informal networks, goals of the different people involved and their influence on our work is difficult to capture and talk about. Sometimes strategic planning in groups can feel like you want to plan the route to a specific point of interest without ever having a look at a map together (or, even worse, we all have a map of a different place in front of us and we try to agree on a route, without even knowing that we are not on the same map?).
Net-Map is a hands-on, low-tech, participatory tool for visualizing, discussing, analyzing: Who is involved? How are they linked (formal and informal links)? How influential are they? What are their goals?
I think it makes an interesting tool for institutional knowledge management (institutional memory management?). I would like to invite you to have a look at and am looking forward to your feedback, discussion, inspiration.

Other tools That’s a good list you have down there. Here is a list of libraries and tools I use—taken from my blog sidebar (
ONA catalogue of tools
INSNA software catalogue
Free Net Drawing Tools in Java
Netvis software catalogue
Sentinel href="

Training on SNA

  • Introduction to social network methods : Online textbook which introduces many of the basics of formal approaches to the analysis of social networks. The text relies heavily on the work of Freeman, Borgatti, and Everett (the authors of the UCINET software package) as well as a text of Wasserman and Faust. The introduction is supported by examples visualized in the Software tools Netdraw and UCINET:
  • Training on Social Network Analysis, Mapping social relations: Introduction training provided to the Department of Health of the Philippines by Dr Steeve Ebener, WHO (April 2008):
  • OrgNet - General and customized training for all types of network analysis & visualization: OrgNet, led by Valdis Krebs, is a SNA/ONA software vendor which provides customized training in both software and methodology. The training includes 1 license/seat of the InFlow 3.1 software. The course takes about 8 hours and can be split up into smaller time periods and delivered over the WWW and phone/Skype. Most of the training covers the process of social network analysis. The software is easy and only takes an hour or two. OrgNet also provides mentoring through the first SNA project.
  • Dr. Robert Cross, University of Virginia: Introduction into Organisational Network Analysis, Network Analysis Tutorials and Teaching Cases: The Network Roundtable at the University of Virginia:
  • Net-Map Toolbox - Influence Mapping of Social Networks: Introduction into the Net-Map Toolbox by Eva Schiffer. The course will cover basics of social network analysis, crafted for SNA beginners and practitioners. The course will take place at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington DC and there is also an option of attending online. However, Eva is planning to record the seminar and produce a CD of it, plus post the file for download:

Tips and Lessons Learnt

Dear KM4Dev Community,
After having benefited from several very interesting exchange of emails and information this past year I am pleased to finally have the opportunity to share something that will hopefully be of interest to some of you.
One of the outcome of our reflexion on what Knowledge Mapping techniques could bring in public health has been the creation of a SharePoint site on which we have started posting publications, links and other information about this particular topic and related activates on which we have started to work here at WHO.
We would now be very pleased to give access to this site. Please contact me directly if you would be interested in looking and/or contributing to it.
Apart from that we are looking for institutions that are currently using, or planning to use, Social Network Analysis (SNA) and/or value mapping techniques in a public health context, this in view of guidelines that we would like to prepare for the end of this year.
Thanking you in advance for your answer I am wishing you all an Happy New Year 2007.
Steeve Ebener
Project Manager eHealth World Health Organization 20, AV. Appia 1211 Geneva 27 Phone: +41 22/ 791.47.44 Fax : +41 22/ 791.48.06 Knowledge Mapping: AccessMod: SALB: WHO WHS:

Examples & Stories

(add yours)

Who can tell me more?

  • Boru Douthwaite (bdouthwaite [at]
  • Sophie Alvarez (b.s.alvarez [at]
  • Katherine Tehelen (k.tehelen [at]
  • Eva Schiffer (e.schiffer [at]

Related Methods/Tools/Practices:

More Information/References/Related Resources:external image p1.jpg


Image sources

Network image and photograph of person at paper network map from Nancy White
Tipping Point from jrhode
Network visualizations from ReadWriteWeb

Page Author(s)