I love being a small fish

File:Barracuda with prey.jpg

When I work with people who know nothing about network analysis… (picture copyright Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary)

Next week I’ll be a very small fish – at the annual conference of the International Network of Social Network Analysis in Hamburg, Germany. In my daily life I am THE social networks expert, because all my colleagues have different areas of expertise. So I can be comfortable, relax and feel like a social networks barracuda. Most of the questions my colleagues ask I can answer and they wouldn’t even know if I made something up (just as I wouldn’t know if they did in their area of expertise).

But at the Sunbelt conference, different story. I am looking forward to listening to talks that will really really stretch my brain, even to the feeling of: “This is brilliant (I think…) but I have no idea what he is talking about and how you could apply this in the real world as I know it.” And, while it might not be the most pleasant feeling, I am also eager to have participants in my Net-Map training, listening to my talk, who can ask me the tougher questions, who can call me out and would know exactly if I don’t know the answer… I spend most of my time as an implementer and change agent, using network stuff where and as it works for me – but with the goal of changing the world, not of creating perfect data sets for scientific analysis. That means, often it’s more important that the results are delivered fast, that they matter, that they are understandable, than that they could be published in a peer reviewed journal. But it’s easy to use this as an excuse for being lazy, in your work or intellectually. And that’s why it is so good, every once in a while, to be a very small fish in a very big pond…

More realistic picture of my position in the Social Network Analysis food chain (picture copyright by Bernie Gunn)

Join us for a 2 day Net-Map training in Washington, DC

Solve sticky problems while learning Net-Map

Solve sticky problems while learning Net-Map

Spend two days with us, learning the basics of Net-Map, drawing maps of real cases that come from your personal or professional experience, learning to facilitate and read a Net-Map and earn a level 1 Net-Map certificate. We are still in the process of finalizing date and location, but if you want to make sure you are invited, send my colleague Amit Nag an email (amitaksha@gmail.com) to put you on our list!

Net-Map introduction workshop in Lueneburg, Germany (29th October)

Learn mapping - like the participants at our Net-Map Summer School in Italy

My readers often ask me: When do you give the next Net-Map training in my part of the world. As most of my trainings are organized by organizations with rather specific purpose, they tend to be open only to this organization’s internal audience. My next introduction workshop in Germany is different: It is part of a conference on sustainable development which is organized by the alumni of my old university in Lueneburg and it is open to the interested public.

Esther Kreuz, one of the newly certified Net-Map facilitators, who attended the certification course in Italy, will help me with this workshop: She will be the Net-Mapper in the room while I will do most of the teaching online, from my office in Washington. I’d love to welcome some of my German readers there.

Net-Map Level 1 Certification Class at the International Food Policy Research Institute

That’s how I will spend this week: Preparing and conducting a Net-Map Level 1 Certification class at IFPRI, the organization where I worked when I initially developed Net-Map. It still feels a bit like coming home and I must admit, it makes me happy to see that all 4 research divisions of the organization have started using the method in their projects. This training, unfortunately, is only open to IFPRI staff. One reason why I am telling you about it, even if you don’t work for IFPRI: It is really easy to organize a training in your organization too. Find people enthusiastic about figuring out their networks and using them more strategically, contact me and we will be able to develop a training that caters exactly to your needs AND earn all participants a certification.

Net-Map Level 1 Certification Course (Washington, DC)

We offer Net-Map certification courses on 4 levels:

Level 1: Net-Map Facilitation

Level 2: Net-Map Qualitative and Visual Data Collection and Analysis

Level 3: Net-Map Quantitative Data Collection and Analysis

Level 4: Net-Map Mastery – Train the Trainer

Join us for a 2 day, Level 1 Net-Map class on the 4.-5. of August in Washington DC!

You will learn how to use this pen-and-paper method in meetings, individual interviews and to structure your own thinking process. It will improve your project planning, monitoring and evaluation, team work and strategic networking.

From years of Net-Mapping experience, I have distilled the most common prototypical influence network structures, which I will share with you. This will help you detect network problems, bottlenecks and opportunities while you are mapping the network so that you can immediately develop improved networking strategies. By mapping out your own case studies (challenges from your work experience), you will learn the method, develop a networking plan for a complex work related issue and improve your “network eyes”.

Because the most difficult questions normally come up once you are back to your own work, wanting to implement what you have learned, we have added a free 1 hour phone or skype consultation, redeemable within 6 months after the training, to the package.

No prior knowledge of social network analysis is needed. However, even SNA experts will learn a lot of new things in this training.

Sign up!

Case study EPA: (Net-)Mapping Your Way to Action ( by Paul Boos)

You might need more than this to navigate hierarchical sensibilities (picture by Calsidyrose, flickr)

Paul Boos learned Net-Map when I facilitated a session at the Society for Organizational Learning (SOL) and even though I rushed them through the activity and we didn’t have much time to go into details, he immediately picked it up and started using it for strategic planning in his work environment. And what’s even more exciting, he did achieve some goals that he might otherwise have missed AND he wrote it all up in a 4 page case study for us to learn from it.

Paul and his colleagues are involved in the labeling of pesticides at the Environmental Protection Agency. Currently the pesticide producers who apply for registration send PDF documents with the contents to the EPA, somebody has to type these into a document and follow up if the initial PDF doesn’t actually fit the requirements. Pauls group asks: Wouldn’t it be nice if the pesticide producer could type in discrete data elements following a turbo tax-like interview process and spit out a controlled label that meets the rules?

For someone who stands outside of government hierarchies like me it’s easy to say: Yes! Go for it! But we all know that having a good idea and getting approval from the right people in a hierarchical organization are two very different things and figuring out who to ask when and how can make all the difference. Through Net-Mapping Paul and his colleague realized which leaders had to be involved in the process early so that they don’t get miffed and don’t feel disrespected. They came up with 8 concrete networking steps they needed to take and achieved at least a partial success, as you can read here: Net-Map Case Study EPA pesticides.

As you will see in the case study, Paul is strongly involved in the Agile Software Development movement which promotes iterative, open and crowd sourcing approaches to software development and I will have the pleasure to play around with Net-Map with them at their Agile Coach Camp’s Games Day, 23 September, 2011 in Columbus Ohio.

Have you used Net-Map in your work? Send me your case study and let’s build this community of practice together!

Who wants to learn Net-Map and why?

Strategic positioning analysis for an international research institute

Paolo Brunello and I discussed who our potential participants for the Net-Map Summer School in Vicenza would be. Why would they want to learn it, what would they want to do with it? I came up with this list:


What they want to do with Net-Map:
These are people who want to change the world together by using Net-Map. They need to learn strategic network planning for groups that will help you achieve their goals even if they are not the most powerful actor in the field.

Who they are:
Staff of development organizations and their donors, environmental organizations and their donors, members of social movements, unions, lobbyists, staff of government agencies involved in multi-stakeholder processes etc.


What they want to do with Net-Map:
They are interested in combining qualitative and quantitative methods, might or might not know quantitative network analysis, might be involved in research for social change, exploratory research, intercultural research. They need to know how to use Net-Map as a data collection tool, what makes it stand out from other tools and how it connects to the existing literature and other complementary tools.

Who they are:
Social scientists, development researchers, political scientists, social network analysts, staff of universities and think tanks, monitoring and evaluation specialists

Managers (in the broadest sense):

What they want to do with Net-Map:
They want to advance themselves, their brand, organization, career etc. by being more strategic in their networking and in handling complex situation and power plays at their work. They want to learn how to use Net-Map as a tool to deal with the people aspect of success (after they know everything about the numbers aspect), use it as a tool to support strategic thinking and team planning.
Who they are:
Managers, CEOs, project and team leaders, entrepreneurs, students in their last year, people stuck under a glass ceiling in their career development, moms (dads)  returning to the workforce after baby break, people in mid-life career change, marketing people

Trainers and Facilitators

What they want to do with Net-Map:
They want to use the method to add to their existing toolbox and use it to assist all of the above. Mainly with a focus on the learning and process aspect as opposed to the data collection aspect. They are most likely to work with the managers (in the broadest sense) and the advocates.
Who they are:
Trainers, facilitators, knowledge managers, internal/employed and external free lancing trainers and facilitators, career and executive coaches.

Does this list have your name written all over it? Then we should talk.