How Do You Map the Networks You’re Interested In? Do You Use Network Mapping Software?

Susan Jenkins, executive director of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation: I’ve studied social networking, and I know there’s a lot of technology out there. What you really need is to create an environment where people can come together and develop a relationship of trust and be honest and say, “This is what we need.” And, more important, to be able to say, “We’re willing, with a small amount of resources, to help solve this problem.”

Mary Kaplan, vice president of program at the Endowment for Health in Concord, New Hampshire: I make my own notes of what I hear. It’s very crude — most of the time it’s in pencil. Something like, “These are the topics, these are the towns,” and I’m putting hatch marks next to them. I tried to put it on an Excel spreadsheet, but it wasn’t worth spending the time trying to be so scientific. That wasn’t the issue. And I think our feeling is that the value of this is in not being scientific. Sometimes that’s the best strategy.

Roberto Cremonini, chief knowledge officer of the Barr Foundation: We use network mapping software, and it’s not that complicated; the difficulty lies in the data collection and in the interpretation. Interpreting network maps can be like reading tea leaves. You can get a very biased view of your network. For me the key challenge is not in the technology, but in gaining the level of expertise and sophistication required to understand the power and limitations of the technology.

Pat Brandes, senior advisor of the Barr Foundation: Social network analysis brings discipline to networking. We say, “We hire for networks,” or “We work with mavens.” Well, so did the Old Boys network. The discipline is in reaching outside your natural networks, in recognizing the importance of the peripheral for reasons of innovation, access, and equity. A map of your own network can help you know if you’re succeeding.

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Scanning the Landscape 2.0.