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Network Mapping

Drew Mackie & David Wilcox

The Internet provides the potential for extending and enhancing our personal and professional networks - offering scope for reducing social isolation, building community relationships, and supporting cooperation between and within organisations.

However, to realise the potential of networks we need to understand more about their nature, how to analyse, map and build them - whether online or not.

Drew Mackie - a networks specialist - has drafted this guide with David Wilcox. We are exploring Living Well in the Digital Age with the Digital Inclusion Group of Age Action Alliance.

Sections also available separately:


Section 1 - The Network Perspective

What are networks - and why are they increasingly important?

We are all familiar with networks. They are evident in the pattern of roads on a map; the power lines connecting the sockets in our homes to the national grid; the patterns of who knows who in any community. And we may realise that networks are becoming more important because the Internet allows almost anyone or anything to be connected. From all these examples it is clear that some places and people are better connected than others, and that networks are links and hotspots of various types.

If you are in a rich network it is fairly easy to connect with apparently distant people through a few links. You make use of relationships if you are well-connected - “who you know matters as much as what you know” because you can always find someone to ask or to help. You can build on the relationships, become more widely trusted, make things happen more easily.

But…if Facebook, Google and other Internet giants can encourage you to make more connections and share your content, they will know your interests and target you with adverts in exchange for free use of their networks. If security services can see where your connections are they may not need to know what you are saying - they can see whether your associations look threatening just by looking at your networks.

Online networks change the way business is done. They enable connections within organisations between workers that can bypass management, wherever they are in the world; they can enable people to set up businesses even though they never meet; and they enable businesses to cut out middle-level suppliers, as Amazon has done to a lot of retailers. In this set of notes we’ll provide some guidance on how to:

  • Understand networks in more detail
  • Describe these networks through mapping
  • Use network mapping to show how to make more of our assets, particularly in local communities
  • Recognise different types of network enthusiasts
  • See where influence may lie in networks - and why some people are resistant to developing networks
  • Use software for network mapping and analysis

The networks that you will find illustrated in this document have been prepared in the course of Drew Mackie Associates projects over the last 8 years. These projects cover:

  • Regeneration
  • Consultation and Engagement
  • Public, private and community community organisations
  • Linked ideas and projects
  • Physical planning

The principle of network analysis is really very simple. If you can identify a number of things and how they connect together, then you have a network. The things themselves are represented by blobs known as nodes. The links that connect them are shown by lines. Computer analysis can show how central nodes are to the operation of the network.

In the first part of this document, we discuss general network ideas. The second part shows a number of examples taken from our work over the last 8 years and covers network of people, places and ideas.

Networkistas - four strands of network interest

The sheet below shows the sort of people who have an interest in networks. This was prepared for the informal “Networkista” group with members from all over the UK. Meetings have been held in Manchester and London to discuss the value of the network approach.


Why Analyse Networks?

Drawing a network may help to understand the the various patterns of relationship but as the size of network increases it becomes more difficult to see these patterns and some more subtle dimensions come into play. For instance the node with the most connections may not be the most central to the network. It may be the centre of an intense sub-network which is on the periphery of the network as a whole. On the other hand a node with few connections may be the crucial bridge between parts of the network. Social Network Analysis (SNA) is a computer based method of measuring various forms of centrality (see Section 2 for a more detailed exploration of SNA)

People that might find this analysis useful are:

The Campaigner:

  • Indicates who may be best to influence or gain support from
  • Shows the range of contacts that you should ensure have been talked to to gain maximum exposure
  • Traces the flows of influence through the network

The Organiser:

  • Shows patterns of interest and activity
  • Indicates the distribution and type of assets
  • Plots the flows between asset holders
  • Explores shared stories
  • Shows what clusters of organisations work best together and who should be brought together for the project or programme

The Evaluator:

  • Plots changes in Social Capital (network density) over the life of a programme
  • Records improvements in communication and asset sharing
  • Indicates the role of programme organisers in facilitating change

The Provider:

  • Shows the distribution of available skills and resources
  • Gives an indication of delivery efficiency
  • Indicates the willingness to share assets and information across organisations

Possible blocks to using SNA

Social Network Analysis is good tool for telling us where the key parts of a network are and how they might exert influence. In recent work, we have been comparing the position of an organisation or department with the assets it controls. This can often show up a mismatch where:

  • The department or organisation is very central to the network but has few skills and resources. This means that, although it has the potential to influence the network and/or control flows of information, it does not have the resources to exercise such control effectively.
  • The department or organisation is peripheral to the network but is well stocked with skills and resources. Thus it has the means to act effectively but doesn't command the position to do so.

We are constantly amazed at how often these anomalies occur. In one case, the body responsible for the implementation of a major regeneration project was recognised as being skilled, but had virtually no resources. In another, a well resourced department with highly skilled staff was carrying out mundane duties at the edge of the network.

So the point is that network analysis can identify these mismatches and suggest ways in which they can be resolved. And this could be really useful in gauging the present and potential effectiveness of a network. So why is it often difficult to persuade prospective clients to undertake this sort of analysis? The sequence often unfolds like this:

We are approached by a middle manager who feels that SNA could benefit their complex organisation - or we are already working on a job where SNA appears to be useful.

>After discussion we are asked to put a proposition to senior management. This contains examples of networks whose performance is impeded by under-resourced but central departments.

>Senior management don't like it at all. And who can blame them. The analysis will likely show that they don't have the influence they want (or think they have) or the resources they need. It's a threat.

>Because the process is risky, even a committed client can be wary of the work and can be sceptical that the simple one page questionnaire that we use can really suffice. This has been especially problematic in work with health organisations whose culture is evidence based. Although there are sections of the NHS's "Evidence" website devoted to SNA, the method is not well known in_ _health circles. Advocates of SNA's structural rather than numerical approach can be vulnerable to criticism from colleagues and have to feel confident in justifying the method and it's routines. This can lead to over complication in data acquisition so that the method doesn't appear simplistic.

We were recently asked to map the network of attendees at a national conference. The organisers were enthusiastic. However, senior staff realised that we were about to explore and encourage network links between participants when their own website was incapable of facilitating these. The invitation was withdrawn.

Often a network analysis will indicate that the real structure of an organisation or group of organisations is nothing like the ideal structure perceived by senior management. Cross connections between departments and informal links between individuals create a complex pattern of relationships which are essential to the way the network works. These grow and reconfigure constantly as the activities of the network change and any analysis is a snapshot of the state of the network at any one time.

But senior managers want stability and clarity. Often they will see the mapping of the real structure as a threat because it may indicate:

  • They are not in the strongest position to control the network
  • Lines of communication bypass them
  • Skills and resources are not effectively deployed

Now each of the above would be useful knowledge to a creative manager. A knowledge of SNA would be another tool in the managers box. Yet often they feel that it will invite criticism of their role or capabilities. When we are asked to map a network it is often because the members realise that there is something wrong with the present structure. When we explain what the analysis will do it often touches on the sensitivities of key individuals and often they are not prepared to face this. Almost all the network mapping we have done has been part of a larger task where we have chosen to use this method.

Another factor is that very few senior managers know about SNA. This is not a tool that they have faith in. Indeed this is not a tool in general use in the UK although widely used in the US and Australia.

Mapping Assets in Networks

As an organization, whether public, private or community, knowledge of what assets you control is vital to planning your future. These assets can be financial, physical, organisational or knowledge based. Knowing what you have let's you think better about what you want to do.

It is becoming clear that the predominantly needs based approach to neighbourhood development has a number of unfortunate consequences:

Areas are seen as “problems” to be solved and this perception percolates down to the people on the ground, both community and professional. Money is targeted at solving problems and supporting problem based organisations. The result is fragmented and partial support for the area and the sidelining of natural community strengths and resources.

The solution to local problems is increasingly seen as external to the community - and this leads to all sorts of complaints about public bodies: “when are they going to do something.” and “why should we do it when they're paid to?” The possibility of locally generated action is increasingly linked to external resources - staffing, funding etc - and the lack of these becomes a justification for inaction.

The proliferation of bodies that are tasked to address local needs becomes a problem in itself. Local people often don't know who is responsible for what. Worse, these bodies are often in competition for funds and resist the collaboration that would maximise the use of scarce resources.

Thus, community effort at local level is often fragmented and this is reinforced by the sporadic and partial availability of external resources.

Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) builds on existing assets. These can be tangible (buildings, equipment etc.) or non-tangible (passion, skill, willingness to share). Local networks are crucial to this approach and can be seen as indicators of social capital.

All communities and organisations have assets. Assets can be a number of things:

  • Skills
  • Funding (both revenue and capital)
  • Premises
  • Equipment
  • Staffing
  • Knowledge
  • Experience
  • Networks

Identifying these is a useful start. But a mere list is not enough. We need to know who controls them, where they’re located, how they relate to each other and how stable they are. Creating an Asset Map is a useful way of bringing this information together.

An asset map can be of two types:

  • Geographic: the location of assets is depicted on Google Maps or a printed map of the area. This is good for showing capital assets - buildings and land - but less good at showing asset ownership, skills and the more intangible assets like community networks.
  • Organisational: mapping the network of organisations and individuals allows us to see how the assets are distributed and controlled. Comparing the ownership of assets with their centrality in the network can show if they are deployed in the most effective way. Software can be used to plot the networks that connect community groups and organisations and that link them to local and national agencies. This can then assist planning the delivery of programmes and projects.

SNA is a good way of exploring the links between people, organisation's or ideas and identifying the most influential elements in the resulting network. Specialist software is used to plot the network map and to measure how central its various nodes are. This can be very useful in locating “hubs” (nodes which are central to the network as a whole) and “gateways” (nodes which act as the entry points to subnetworks). Clusters of nodes which hang together naturally can also be shown.

This is not just an academic approach. Business organisations use SNA to help structure their operations. The police and security services use it to track patterns of crime and potential terrorist threat. The military use it to create and improve flexible command structures in complex and fast moving battlefields. The best funded institution studying the uses of SNA is the Centre for Network Science at the US Military College in West Point. So network analysis is serious stuff.

While network analysis can be incredibly useful in plotting relationships and identifying patterns it is not inherently good at storing information about the nodes and links which form a network. This is partly because of the design of the software commonly used and the interests of researchers. Most SNA is carried out using UCINET, (an academic research tool that carries out the analysis) and NETDRAW which creates a visual representation of the network. Neither of these tools is capable of containing information about the nodes or links beyond their role in the network. The same is true of the foremost commercial applications such as Valdis Krebs' InFlow and Karen Stephenson's  NetForm.

A problem is that the first “Wow” reaction to the visualisation of a complex network is soon followed by a “So What”. In our experience, networks only come alive when we can compare centrality measures with the assets held by particular nodes or links. When a node organisation is very central but has few skills and resources, that creates a real problem for the network as a whole, posing questions around whether to strengthen the node's resources, limit it's responsibility or bypass it altogether.

Recent software development allows the attachment of attributes and information to nodes and links, thus creating a “network database”.

Networks and Ageing

Networks are a way of looking at things. They are a useful perspective for understanding and influencing how organisations and individuals interact. The process of ageing can be viewed in terms of changing network patterns as we move through life. The growth or loss of connections depends on many factors - health, employment, mobility, education, recreation, procreation and so on. Connections are formed and broken as we age and the patterns at different life stages influence our opportunities.

The diagrams that follow indicate the process. Of course, a real individual will display different patterns based on family circumstance, local context, economic status and culture. Real life’s patterns will be more complex and varied. The patterns shown indicate the principle.

early school networks

Figure 1 above shows the networks that might surround a child of pre-school age - parents, various relatives, friends at a nursery and various health professionals. In Figure 2, the child is going to primary school and is developing friends and interests there. The number of immediate connections and further network connections is expanding.

secondary school network

Figures 3 and 4 show the expansion of contacts and links as the the subject moves to secondary school and then into early adulthood. Some of the original contacts and links disappear through death (grandparents), become weaker as people move away (Aunts Uncles / Cousins) but generally the pattern changes through the relationship with a partner and the birth of children. Work becomes a focus of interest and friendship

middle age network

In Figure 5 some connections disappear through death or the drifting away that happens in any family. However, grandchildren appear and new relationships are forged with the family of a partner. Interests will change as some of the early enthusiasms for active sport that requires fitness (running, football?) become difficult to maintain and more leisurely pursuits emerge (yoga, walking?).

In Figure 6, many of the earlier relationships have disappeared and those that remain become weakened (dotted lines). The collapse of one relationship - going to a club, say because of lack of mobility - leads to weakening relationships with friends which in turn can affect interactions with other interests. at this stage in life, forming new friendships and interests becomes more difficult anyway (deafness?) and the tendency may be to replace these with passive interests (TV?).

OK the story outlined above is simplistic. Real families will be much more complex and dramatic, coloured by argument, sudden opportunity and many crises that occur over a lifespan. As the traditional family unit becomes less common, the complexities of post-divorce and changing partnerships emerge (see the work of Eric Widmer on this. In the examples above I’ve not included the relationship with the health and care sectors that colour many older people’s lives or with social services and the financial support that many families and individuals will depend on. The illustrations are meant to demonstrate a principle - that networks determine a large part of our lives.

OK, so this is a way of looking at the ageing process. What practical use is it?

  • it suggests that we look at the social context of a person to seek out strengths and weaknesses.
  • as people reach later life we should be trying to prepare for that by the introduction of new activities and connections in middle age to forestall the later collapse of links
  • we should concentrating on the network of links beyond those immediate to the older person. These have a role in supporting friendships and activities
  • the use of personal tech - tablets, smartphones etc. - can keep the wider network in touch and facilitate more face to face activity

We need to talk about Kevin

This note is relevant to some of the network maps you will se in the Examples section where we are modelling street patterns. In 1959 Kevin Lynch wrote “The Image of the City”. It was one of the most influential books in the newly emerging discipline of Urban Design. It described a study of the Back Bay area of Boston based on the perceptions of the people who lived there. From this study, Lynch developed a system of analysis of urban areas based on the five elements that constantly recurred in the descriptions people gave of the area. These are:

  • Nodes
  • Pathways
  • Edges
  • Districts
  • Landmarks

Nodes are the connections in the street pattern. Pathways are both vehicular and pedestrian. Together these form the physical network that holds a place together.

Edges are the discontinuities in that network often caused by major transit routes or by topographical features - rivers, sudden changes in level, etc. Districts are the areas defined by these discontinuities or by clustering effects in the Node/Pathway network.

Landmarks are the significant features - buildings, monuments, landscape items - that people cite as way finders and may mark places to meet.

Lynch's work has fallen out of fashion. This is partly because it is not an architecturally oriented language and, at least in the UK, architects have claimed ownership of the Urban Design territory. However the emerging popularity of a network perspective in many fields makes his analysis seem very up to date. We have recently been applying network analysis techniques to examine the structure of urban areas and the results consistently confirm the Lynch model. Here's how:

  • Using specialised network software, we can draw the map of pathways and nodes very easily. This doesn't require interpretation. It can be drawn from any ordinance survey map. The network can then be analysed using the principle of centrality which scores the value of nodes in terms of how often they are passed through as a proportion of all pathways in the network. OK that sounds abstract, but when you compare the centrality results with a townscape assessment of the same place the results are amazingly consistent.
  • The software will identify clusters of nodes that hang together. This is not just a measure of how near they are to each other but of how they work as sub-networks. One measure of centrality will identify gateways into these clusters. Again, when these clusters are compared to the townscape assessment, they map onto areas that can be identified because of their character or use. These are Lynch's districts.
  • Where there are significant discontinuities in the network - where some of the clusters are not well connected into adjacent parts of the network - this will show up in the network analysis. Often this occurs because of physical barrier - a river, a rail line or a sharp change in level. This models the edges in Lynch's analysis.
  • The last of Lynch's categories concerns landmarks. This is the least structural of the categories and refers to significant buildings, topographical or landscape features. However, the software consistently identifies nodes that contain significant landmarks.

Now I would be the first to admit that this list doesn't include the activities that make a city. Rather it refers to the framework within which these activities take place and some of us believe that the location and intensity of these activities is influenced by the network of streets, junction nodes, edges and districts.

We have mapped a range of towns and city centres and observed that:

  • Nodes which score high in centrality (particularly betweenness centrality) also tend to be visually significant points - as if their importance in the structure of pathways has led to the location of significant development. Landmarks such as significant buildings and monuments tend to be located on these nodes.
  • A cluster analysis reveals areas which generally correspond to recognised districts.
  • Discontinuities in the network map reflect edges that have a strong influence on the centrality of nodes and formation of clusters.

The illustration below is from the study of Boston used in “the Image of the City”. It shows the distribution of pathways, edges, nodes, districts and landmarks in the Back Bay area of the city as derived from the sketch maps of interviewees.

boston network

Section 2 - Network Analysis

It has become fashionable to talk of networks of organisations, people, computers, transport and so on. In organisations there is talk of being more “networky” and getting away from the older more hierarchical ways of doing things. Conferences are organised around “networking” both formal and informal.

Yet, the more that you listen to this network talk the more you realise that people mean very different things by the term “network”. The purpose of this paper is to explore what network thinking means and how networks can be mapped and analysed.

Why is this important and useful? The structure of a network will affect how influence and information is distributed. Certain members will be potentially more influential because of their position in the network. Mapping the network can give guidance on the easiest ways to distribute information, the links that should be there to improve the network, how to avoid bottlenecking and so on. Such network maps are used by commercial and government organisations to plot situations as divers as:

  • Structures of trust, advice and communication within an organisation or group of organisations
  • Planning the development of network
  • Improving the functioning of project teams
  • Mapping communities of interest or expertise
  • Identifying centres of expertise
  • Indicating key organisations and links to encourage community cohesion

What is a network?

The first thing to be said is that a network is not a list. The term implies a set of connections between its members. These connections may consist of flows of information, power, money and so on, but the implication is that an influence of some sort is passing from one to the other.

Networks can be dense or sparse - meaning that the number of connections is great or small. The total number of possible connections in any a group of members of size n is given by the formula:

n x (n - 1) / 2

Thus, a network of 10 members has a total of 45 possible connections. The density of a network can be measured by comparing the number of actual links with number of possible links and expressing this as a percentage. However this measure should be used with care. The number of possible links increases dramatically with the number of nodes. In any real world network there will be a natural limit on the number of connections that any node may be able handle. Thus large networks will show much lower densities than small so of different size can’t be compared used such a density measure. A better gauge of density is the average number of connections per node as this can be applied across all scales.

For all the members to be connected into a network structure the number of links must be at least n - 1. Research shows that the best connected organisations are arranged so that any member can connect to another within three steps.

Measuring Centrality

A key concept in the analysis of networks is centrality which holds that nodes in a network will have influence because of their position. There are several types of centrality. The following examples show the “kite” diagram developed by Professor David Krackhardt of Carnegie Mellon University to illustrate some of the basic properties of networks. Ten people make up the network and they are related in ways shown by the linking lines. Darker shading indicates how members score under various network measures.

Figure 1 - Degree Centrality is a measure of how many connections members have. In the diagram below, Diane has six connections. Fernando and Garth have 4. Carol, Andre, Beverly, Ed and Heather have 3. Ike has 2 and Jane has 1. Diane has the top degree centrality score.


Figure 2 - Closeness Centrality refers to the way that influence is spread through the network. In the diagram below, Fernando and Garth share the top score. Both Heather and Diane are next most influential followed by Andre and Beverly, then Carol and Ed with Ike and then Jane who is the least influential. It indicates their potential for influence because of their position in the network.


Figure 3 - Betweenness Centrality refers to the way that some nodes will control the access to parts of the network. Thus, in the diagram below, Heather is the only access to Ike and Jane. Such nodes are “gatekeepers” and can either restrict or facilitate the way that influence spreads to a cluster of nodes.


Figure 4 - Clusters of nodes can be identified in a network. A cluster is identified where the nodes connect more to each other than they do to the rest of the network. Thus, Ike, Jane and Heather form a cluster, to which Heather is the gatekeeper.


So, understanding the way that various nodes control the spread of information and influence in a network can be very useful in deciding where to exert pressure for change, how best to introduce ideas or information and how the network structure might be improved.


Many of the examples of social network analysis show vast maps with several thousand nodes and huge numbers of connections. Often, these will have been prepared using data mining techniques - the automatic recording of connections through email records or online social networks. These are compiled into matrices and the data set fed into the SNA software. The results are often hard to interpret.

When this approach is applied to the study of communities who use a mix of different connections with others - online, offline conversations, meetings, publications, letters and so on - the collection of data can be quite difficult. Commonly it will be based on interviews, surveys, workshops and other methods that will take time and staff commitment to organise and facilitate. So if you are studying a community with 3,000 members you will need to access these individually and in managed groups. This can be colossal task and recent UK examples have gained the method a reputation for being difficult to apply in real communities.

There is another approach that uses the characteristics of local networks to assist in the initial gathering of information. We must ask ourselves the question: “what do we want to use the analysis for?”. If it's to thoroughly understand the intricacies of local social networks, then we probably have to follow the route described above. If, on the other hand, we want to identify which individuals and organisations are potentially most central to the workings of community networks, there is a simpler method.

The SNA practitioner will usually be asked by a particular agency or group to carry out an analysis. This client will have their own set of contacts in the community as a starting point. Through interviews, questionnaires etc, this group will be asked to cite those they have most contact with in terms of the focus of the study - working relationships, information spread, political influence and so on.

The map and centrality analysis produced by this will certainly have been skewed in favour of the client's own network of contacts. Unsurprisingly, the client will turn out to be the most central node in the network. However the map will also show the contacts cited by those interviewed and connections between interviewees. A number of these will be linked with nodes other than the client list and score highly in terms of centrality. These become the targets for a second round of interviews or questionnaires concentrating on the nodes that were cited by contacts but not interviewed in the first wave. A large community may need several rounds of this process. Eventually the high centrality scores will emerge clearly without having to engage the whole community in the survey. This approach is sometimes known as “snowballing” in SNA literature.


The diagram illustrated above shows a network revealed in a two stage survey:

  • The client (black node) gives the investigator a list of contacts (orange nodes) who are then interviewed or provided with a simple questionnaire asking who they are most in contact with relative to the subject of study.
  • The results of this first survey are plotted and shown by the blue nodes and by links to other orange nodes.
  • A centrality analysis is carried out to determine the key blue nodes who are then selected for survey revealing connections to red nodes

This process removes the skewing of the survey by the initial client contact selection and quickly focusses on the most central nodes without having to survey the whole community. Effectively it is using a networking approach to carry out the network survey. Complex and extensive networks may need several iterations of this method.


The study of networks has increased in popularity over the last few years. Until recently most of the examples of network analysis came from the US and Australia, but this is changing. A recent study of community networks in New Cross by the Royal Society of Arts gained a lot of interest as did a paper for the same organisation by Paul Ormerod stressing the understanding of network effects in economics. In the field of Public Health, the publication of “Connected” by Christakis and Fowler has raised interest in the network effects in alcoholism, smoking, sexually transmitted diseases and obesity.

The software used to study such phenomena and measure the centrality of network nodes has generally been derived from academic models in the US. UCINET, PAJEK, GEPHI and AGNA are popular in the academic community. Commercially, Valdis Krebs’ INFLOW and Karen Stephenson’s NETFORM are protected and can only be used under licence. Generally these programs are PC based and read their data from spreadsheet input. However, we find that the act of drawing makes them come alive in a way that spreadsheet input does not.

Most of the examples that you will find at the end of this document are created in yEd, a Java based programme that is used to create diagrams by drawing. For the last year, we have been using a web based application called Kumu which allows the storage of information directly in drawn nodes and links and lets you use that information to:

  • Structure the diagram - size of nodes, thickness of links etc
  • Carry out complex searches to highlight and cluster nodes

Of course the drawing input of data is appropriate to a certain size of network. Up to around 20 nodes, you can pretty well sketch the diagram on a bit of paper and gauge the centrality of nodes by hand - although in a really connected network this can become more difficult. The number of possible links in a network is n(n-1)/2, so 20 nodes have a possible 190 links.

The number of possible links rises steeply as the number of nodes increases as shown below:

  • 20 - 190
  • 50 - 1,225
  • 100 - 4,950
  • 200 - 19,900
  • 1000 - 499,500
  • 3000 - 4,498,500

Up to around 200 nodes, drawn input is OK. beyond that it becomes more difficult.

However this 200 node upper limit suits most organisational situations. It may not work for the mapping of sizeable communities (the recent mapping of the New Cross community in London contained around 3,000 nodes). Most of the work that we have done with local organisations yields less than 200 nodes.

Network mapping questionnaire

The sheet above shows a simple questionnaire for eliciting information from an individual about:

  • What organisations / individuals they work most with or refer to for advice
  • The characteristics of the cited organisations (including their own)
  • The degree to which organisations share Skills and Resources

This allows us to build a network map, carry out a Social Network Analysis to identify the most central individuals / organisations and to compare assets held with their position in the network.

mapping sheet

Recently, we have been using online services to collect network information and to link that with audits of assets held by the various individuals and organisations. Using the right web based system can allow material to be collected in the field by tablet or smart phone. The information is returned online to a central database that we can use to construct a network map.

Section 3 - Examples

The following pages show snapshots of network mapping we have carried out over the last 8 years.

1 Berwick-upon-Tweed regeneration

2 Mapping Delivery in Consultation and Engagement

3 Belfast Community Tourism

4 Big Society Network

5 TSRC report appendix

6 The Children's EcoCity in Dunfermline

7 Our Society Ideas

8 Media4Me

9 Central Edinburgh street network

10 Borders settlement network

11 Stranraer networks

12 Irish Craft Networks

13 Asset Mapping in Croydon

1 Berwick-upon-Tweed regeneration

Drew Mackie worked as part of a Kevin Murray Associates team to look at the way that a regeneration partnership was working in the historic town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The results were used to suggest ways of strengthening the partnership and ensuring the most effective use of the assets it could control and / or influence.

The network map below shows the links between organisations and groups as cited in questionnaire. The highlighted nodes are those with greatest potential to influence the network because of their position.

berwick map

Having established how central various nodes were, we asked those involved to indicate what skills and resources they and the people / organisations they cited had. This allowed us to compare network position with assets held. The results showed that some organisations with few skills and resources held very central positions thus adversely affecting the network.

2 Mapping Delivery in Consultation and Engagement

This analysis was prepared for Belfast City Council some years ago to assess the network of departments and others involved in consultation and engagement. The analysis compared position in the network with perceived performance (assessed by themselves and by the other departments or grouped with which they worked) in terms of 5 types of Skills and Resources:

  • Management
  • Technical
  • Financial
  • Political
  • Community

The network map shown below shows the relationships and sizes nodes according to betweenness centrality.

betweenness centrality

3 Belfast Community Tourism

This map was prepared as part of a study of community tourism in Belfast conducted by TTC International. A series of workshops throughout the city collected comments from local people, politicians and professionals on what organisations might be able to deliver a community tourism strategy.


4 Big Society Network

A conference was held by the Big Society Network in 2010. This consisted of a very ad hoc group of people gathered at the last minute by Twitter to catch the momentum of the incoming Coalition Government's Big Society agenda.

Around two thirds of participants (some refused to participate on principle and others just didn't return the survey sheets) completed a one question questionnaire asking - “Who do you work with most?”

The results were used to create the map below which showed that the organisations that might be expected to benefit from the government's Big Society policies were:

  • Fragmented Into a number of unconnected small projects based on locality or interest together with a larger network of groups based on central bodies.
  • Very dependent on the assets and services provided by local authorities which were under pressure to cut budgets.

A more complete survey might have given more detail but these broad conclusions have been borne out by subsequent events.

big society network event

5 TSRC report appendix

The network map below was derived from the Third Sector Research Centre's “Beyond the Radar” conference in London in 2011. In response to the question “who do you work with most ?”, respondents listed organisations and gave their estimate of the skills and resources held by these bodies. From this we constructed the network map below.

beyond the radar conference

The map below shows the clusters of organisations that work together.

beyond the radar clusters

6 The Children's EcoCity in Dunfermline

This project is the latest in line of EcoCities stretching back 15 years. An EcoCity is an extended design exercise conducted with 40 primary school children aged around 11 in which they create a large model of their ideal ecologically friendly city. In Dunfermline, six schools participated and the EcoCity was part of a wider consultation on the future of the town. The pictures in the PDF below show the model.

ecocity model

Following the building of the model, a workshop was held with a broad range of stakeholders in the town - retailers, tourist operators, local community groups, local officials etc. We asked each attendee to list the organisations and groups they worked most with and used the result to generate the map below. This is now being used to lobby the most influential nodes to take forward the ideas from the EcoCity and from other engagement exercises.

dunfermline network

7 Our Society Ideas

The network map shown below is derived taken from a blog piece by David Wilcox. This was the culmination of an exercise in crowd sourcing ideas, voting on the most popular and then creating a network of connections.

We developed a graphical display of how the ideas can be clustered (slightly arbitrary, because we drew the lines connecting the ideas, and the software followed through). In the map, a cluster analysis shows 4 clear sets of ideas, each with a strong central node.

  • Local Our Society…..the ways that a range of activity could come together in an area
  • Innovative methods for thinking about the future and doing better with fewer resources
  • Developing networks, gathering resources, telling stories and helping people develop their skills
  • Giving citizens more control over local services

The clusters and most central nodes do not reflect the votes cast - but that's another issue.

Our Society ideas

8 Media4Me

Media4Me is a six nation EU project exploring how both online and offline media can benefit communities. The UK location for this is Fishermead in Milton Keynes and the project is managed by the National Association for Neighbourhood Management. We have been using a specially tailored version of our social media game to facilitate local workshops attended by community groups and agencies. The game results in a series of stories about how local individuals might benefit from particular social media strategies.

As part of this work, we used a number of community events to create a map of the community and agency networks in the area. In an open, day-long event, residents and agency representatives were asked to draw their network connections in response to the question: “ who do you connect with most”. As the results came in, the map was expanded in real time on a large screen so that participants could see it develop. Although such maps can look complex to outsiders, they are generally readily understood by the people that drew them.

Fishermead map

Following this we associated useful information (contact details, websites, blogs etc) with the nodes on the network. This allowed the map to be used as a source of community information while keeping the network patterns up front.

Local community groups are now able to consider using this map and learning how to continuously update it as a guide to how local agencies work, how community groups relate to each other and who the key players are.

Quote from client:

“Drew's mapping of social connections in Fishermead added a great deal of value, principally by revealing, graphically, to the most civically active members of the community, the extent of social capital which already exists, but which too often was under-estimated. This in turn changed attitudes, and created new energy.“

Ben Lee, Director, National Association for Neighbourhood Management and senior staff at Shared Intelligence.

9 Central Edinburgh street network

The maps here show a first attempt to apply Social Network Analysis to physical urban networks. They show the street network of central Edinburgh. The idea was to see if the most central nodes also had urban design significance. As a resident of the city, I believe that it does. The most central nodes in terms of network analysis are also places of urban design importance - places which have their own name (The Bottom of the Mound, Top o' the Walk, Frasers Corner etc.)

edinburgh map

The map below uses the “natural clusters ” setting on YeD to group nodes. Again the clusters reflect recognisable areas of the city.

new york

10 Borders settlement network

The map below was prepared to examine the centrality of road connections (nodes) on both sides of the Scots/English border. No survey work required here - just translated the road map into a YeD network.

The results showed that:

  • No junction that scores highly in centrality doesn't have a settlement on it.
  • Berwick-upon-Tweed, the subject of the original mapping exercise, is not as central as we thought it would be

borders network

11 Stranraer networks

Street Network Analysis

This is a map showing the network of streets in Stranraer. It was prepared as part of a study of the regeneration of the waterfront area in the wake of the move of the Stena SeaLink Northern Ireland Ferry to a new site further up the coast. The map was prepared to show the key junctions in the movement system and to compare these with significant townscape elements. The maps were drawn with network software which also analysed the centrality of nodes.

stranraer streets

A  version of the Stranraer network map showing the “natural clusters” defined by the software is shown below. This was compared to a townscape analysis. The correlation with character areas was strong.

stranraer clusters

Organisational Mapping

The assessment below was produced as part of the consultations associated with the Masterplanning of Stranraer Waterfront in 2009. At a Stakeholders Workshop, participants were asked to complete a short questionnaire indicating:

  • Which other organisations they worked most with in matters relating to Stranraer Waterfront
  • Their perceptions of the Skills and Resources held by their own organisation and others cited.

The first question allows us to draw a “map” of the relevant organisations. This is shown below. The nodes represent organisations and the links represent the working relationships specified in the questionnaire. The map shows the potential centrality of various departments and groups to the network of organisations.

Why does this matter? The position of an organisation within the network will help to determine the degree of influence that it has and how well it is placed to distribute information to the other organisations. This property (known as “centrality”) can be measured. In the map below, those organisations with the greatest centrality are shown in a darker colour. Thus “D&G Council” is the highest scorer not just because it has many links, but because of its position.

stranraer organisations

  • The top scorers, in terms of centrality, are:
  • D&G Council (overall)
  • D&G Economic Development
  • D&G Leisure & Sport
  • Stranraer & District Chamber of Commerce
  • Visit Scotland

12 Irish Craft Networks

This project was commissioned by the Crafts Council of Ireland together with the 5 LEADER partnerships for Ballyhoura, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, West Cork and Wexford. We were asked to identify the crafts culture of these areas through:

  • A survey of the literature on craft culture in Ireland and elsewhere
  • The geographic mapping of the location of craft enterprises
  • The network mapping and analysis of:
  • Craft enterprises, suppliers, retailers, groups and development agencies
  • The road network of the study area

Organisational Mapping

Through an online questionnaire and a series of workshops held in the study areas, we identified the working links between the various participants in answer to the question: “who do you work most with?” This resulted in a network of 250 nodes and around 800 connections. The basic network is shown in Figure 1 below.

craft organisations

While the clustering of nodes is determined entirely by the network of connections, the node colour indicates the geographic location of an enterprise or organisation. There is a striking degree of correlation between the network clusters and geographic location. The cluster at the bottom of the diagram, for instance, is composed almost entirely of craft enterprises, suppliers, retailers and agencies located in Cork City and West Cork. This need not have been the case. The working clusters could have gathered around craft specialisms - ceramics, jewellery, woodworking etc. The network diagram shows that craftspeople tend to work with other craftspeople in their immediate geographic area.

The cluster immediately above that and to the right is composed mainly of nodes located in Kilkenny and Wexford and one of the main findings of the study was that these two areas cannot really be differentiated in network terms.

The cluster on the far left is composed of nodes in Limerick and Ballyhoura, while the cluster in the top middle has a mixture of nodes from different locations.

We also mapped the main road connections in the study area as shown in Figure 2. Nodes are a mixture of settlements and rural road junctions. Note that:

  • Connections make no attempt to follow geographic meanderings and are always a straight line
  • The positions of nodes are topologically, but not geographically, accurate
  • We have analysed the centrality of the map (betweenness) showing higher scoring settlements and junctions as larger nodes.
  • This shows a concentration of well connected nodes in the Limerick / Clonmel / Cork triangle.

road network

The road network

cluster of settlements

clusters of settlements / junctions in the road network

Figure 3 shows the results of a cluster analysis of the road network. Nodes are coloured according to which cluster they belong to, showing:

  • A strong Kilkenny / Waterford cluster (pink)
  • An extensive Limerick / Tipperary / Cahir / Fermoy cluster
  • Cork City is the centre of a coastal strip running down to Kinsale
  • West Cork is a well defined network cluster

These comments echo much of the organisational analysis and show links between geographic distribution and operational and transport networks.


Although this work is experimental, it brings together a body of previous work that examines either organisational or geographic structures. The degree of congruence that we are finding is very encouraging for future comparisons.

13 Asset Mapping in Croydon

In work for Croydon Voluntary Action (CVA), we have mapped the organisations and key individuals involved in Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) pilots in New Addington and Thornton Heath. This has involved:

  • presentations to CVA managers and Community Builders
  • creating forms to be used in face to face, telephone and online surveys of who connects to whom in the ABCD programme.
  • creating maps of ABCD connections at local and family levels and analysing the results through Social Network Analysis
  • training CVA managers and Community Builders in the use of network mapping software
  • exploring the possible links between geographic and network maps
  • using personas to test the ways that the ABCD programme is working
  • combining asset mapping, network mapping, personas and personal communications to create a Croydon “Living Lab” that can be used to test local initiatives and strategies and provide the basis for continuing evaluation

The network map has been developed in Kumu. This online software allows us to progressively hand over the map to CVA and to monitor its use remotely as staff we have trained become more familiar with it and start to expand it.below shows the network of connections between key individuals and organisations involved in two pilot ABCD programmes in Croydon (New Addington and Thornton Heath).

The software allows us to attach information directly to nodes in a a sidebar and to carry out complex searches on various attributes assigned to nodes and connections.
new addington networks

The intention is that this should become an everyday method of recording the progress of the project. The metrics that SNA produces will serve as evaluators of:

  • how connected the community is and how that connection has grown over the course of the project. Connectivity is widely regarded as a measure of social capital.
  • how the ABCD programme has promoted these connections and facilitated resulting actions to benefit the communities.
networks/netspaper.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)

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