Saturday, March 27, 2010

Network Analysis & Visualization of Qualitative Data

An approach to measuring and mapping connections between concepts, opinions, formal and informal relationships and/or exchange of resources between individuals, groups or organizations is network analysis. Network analysis is a technique that allows you to both quantitatively (statistically) and qualitiatively (graphically) analyze connections or linkages between and within various units, whatever those are.

In 2003, I used network analysis for measuring and mapping inter-organizational coalition building for a Prevention Task Force (PTF) in an HIV/AIDS prevention project funded by USAID. One objective of the project was to promote advocacy and policy reform in the area of surveillance, services and prevention of STIs and HIV/AIDS. The project invited a broad, cross-sectional group of stakeholders who had previously been working on issues of STI/HIV/AIDS in the country to join the PTF, which included the government ministries, UN agencies, local NGOs, international PVO/NGOs, and various donors. Initially, the PTF was comprised 32 member organizations and agencies.

The objective of using network analysis was to measure and map the intial interactions of the young coalition of PTF members on 1) exchaning information, 2) sharing data, and 3) sharing technical assistance.

Using a questionnaire, PTF members were asked to report separately how often over the last year their organization had exchanged HIV/AIDs information, data or technical assistance with other PTF members.

Using "on a monthly basis" as the cut-off, the follwing graph shows the PTF coalition network on only "exchanging technical assistance," at the baseline in 2004 and at the end-line in 2007. I will present both the quantitative and qualitive findings. First, the quantitative findings.

Membership:   reduction from 32 to 22 members
Isolates:   reduction from 12 to 0 members
% of members receiving technical assistance:   increase from 53% to 96%
% of members giving technical assistance: increase from 41% to 68%
Main inter-organizational brokers: National AIDS Center and Save the Children in 2003 to National AIDS Center and a local NGO in 2007.

Second, the qualitative findings are the two network graphs of exchanging technical assistance within the PTF. The dots and colors represent the different organizations or government ministries who were members of the PTF.

Prevention Task Force (PTF) 2004

Prevention Task Force (PTF) 2007

In addition, the baseline mapping was used as a type of action research with the show who was or was not exchanging technical information and why. As you can readily see, many of the "isolate" organization in 2003 were not members in 2007.

So, network analysis is a powerful tool for measuring and illustrating all types of connections or relationships between various types of people, households, groups, organizations, districts, and nations as well as concepts!


  1. It could be useful to analyse the changes in the structure of the network between 2004 and 2007, as well as changes in the membership. For example, UNICEF and UNFPA seem less central in 2007. Does this resonate with other information about changes in their role?

    For more information about social network analysis, evaluation and qualitative information see these two web pages:

  2. Yes, you are correct; your analysis of the graph is impressive! And, I did investigate structural changes but didn't include them in this blog so as to keep it simple. In fact, based on the G&F brokerage metric, in 2004 UNICEF and UNFPA played central brokerage roles where as in 2007 they had dropped out replaced by a semi-gov't institution (Institute on Addiction) and UNDP. Overall, one of the main structural changes over this period of time was the main brokers in the PTF changing from international members (in 2004) to local gov't and local NGOs (in 2007), which was due to primarily funding shifts (Global Fund) and capacity-building.

  3. Can you let us know what software program you used for the network visualization?