Most community and organizational networks we see in our consulting practice have a shape similar to the network above. These are called a core-periphery networks.
The core is made up of people with many connections to each other — it is the dense center of the network, represented here by the pink/magenta nodes. The periphery, shown by the grey nodes, are people that provide data, information and knowledge to the core, but are usually outside of the dense work ties in the core. They are resources to the core, allowing access to data, information and knowledge that does not reside in the core, but is necessary for the core members to accomplish their goals. The grey links show who has collaborated with whom on a project in the last year.
The three blue nodes in the above network are the formal leaders of the network — they are the social entrepreneurs who formed a non-profit organization to support green businesses in NE Ohio. The disconnected groups, in the upper right of the map, are also involved in sustainability projects, but they have not worked with any of the core members yet. These are satellites of the current core-periphery network. There may be network weaving opportunities to connect the satellites to parts of the network where they can best provide information, expertise, and experience. For more on how networks form and evolve see our white paper “Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving“
On-line communities also have core-periphery structures and many satellite clusters. They also have a unique set of passive members — people who share an interest with the core, but who are not active in the network (they have not collaborated with anyone in the network), they just observe what is happening. They are often called lurkers. For more on the network patterns in online communities see our post “Connecting the Community”
Knowing the net, helps us knit/nudge/navigate the net!
These network maps help community managers build more innovative and resilient social networks. First you see the present structure of the network… where are the gaps, where are the bridges, who are the linchpins that keep things together, who is in the core, and who is in the periphery? Knowing the net, helps us knit the net! The maps show us where we are today, allowing the community (along with their consultants) to plan where they want to be tomorrow.
What possibilities do you want to be ready for?