Since technical assistance programs often introduce new laws, systems, regulations, etc. in developing countries, these programs inevitably have to manage stakeholders affected by the program. It is often useful to identify power brokers, stakeholders who are central to the network of influencers and the connections among those affected by the program.
A social network is commonly defined as a social structure made of actors such as individuals, organizations, groups, etc. In terms of network theory, they are called "vertices" or "nodes." The vertices can be isolated in a network or connected to other vertexes through "edges" or connections between actors based on interdependencies such as friendship, professional affiliation, conflicting priorities, etc.
There are several commercial tools available to analyze the role and relationship of stakeholders as part of a social network and how actors may be positioned to influence the outcome of a project. NodeXL, a free Excel application and alternative to commercial software, is particularly useful if you need to map stakeholders of your program.
NodeXL is used to visualize and analyze networks and is being developed for a larger audience than those of the more complicated and sometimes obscure scientific social network packages. It has been developed by Microsoft Research and a group of universities. While many other social network programs are difficult to learn and provide poor visualization, NodeXL generates amazing graphs and works directly out of the box if you have Excel installed on your computer.
You can easily customize the graph’s appearance; zoom, scale and pan the graph; dynamically filter vertices and edges; alter the graph’s layout; find clusters of related vertices; and calculate a set of graph metrics.
Figure 1: Part of a network of companies holding ICRP and the LGSTA IQCs (USAID) using NodeXL
The figure shows a graph based on degrees (the more relationships, the larger the sphere in the network). Other indicators such as "in between closeness" are available.
Please click here for an overview of other spectacular graphs that NodeXL can produce.
A video introducing NodeXL
You can download the program here.
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