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After Action Review of the Social Network Analysis (SNA) of the KM4Dev Network

What was expected to happen?

The SNA was part of KM4Dev’s navel gazing work. It was expected to provide a better understanding of our member base, such as where there is activity, where there isn’t as much activity, who is active, who isn’t active, and what is keeping people from participating to the fullest extent?

What actually happened?

The proposal to carry out an SNA had been part of the long gestation process for the IFAD grant. It was included in the final proposal to IFAD in 2011. Once the grant proposal was agreed, Natalie Campbell and Pete Cranston (core group members) put together a grant proposal to hire a consultant to complete a social network analysis of the KM4Dev network. The process of soliciting a consultant (put a call out to the community, accept proposals, choose the consultant) was completed quickly and efficiently. Natalie and Pete carved out a sufficient amount of time during the start-up of this project to move it along. Graham Durant-Law, an experienced and respected SNA consultant, was chosen. Graham produced several reports for the community, blogged about the process, and led a discussion for the core group to explain the final SNA report. Both the Dgroups listserv and the Ning network were made aware of the SNA through different discussion threads and cross-posting [1].

Natalie and Pete asked Graham to complete a second phase of the SNA project, interviewing members of the community to better understand the how and why behind the user activity unearthed by the SNA. However, Graham explained that that sort of analysis is not traditionally considered SNA. It is an extension of the SNA, which might be carried out by the community itself. The SNA work served to give KM4Dev a very concrete picture of the KM4Dev membership to date..a snapshot in time. The understanding of motivations and behavior beneath the various levels of participation is the analysis that has yet to be conducted.

What went well, and why?

Both Natalie and Pete agreed that working with each other went very well. They moved each other along and completed tasks, such as reviewing proposals, efficiently. Hiring Graham as the consultant was a great choice. He is self sufficient and experienced. His skills as a consultant helped Natalie and Pete understand the nuances of Social network analysis, what sorts of questions may be answered by this sort of analysis, and therefore, what types of questions Graham should focus on in his analysis. He assisted in keeping the process on track by working with Natalie and Pete closely in order to meet proposed deadlines and keep on budget.

Initial engagement of the core group, through the conference call with Graham, and ensuing discussion of the report’s contents also went well.

What did not go well, and why?

This project took a good deal of time, which Natalie and Pete found difficult to carve out of their own work schedules as the project continued along. Without a formal project manager (i.e., a paid member of the KM4Dev core to facilitate ongoing projects) to assist Natalie and Pete with the completion of the project, they believe that the true learning from the SNA is incomplete. For instance, the SNA “exposed” what they already knew. There are a few very active members of the network and very little “new blood” (i.e., members who have not taken an active role before) taking on larger roles. However, without the next step of forming a focus group of interviewing individual members to better understand why they participate in the way that they do (e.g., lurk, highly active), our deeper understanding of the drivers behind membership behavior and activity levels is incomplete.

Although the core group was initially active in working through the SNA results, very little has been done with the SNA since then. One reason might be the length of Graham’s reports, another is the lack of direct project management and oversight of the entire grant activities.

What can be improved, and how?/ What was the most important lesson you learned from this experience (personally and/or related to KM4Dev)?

This experience tested the volunteer core group model currently in place, and exposed its flaws. More time to talk, as a group (the KM4Dev core), about the process and results is needed. Natalie and Pete believe the only feasible way to do this is through a designated, and paid, role within the core who has the time and capacity to manage and lead all projects that are taking place within the community and facilitate the different learning processes needed to truly learn from the work being done within the community. They suggest a project manager type role, not necessarily full-time, that keep projects moving along and use core members as consultative guides on projects. In addition, the core group still needs to engage with the results of this project as a group--either face-to-face or through some online process. However, Natalie and Pete recognize that the core group does not currently have a sufficient online process to engage in the deep group work that this reflection demands.

Both Natalie and Pete learned a great deal about SNA through this process. They also learned about the limitations of SNA, understanding the how and why behind the what that the SNA exposed is a different type of analysis. Natalie and Pete would still like that analysis done (interviews of membership or a focus group), perhaps by a different consultant. They both believe that the core group needs some kind of paid resource to be sustainable.

Final SNA reports