Social Network Analysis Methods for Higher Education Development [CIES Presentation]

Social network analysis methods for international development: Applications in higher education development. Social Network Analysis (SNA) is a promising yet underutilized tool in the international development field. SNA entails collecting and analyzing data to characterize and visualize social networks, where nodes represent network members and edges connecting nodes represent relationships or exchanges among them. SNA can help both researchers and practitioners understand the social, political, and economic relational dynamics at the heart of international development programming. It can inform program design, monitoring, and evaluation to answer questions related to where people get information; with whom goods and services are exchanged; who people value, trust, or respect; who has power and influence and who is excluded; and how these dynamics change over time. This brief advances the case for use of SNA in international development, outlines general approaches, and discusses two recently conducted case studies in higher education development that illustrate its potential. It concludes with recommendations for how to increase SNA use in international development. Key research recommendations advanced by this paper include: • Incorporate SNA into monitoring, evaluation, and learning processes. SNA can be conducted at various points of a project to inform program design, adaptive management, learning, and evaluation by considering network structure and network changes over time. • Demystify the use of SNA. Increased use of SNA tools and clear presentation in widely read publications are needed to bring the analytic approach into the mainstream of international development. • Build capacity to conduct SNA. The capacity to conduct and interpret SNA is lacking across actors in international development. Efforts by some organizations to build capacity in the community are well noted and should be built upon. • Build understanding of relationships between social networks and development outcomes. SNA will be useful only to the extent it helps users understand the relationship between networks and development outcomes that matter. • Establish norms for data collection and identity protection. Data about individuals and their interactions with others are inherently sensitive data. As a part of standard research ethics protocols, SNA practitioners must make carefully considered decisions about how or if to anonymize data when reporting it.

Can big data save labor market information systems?

Labor markets desperately need information to function effectively and efficiently, making labor market information systems critical public investments. Yet government systems face significant challenges in collecting quality data, turning it into useable market intelligence, and disseminating it in a timely, relevant manner, a situation more acute in developing countries. The rise of private, real-time labor market information (LMI), such as web-based job posting analytics, social network inferences, crowdsourcing, and mobile phone polling, has garnered interest and questioned the dominance of traditional approaches. This brief explores the use of real-time LMI and presents interviews conducted with international donor officials to gain their perspectives on its applicability in developing countries. I suggest that real-time LMI is unlikely to supplant traditional LMI collection anytime soon, and I dispel notions that these new approaches might leapfrog current data collection challenges. Real-time LMI can provide useful in special cases and for supplemental analysis, an additional lubricant for labor markets that suffer from weak data. Policy that supports the improvement of traditional LMI and promotes access to real-time LMI is warranted.

Linking Learning to Employment: An Answer to the Global Search for Education Quality and Relevance?

Current approaches to secondary school are producing high numbers of dropouts and low numbers of students well prepared for college and careers. Given global demand for better education quality and relevance, a reform movement in the US that blends rigorous academic learning and applied technical study may be of interest to other countries. Yet the transport of a successful approach from one country to another must be carefully considered and implemented, with attention paid to local political economy and education system variables. This policy brief discusses the successful US approach—called Linked Learning—and RTI International's approach to adapting it for other country contexts.