Together with my colleague Frank Hartwich from the Swiss College for Agriculture I am working on a paper about the influence networks of a multi-stakeholder water governance organization in Ghana and today he pointed out the different kinds of brokers to me that you can have in a network. He will do some impressive quantitative analysis of brokerage levels, I am sure, but even if you just want to think about it, without calculating the actual values for different members of the network, it helps to understand, how things (like information, ideas, gossip) flow in networks where people belong to different groups.
- The Coordinator, who is member of a subgroup and brokers relationships within this group;
- The Consultant, who brokers the relationship between two members of the same group, without being a member of this group;
- The Gatekeeper, who sits at the gate, at the boundary of one group (but being a member of it), brokering the relationships between this group and another group; and the
- The Liaison, brokering the relationships between members of two different groups without being part of either.
In your quantitative analysis you can now calculate the difference between the brokerage score of actors, if links were randomly assigned and the actual brokerage position. Thinking about different brokerage roles, I realize again, why I find Social Network Analysis so helpful: Because it helps me to structure my own brain and the way I think about complex social relations. So this sets me thinking where in my personal and professional life I act as coordinator, consultant, gatekeeper or liaison.
Filed under: theoretical considerations