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?

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.”