Participatory social network mapping exercise based on NetMap method

Submitted by Sukaina Bharwani | published 25th Mar 2011 | last updated 4th Apr 2023

Social network mapping is a form of knowledge mapping which helps stakeholders and researchers to identify, visualise and discuss social relationships within any situation or project. In this article we present the steps to carry out this exercise based on using the NetMap methodology.

For this exercise the workshop participants should be split into groups according to the scale at which they work, the type of institution they belong to, the sector in which they work or the geographical area. A common thread is useful!

Step 1: Ask: 'Who are the most important actors in your field?' (whether you interact with them or not)

Write the names on post-it notes.

Step 1: Actors

Step 2: 

a.) Ask: 'Who is linked to whom?'

On a flipchart, place the organisations according to how they interact with each other and show the linkages/ interactions with arrows. The ones that interact a lot should be placed close to each other on the page, and the organisations with fewer interactions should be placed more distant from each other.

b.) Ask: 'What are the different links/flows between actors/institutions?'

Use different types or colours of lines for different types of interaction (eg. knowledge flow, financial flow, implementation support etc.)

Step 2: Locating actors

Step 2b: Relationships

Step 3: Ask: 'How influential are the actors in this field?'

Step 3: Influences

Step 4: Define goals for each actor and note these on each post-it. Allow for multiple goals where appropriate, by noting more than one goal next to the actor.

Step 4: Defining goals

Step 5: What does this tell you about network and the nodes you have identified in the network?

  • With whom do you have the strongest knowledge sharing connections (two way arrows and close links)?
  • With whom do you THINK you SHOULD have the strongest connections? If they are not the same as (a) what might you do to strengthen them?
  • Who is an important connector in your network? These would be people/organizations who have lots of connections with other nodes. They link others, who may not otherwise be linked.
  • Which have very few connections and what are the implications for your work?
  • What might you do to strengthen weak connections?
  • Are there places where you have too many connections? If you are the only current 'connector' who else might help play that role?
  • Are there influential actors you are not connected to?
  • Clusters: are there some actors where everyone is linked to everyone? Is this beneficial to your organization? Why? Why not?
  • How centralized is the network - how much is it organized around one central node?
  • How heterogeneous or homogeneous are the actors in the network? This is important both for innovation and stability. In what ways have you experienced this?

Step 5: Analysis

Further resources