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Public and Community engagement are very much about relationships, interaction and dialogue. Network based approaches to evaluation focus on changes in relationships and networks as a key outcome of interest. They address the relational nature of social process and draw on the concepts and tools drawn from social network analysis.

Social network analysis has a large literature, body of analytical tools and related software. The introductory papers and tools highlighted here illustrate how considering networks and relationships can provide a useful lens through which to evaluate engagement.

Introductions to Network Based Approaches

Many of the resources highlighted here draw on the work and evaluation website of Rick Davies, who has applied network analysis to social development processes for over a decade and whose webpages on the topic look at theoretical and practical issues surrounding their use in evaluation and signpost to a wealth of related resources.

Paper: Network Perspectives in the Evaluation of Development Interventions: More than a metaphor (22 pages)

Rick Davies, 2003

This paper makes the case for focusing evaluation on networks and relationships rather than the more abstract logical framework (though it also highlights how they may be combined). While focused on development interventions, it has relevance to looking at engagement projects. 

Paper: Participation, relationships and Dynamic change: new thinking on evaluating the work of international networks

Madeline Church et al., 2002

This influential early paper describes a range of tools that can help evaluate networks, such as the contributions assessment, the ‘Weaver’s triangle’ and mechanisms to support trust in networks.

Although focused on international advocacy and knowledge networks, the paper provides useful analytical tools to understand and evaluate other types of network.

Blog: Social Framework as an Alternative to the Logical Framework

Rick Davies, 2008

This Blog post highlights the advantages of focusing on networks and relationships in evaluation and outlines similarities and differences with logical frameworks and outcome mapping. Covers similar ground to the 2003 paper above.

More resources on Evaluating Relationships and Networks can be found in the Mesh Evaluating Relationships and Networks resources category.To see how this resource fits in with the rest of Mesh's evaluation resources, and to learn how to navigate them, visit the Mesh evaluation page

This resource was developed by Robin Vincent as part of supporting the Wellcome Trust linked community of practice on evaluation of public and community engagement and was originally hosted on the eMOPs website.

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This work, unless stated otherwise, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Image credit: fdecomite

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