Public Health Knowledge Management – One size does not fit all (paper by Sarah Harlan et al.)

(picture copyright by DFID on flickr)

In a recently published paper about knowledge management in family planning in Ethiopa, Sarah Harlan (of Johns Hopkins) et al. dig deep into the knowledge networks that connect the national and local government agencies with women and men on the ground. They combined Net-Map with focus group discussions and other interviews. Among their findings is the insight that actors on different levels have different knowledge needs and these are best supported by different network structures. I am especially interested in how high centralization impacts on a networks ability to deliver.

No network structure is perfect and every structure has pros and cons. If you have a highly centralized knowledge network, basically Ministry of Health in the middle, distributing information to everyone, this can be great in some respect, because you are in control of the message. In a context such as reproductive health, where traditional beliefs and modern medicine might be contradictory, having one central distributor of information can help to make sure the message that local women receive is consistent. Also, centralized systems are easy to understand for people within and outside the system, users know who to turn to, donors know whom to support. However, centralization also has a number of risks: They put a high burden on the central node – if the Ministry of Health is overloaded or does not perform well, nothing will happen. Also, they are weak at producing and sharing locally adapted solutions. So, while they work well in situations where there is one clear correct answer, they are weak, slow and not very creative in situations where many different solutions will work. For example, if the question is: How do we get village women to give birth in a hospital instead of at home, there can be many different solutions that work and that could inspire others – if you have a system that is designed to share information in a decentralized manner.

Do you have a Net-Map paper, report, blog post that you want to share? Send me a note and I am happy to include you here.

40 Maps that will help you make sense of the world


(Veleripieris circle by Kenneth Myers)

The map is not the territory. A map in the scale 1:1 would be useless – and cover the whole area that it intends to depict. In each map, you have to choose what story you want to tell. Net-Maps often tell the story of formal and informal connections between people and how they influence a given outcome. Thematic geographical maps can tell you anything from population density to national ideosyncrasies (Which countries drive on the left?). Twisted Sifter has assembled a great collection of 40 very different maps that will make you smile, shake your head and learn something. While you scroll through them, you can marvel at the power of visual storytelling.

Making invisible water governance networks visisble – the case of the Okanagan valley (by Nelson Jatel)

Okanagan valey (Kelowna, copyright by Destination Partners)

This is an interesting application of Net-Map in the water sector. You can read Nelson’s thesis here. This is the abstract:

“This is a study of water governance in the semi-arid Okanagan valley, British Columbia, Canada. The human dimension of water governance is often overlooked and in this study I use Social Network Analysis (SNA) to gain new insights into the characteristics of the Okanagan water governance network. I explore some of the perceptions held by British Columbia water professionals to pierce the ‘veil’ of opaque decision-making processes – formal and informal – that play a central role in Okanagan water governance. My thesis question for this study is: how does the relationship among actors influence water governance in the Okanagan basin, British Columbia Canada? This study is a descriptive analysis of the social and institutional characteristics of the Okanagan Basin water governance network as it relates to water scarcity policy and practice. I conducted in-depth interviews with British Columbia water experts involved in water scarcity in the Okanagan. Collected data was analyzed using text analysis and SNA. Prominent themes that emerged from the interviewees included: a need to improve the provincial government’s commitment to water governance, public apathy, a lack of succession planning of senior water professionals, a need to improve communications with First Nations, and the need to address tensions that detract from improving water governance in British Columbia. The influence of the Okanagan Basin Water Board, a unique regional local government body in British Columbia, is shown to exert a significant and positive influence on funding and communication relationships within the Okanagan watershed network. Network data is applied to create benchmark Okanagan water governance network diagrams and these diagrams are compared and contextualized using previously developed network archetypes. Social network diagrams are useful to develop a benchmark or snap shot in time of the water governance network and provide practical insights into how policy and communication strategies may be applied to improve communication and social learning among actors in the network.”