Published by Angus on 28 May 2009 at 10:26 am
Looking at your membership as a network map can help you build a sense of community, improve collaboration, and generate ‘eye-candy’ for your donors. Here we share some network basics and a cheap do-it-yourself mapping tool.
Network Basics: The Key Elements of a Map
Source: The Monitor Institute
First let’s get some terminology out of the way. What you are looking at above is a visual representation of a community of about 300 members. Each dot, is a person– or in network terminology– a Node. A connection between people is called an Edge. What determines a connection is up to you. It could refer to a ‘friend’ in your social network, a colleague you turn for ideas or advice, or a mentoring relationship– basically whatever you consider important and can gather data about. A Hub is a person who has a lot of connections to other people who are not necessarily connected to each other. It’s easy to find these people because the pattern looks like a starburst. A Cluster is a clique of people who are all connected to each other but with relatively few connections to others outside of their group. The Core is the bunch of people at the center of your community – the ones who everyone knows and who do most of the work. The Periphery is the outer edge of your community – people who are watching, less connected to you and more connected to other communities. These people are important, in that they bring in outside perspective and help the community innovate.
Mapping Tool: Cheap and Do-it-Yourself
Please note: Since this post was written KeyHubs has changed its pricing structure and become a higher end full service solution.
At $99 for a month or $199 for three months, I would highly recommend KeyHubs for first time mappers with small-scale projects (i.e. under 100 community members). It combines both a simple to use survey tool to gather information with a built in mapping and analysis capability. Once you get your feet wet with your first couple of maps, you might want to consider more complex solutions which I discuss here.
1. The first step is to frame the problem – what are you trying to learn from your mapping?
2. Then collect the data using a survey.
3. Analyze the results and discuss them with your community.
4. Finally, take action based on your findings. A more detailed process can be found here.
Remember less is more. When you are starting your first map, ask only a few simple questions in your survey, and use a closed list of community members of less than 100 people. Incomplete maps are generally better because they spark discussion and help you develop your next mapping ideas.
A Couple of Examples: What you may find
Here are a couple of ways that maps can be used to strengthen your community. We have drawn examples from KeyHubs and elsewhere. Interestingly enough, just the creation of a network map tends to build a greater sense of community and shared purpose. When people ‘see’ a networked community they tend to believe in it more. Therefore, your objectives for creating the map does not have to be very grand.
You may identify silos, key bridges and between disparate isolated groups. So in the example to the left, you can clearly see two clusters of people who only interface at one point. This could be a chance to develop alternative ‘people’ channels for sharing key information and making your network more efficient – i.e. provide more ways for information to flow between the two clusters and more resilient and lessen the dependence on one key relationship so that if these people leave your two clusters they can still communicate with each other.
Following integration efforts between the two clusters, the community was surveyed again. The new Keyhubs map depicts the effectiveness of these efforts and visually highlights the increased cohesiveness of the community.
Often times you will find “influencers” or information sources in your community – in this case the person circled in red. These network hubs are conspicuous because of the number of other people connecting to them. If your software is like KeyHubs you can see whether these relationships (blue) are reciprocal or just one-way (grey).
For a more thorough posting on Network Mapping, you can go to our dedicated Network Mapping page.
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