Networks, gender and race in job-seeking in rural America (Missouri)

How do the networks of black and white, male and female job-seekers differ? And: Does that makes some of them more successful than others in finding a job? Jenine Harrison and her co-authors have interviewed job seekers in rural Missouri and drawn Net-Maps that indicate clearly which contacts are male/female, black/white to understand these questions better.

The abstract of their paper: Higher rates of unemployment are found among African-American men in rural communities in the US. As part of a community-based participatory research project, we sought to identify characteristics of job-seeking networks of African-American and white employed and unemployed men and women in a rural community in Missouri. We collected ross-sectional quantitative and qualitative information about job-seeking networks through in-depth interviews with 9 local residents. Descriptive network measures were used to compare the gender, race, and employment status of the people comprising participant job-seeking networks. A novel network approach was used to simulate a whole network from individual networks depicting likely patterns of job-seeking relationships across the community. Unemployed participants had larger networks, with the exception of white women. Men had more racially homogenous networks than women; many networks had no racial diversity. Men had longer relationships than women, while women had stronger relationships. Employed participants had more linkages to alters with connections to community organizations
than unemployed participants. Unemployed participants had many connections, but lacked connections to the right people and organizations to aid in their job search. Increasing employment opportunities in this community, and similar communities, will require effort from job-seekers and others to develop new relationships, programs, and policies.

First Net-Map Certification Training in Canada (June 20 and 21st)

Disentangling complex influence networks, improving stakeholder engagement, developing personal networking strategies, fostering positive team dynamics or understanding why your technically sound plan failed dramatically: these are just a few things Net-Mappers do with pen, paper and toys. The tool has been used by fortune 500 companies to understand their business relationships and overcome organizational development hurdles on the one end of the spectrum, and by researchers and development projects to improve community engagement in Africa or understand which illicit influencers block important tax reform projects.

We have had a steady flow of Canadians coming to our trainings in DC and finally two of them are saying “That’s it! Let’s take this home!” Certified Net-Mappers Stephen Sillet and Jennifer Jimenez of Aiding Dramatic Change in Development have joined forces with Amit Nag, long-time DC Net-Map trainer and developer of the DataMuse Influence Mapping App, to offer a two day certification training in Toronto (June 20 – June 21st). Find all the details here.

A few spaces are still open, and the easiest way to sign up is via this blog. Just click below. As you can see, we have listened to our participants, who have asked us to reduce the price for self-paying individuals and students, to make this training as accessible as possible.

During this training you will be the first cohort to be introduced to the new Influence Mapping App, which is designed to allow non-geeks to intuitively enter, visualize, play with and share data generated from the paper Net-Maps. Amit is currently in Togo, West Africa, and doing the first field tests with local consultants, who say that: “It’s just a click and it’s fun. Intuitive, visual, no training required. It’s great how anyone can use it and just play around with it.”

(If you have ever tried to learn one of the standard network analysis software packets, I would guess – drawing from my own experience – that those were not your feelings on the first day…)

So, join our great team of trainers in Toronto and start untangling your own networks.

To register for the workshop please contact Amit at amitaksha@gmail.com, or Stephen at stephen@adcid.org

For innovation: Amplify the low signal

10-Crow-whispers-in-ear-sm

Crow brings the daylight, by Ruth Meharg

My work often involves getting familiar with a new country and sector in a short amount of time, discussing challenges with many different stakeholders and together developing and implementing strategies for change.

One skill which is crucial for this is the ability to detect patterns quickly, understand what the common themes are, the issues, people, strategies and conflicts which are mentioned again and again. What is the shared story on which we can build our planning? What are the loudest and most consistent signals?

However, one great risk when listening for the common pattern is that you distill the story that everybody knows already and focus on the issues that everybody agrees are THE issues. If you want to help people discover new possibilities, experiment with new solutions, discover the positive deviants that exist already, you have to grow a third ear which listens for things that are only said in passing (or not at all), for ideas that people laugh about or don’t dare believe in, for challenges that cannot be discussed out in the open and sometimes you have to be the one who mentions that the emperor might have forgotten to get dressed…

But how do you know what is an interesting low signal and what is just plain noise?

I tend to pick up a number of different half-sentence ideas as I travel through the system and then I try them out when I talk to the next person. Many of the ideas don’t make it to the third or forth discussion but every once in a while, the next person says: “Well, I hadn’t thought about that but now that you say it…” and they start adding weight, color, texture and context to this idea.  And slowly a new door opens, a different approach emerges or we develop a clearer understanding of a long overlooked risk.

Amplifying a low signal is something I could never do alone, it is rather that I start bouncing these signals off other people and see if they disappear or become stronger.

Identifying international knowledge partnerships

With my colleagues Kerstin Tebbe and Bruno Laporte I just had an interesting design conversation for a session in which they want to help the members of a water basin commission better understand with whom they have knowledge exchange partnerships. We realized soon that this is not going to be a Net-Map session or a session of some squeezed out, shrunk down little cousin of Net-Map. So the proposed steps are the following:

  1. All 20 participants (individually) write the names of the commission’s most important and reliable knowledge partners on index cards (with thick marker and great handwriting). The cards are color-coded by categories, e.g. government on green cards, civil society on red.
  2. They put all cards on a large table and start looking for duplicates – if both of us wrote University of XYZ, we stack these cards to reduce the number of cards we are dealing with.
  3. Depending on the number of remaining cards (judgment call in the situation), they instruct the group to get up and take all cards (or only those of actors that have been mentioned at least twice), and walk to a large, sketched  map on the floor of the 5 countries involved. They distribute the actor cards on the map, according to the country the actor is located in.
  4. As this very rough geographical actor map emerges, the participants consider a number of questions: Do we have stronger networks in some countries than others? Are some colors (i.e. actor categories) overrepresented on the map – or in some countries? Who is missing? What is the difference between the stack of cards I produced on my own and the map that emerged as we started putting it all together? How can we, as a group, access this whole richness, instead of just our own little corners?

This activity is located at the start of a longer engagement to improve the knowledge exchange and management of this organization, so they don’t have to answer all the questions in the world, the goal is rather to get the conversation started, to invite the complexity into the room without being overwhelmed.

I am curious to hear what you think about this? Would it work in your context? Can you think of something which would even sharpen or further enrich the activity? Have we overlooked a critical risk? And, don’t you love the artwork above, which Tara Donovan (picture credit) created out of thousands and thousands of index cards?

How to get strategic insights from Net-Map

Just a bowl of spaghetti with toys on top?

So, you have done the mapping, in front of you a messy bowl-of-spaghetti-with-toys-on-top-diagram and your participants or clients ask you:

 

So what do we do now? What does this mean?

While the content of the answer will be different in every case, here are some guiding principle to direct your eyes and your thought when looking for strategic insights from a Net-Map: In general three issues are considered: Actor Influence, Goals and Connections, with the following lines of thought:

Influence

  • Influential actors who can harm / support
  • Increasing or decreasing actor influence
  • Diverse sources of influence

Goals

  •  Understanding reasons / motivations / fears / aspirations behind goals
  • Working with, connecting, strengthening positive actors
  • Dealing with, mitigating risk concerning negative actors
  • Changing actor goals toward more positive

Connections

  • Network patterns and their effects (e.g. centralization vs. decentralization, boundary spanners, disconnected silos)
  • Tension or reinforcement of formal vs. informal links
  • Connections which create destructive forces in the system
  • Missing links
  • Connecting positive actors (coalition), understanding negative coalitions, engaging mixed actors
  • Dividing negative actors

Public Policy and the Idea of the Vietnamese State: The Cultural Political Economy of Domestic Water Supply

A Net-Map study on formal and informal water governance in Vietnam, by Nadine Reis and Peter P. Molinga:

Abstract:
Using Rural Water Supply (RWS) policy practices as a case study,this article shows that the disjunction between implementation as formally conceived and informally practised is not a question of ineffective policy cycle dynamics, but rather an inherent feature of Vietnam’s Cultural Political Economy. Drawing on critical realist approaches to social and state theory, we argue that formal and informal RWS policy practices, as a set of two interconnected spheres, serve as key, separate but connected, mechanisms for reproducing the distribution of material resources (primarily through the informal sphere) and the hegemony of ideas (primarily through the formal sphere) in Vietnamese society. We conclude that the formal, administrative practices of RWS policy are primarily to be understood in their function of reproducing the idea of the state and state legitimacy. RWS administrative practices function to sustain the core social and political order in Vietnam as institutionalised in “the state”, rather than being primarily oriented to improving rural water supply. The findings raise questions for donor-supported programs that focus on formal administrative institutions and practices for improving the performance of the water sector.

Two Brazilian Net-Map studies: Fair Trade and Cotton

Does Fair Trade in Brazil meet its objective of really increasing fairness and reaching the poor? Can innovation networks successfully be created to increase the access of family farms to cotton innovations and markets? These questions are explored by using Net-Map in the studies below, which were shared by our Net-Mapping colleague Patricia Andrade de Oliveira e Silva. Do you know of Net-Map studies we haven’t featured here? Please share so that we can make them available to the broader community of practice.
1) Fair trade networks : organization, relationship and values. Abstract: The characteristics of the dominant economic system and its implications on agriculture, while creating trends of concentration, standardization and exclusion, they also create opportunities that can act in the opposite direction, allowing the development of niches and differentiation based on product characteristics / services, processes and producers themselves. The Fair Trade has emerged as a proposal for inclusion of players with limited potential of insertion in the conventional market, aiming not only the economic viability, but quality attributes and other dimensions that are not valued by market mechanisms. This doctoral dissertation seeks to answer in which extent Fair Trade can meet its original objectives, working on extended networks of producers and trade. It thus tries to see how some networks of Fair Trade certified and not certified are organized, emphasizing the relationships established and the overriding objectives of the actors involved that determine these relationships. The methodology was based on literature review, interviews, observation and analysis of social networks. Actors from eight Fair Trade networks were interviewed using the method Net-Map Toolbox (SCHIFFER, 2011) to map different relations between actors (support, subsidies, trade, personal, conflicts and norms), their influence and their objectives (economic, group cohesion, development, politcs, exploitation and disruption). To analyze the composition of networks and the cohesion of the relations it were used the programs Ucinet (BORGATTI; EVERETT; FREEMAN, 2002) e NetDraw (BORGATTI, 2002) and densities, reciprocity and transitivity were estimated. Website: http://www.bibliotecadigital.unicamp.br/document/?code=000866836

2) Cotton : networks, technology and environment. Abstract: Since the 1990s the Brazilian cotton industry is showing growth, with the adoption of technologies, particularly genetically modified varieties of cotton, whose cultivation was released in 2005 as a major actor in increased productivity and consequent resumption of culture in ancient regions disadvantaged producers by crises that caused the decline of this culture. We observed a resurgence of cotton production in various regions of the country the scenery is still great disparity between the productive regions of the Mid – West and Northeast. Access to technology, education level, and access to technical assistance are the main vectors of inequalities. With regard to access to technology, it can be stated that regardless of the greater or lesser availability of technologies developed for family farmers, must have showed clear that most main difficulty relates to the ability to innovate, and this is related not only to technology itself, but also to the insertion in the markets, financing conditions, availability of resources, risk analysis, among other factors. Thus the creation of social networks among small cotton farmers has proved to be an alternative in order to have better access to technology. It is in this context that the network of cotton farmers Catuti was chosen to be the object of study of this dissertation in that it draws attention for being an organization of small producers who resumed the cultivation of cotton through the use of transgenic seeds, and present extraordinary gains production, planting and sustainably. The case study showed PAJEK through the software, the organization in network provides the link various actors of distinct natures, which in turn enables the insertion in the market and the adoption of technology by small farmers associated with the Cooperative Rural Producers Catuti (COOPERCAT). Website: http://www.bibliotecadigital.unicamp.br/document/?code=000937662less

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