Social network analysis is the study of relationships and information flow among individuals and groups. Since it can help establish who or what has influence to promote or hamper all types of initiatives, grant-makers and grant recipients are increasingly using social network analysis to improve their projects. (For example, a public health department may use social network analysis to understand how friends and family influence smoking, and use that information to plan a prevention campaign.)
While the field is growing, there are still relatively few practitioners with expertise in social network analysis and program evaluation. Management Professor and Dean Kimberly Fredericks, Ph.D., is one of those few, and in demand by government, non-profits and health care organizations to help design and evaluate grant-funded programs. She recently joined high-profile projects on the U.S. Gulf Coast and in Akayè, Haiti.
“It is about showing that small institutions have expertise and a role in large projects,” she said. “Each project leads to more projects, more grants, which can benefit faculty and students at Sage – that’s my ultimate goal.”
Building a Network to Renew the U.S. Gulf Coast
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine retained Fredericks to evaluate its Gulf Research Program. (Created with $500 million from the companies responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Gulf Research Program supports activities to enhance offshore energy system safety, health and the environment in the Gulf of Mexico and other coastal regions.)
Fredericks will specifically evaluate the fellowships that the research program funds. “The fellowship program is supposed to create a network of scientists and policy professionals who collaborate,” said Fredericks. “My social network analysis is a way to measure how it is working.”
Her involvement means opportunities for Sage graduate students to act as paid research assistants during the 2019-20 academic year. Grad students will help with data collection and analysis and contribute to Fredericks’ presentation at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference in February 2020.
Building Community Around Education in Haiti
In Haiti, Fredericks is part of a W.K. Kellogg Foundation-supported project to establish a sustainable village and learning community in Akayè. “The idea is to create a campus with academic programs in tourism, fishing and wildlife management and health sciences, and also offer health, social and community-building services,” Fredericks said. She is working with leaders from the State University of New York, which is steering the project, and the Haiti Development Institute.
“I look at all the stakeholders that are involved and what their roles are. I try to understand how the proposed solutions fit into the current systems,” she said. “I want to understand how kids in Haiti go through the education system to get ready for professional or college-like programs, to understand where those populaces are, what would be their training so far. I also want to understand, what is the local government’s role? What is the church’s role? What is the capacity of the current education systems and how can we help develop it?”
A trip in early 2019 was cut short and an August trip was postponed by project leaders due to political unrest in Haiti, but Fredericks is hopeful that she will be able to return soon, and eventually, to bring Sage students. “There are a lot of good people working in Haiti to try to build their capacity,” she said.