How a Social Network Analysis (SNA) can help leadership development programs | Leadership Learning Community

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Over the past several months the Leadership Learning Community has had the opportunity to partner with the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York to conduct a Social Network Analysis of their Health Leadership Fellows Program graduate network. Since many leadership programs could benefit from an SNA, we wanted to share examples about how the HLFP will be able to use social network maps:

The SNA will compliment an evaluation by providing a visual representation of the ways in which relationships cultivated through the program are continuing as a source of peer learning, mutual support and collaborations that are seeking to produce better health outcomes. The SNA will provide the network with a better understanding of its strengths and opportunities for activating learning and action.

About the program: The goal of the Health Leadership Fellows (HLF) program is to expand a network of skilled leaders that will learn to lead collaboratively from both within and outside of their organizations and become advocates for improved health care delivery, particularly for the elderly and children from communities of poverty. The program graduated 99 Health Leadership Fellows in its first 3 cohorts, is currently operating its fourth cohort of 40 fellows and will soon launch a fifth cohort. Collaboration is a hallmark of the program and an SNA can be particularly effective at creating a picture of the extent of collaboration in a network.

About a Social Network Analysis: A Social Network Analysis is a way of visually representing and measuring social relationships within a network. According to June Holley in her book The Network Weaver Handbook, “Networks are sets of relationships and the patterns they create. These patterns influence the quality of communication and the likelihood of collaboration and innovation. Maps reveal the relationship patterns and their consequences.”

How we went about the project: LLC contracted with Ken Vance Borland, Executive Director of the Conservation Planning Institute because of his experience with SNA software and mapping. He also understands the ‘so what’ of producing maps which is to help people in the network learn how to use the information provided in the maps to make their network stronger. Together we developed a survey that went out to the first four cohorts. An advisory group of Health Leadership Fellows tested the survey, gave us feedback on the questions and helped mobilize other fellows from their cohort to complete the survey.

The fellows taking the survey were provided the names of everyone taking the survey and asked to check names of other fellows with whom they had developed a new relationship, shared resources and information and collaborated with on health related projects. In addition, survey respondents were asked a number of demographic questions about where they worked, their cohort, the issues they focused on in their work, and their professions. These questions made it possible not only to produce maps of who was collaborating but to also see how people were connected across their regions or their cohorts. To get good and reliable data from an SNA it’s important to have at least a 75% participation rate. The Health Leadership Fellows program has a very impressive 89% response rate.