Systemic Practice and Action Research

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 123–137 | Cite as

Exploring Community Collaborations: Social Network Analysis as a Reflective Tool for Public Health

  • Anita KothariEmail author
  • Nadia Hamel
  • Jo-Anne MacDonald
  • Mechthild Meyer
  • Benita Cohen
  • Dorothy Bonnenfant
Original Paper


Social network analysis is a potentially useful reflective tool that could be used by public health practitioners to assess the overall composition of their networks, strengthen collaborations with other community partners, and evaluate network function. The purpose of this paper is to report on public health practitioners’ experiences with social network analysis. Thirteen public health practitioners, each associated with their own advocacy-oriented community collaboration, participated in the study. Specifically, the intervention consisted of social network analysis output (social network analysis measures and sociograms) and a facilitated discussion to stimulate reflection on the respondents’ professional networks. Semi-structured interviews were conducted two weeks later to solicit participants’ reactions to the sociograms and the accompanying measures, and elicit thoughts about how social network analysis might have an impact on their work. Participants commented on ways in which social network analysis could be applied in practice, such as using sociograms to raise awareness of the nature of current networks, as a planning and evaluation tool, to identify gaps, and to assess the degree of sustainability of current networks.


Public health Community collaboration Community collaboration Social network analysis 



This work was supported by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care through a Systems-Linked Research Grant to the Community Health Research Unit at the University of Ottawa. It was also supported by a New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research [X3806A0A to A.K.].


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anita Kothari
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nadia Hamel
    • 3
  • Jo-Anne MacDonald
    • 4
  • Mechthild Meyer
    • 5
  • Benita Cohen
    • 2
  • Dorothy Bonnenfant
    • 5
  1. 1.Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Health StudiesUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of NursingUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  3. 3.High Commission of Canada, Haut-commissariat du CanadaDar es SalaamTanzania
  4. 4.School of NursingSt. Francis Xavier UniversityAntigonishCanada
  5. 5.Population Health Improvement Research NetworkUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

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