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{Excerpt} Power no longer resides exclusively (if at all) in states, institutions, or large corporations. It is located in the networks that structure society. Social network analysis seeks to understand networks and their participants and has two main focuses: the actors and the relationships between them in a specific social context.

The information revolution has given birth to new economies structured around flows of data, information, and knowledge. In parallel, social networks have grown stronger as forms of organization of human activity. Social networks are nodes of individuals, groups, organizations, and related systems that tie in one or more types of interdependencies: these include shared values, visions, and ideas; social contacts; kinship; conflict; financial exchanges; trade; joint membership in organizations; and group participation in events, among numerous other aspects of human relationships. Indeed, it sometimes appears as though networked organizations out compete all other forms of organization—certainly, they outpace vertical, rigid, command-and-control bureaucracies. When they succeed, social networks influence larger social processes by accessing human, social, natural, physical, and financial capital, as well as the information and knowledgecontent of these. (In development work, they can impact policies, strategies, programs, and projects—including their design, implementation, and results—and the partnerships that often underpin these.) To date, however, we are still far from being able to construe their public and organizational power in ways that can harness their potential. Understanding when, why, and how they function best is important. Here, social network analysis can help.


Suggested Citation

Serrat, O. (2010). Social network analysis. Washington, DC: Asian Development Bank.

Required Publisher's Statement

This article was first published by the Asian Development Bank (