& Management Student,
Arizona State University
Welcome to Research Friday! This week we welcome Mary McGillicuddy, one of the researchers who worked with the ASU College of Public Programs on a project that analyzed and mapped the social network of downtown Phoenix nonprofit organizations.
I've heard that the ASU Lodestar Center gets a ton of calls from nonprofit organizations looking to partner with other organizations. The Center works like a hub in that way, connecting the dots between the sector. In fact, the Arizona sector works that way, too — we often connect to each other through hubs.
Contrary to popular belief, social networks and social network analysis (SNA) both existed long before Facebook. SNA is a visual, quantitative measurement tool that has been used across disciplines since the 1950's. Recently, ASU's College of Public Programs used SNA to assess its impact on nonprofit organizations in the downtown Phoenix area. This kind of analysis fascinates me, and I think it can really help others understand what's really going on in the Arizona nonprofit sector. But, before diving headfirst into the research findings, there are a few important terms that merit a little explanation.
Very simply, a social network depicts patterns of social interaction between entities (Tichy Tichy, Tushman, and Fombrun, 1979). These entities, also called "nodes," can be individuals, groups, and/or organizations. An identified connection between two nodes is called a "tie." A tie varies in its strength, direction, and content, all of which depend on many independent factors, such as reciprocity and intimacy within the relationship. The type of tie depicted in a social network map depends on a study's content and purpose (Knoke and Yang, 2008).
Our ASU study, led by former College of Public Programs Dean Debra Friedman, populated a social network map of Phoenix nonprofit organizations, including their relationship to ASU. Organizations were selected based on their proximity to the downtown Phoenix campus. Executive directors were contacted and asked to list the organization's five most important nonprofit partners within the last year; they were also asked to describe the nature of each partnership, such as resource sharing, along with the perceived importance of each partnership.