Tuesday, November 23, 2004

New developments in meta-organizational networks

A couple weeks ago I posted on the need for better ways to measure social capital as a function of external collaboration (or competition) between groups.

Very briefly recapping, the excellent survey paper "Network Measures of Social Capital" mentions two general approaches in this area: (1) Consider each group as if it were an individual and use regular individual-level network measures. This is clean but problematic if you care who are the boundary spanners in each group. (2) Alternatively, use two-mode networks. These will keep track of different boundary-spanners but lose track of intra-group relationships.

Last week the latest issue of Connections arrived at my door (Vol 26, Issue 1). (This is the official journal of the INSNA.) I was excited to see a featured article "A new measure of linkage between two subnetworks," by Peter Flom, Samuel Friedman, Shiela Strauss, and Alan Neaigus.

The authors begin by explaining the very dilemma I was just lamenting, only they put it much more clearly. Then they propose a relatively simple new approach to measure social capital between sub-networks that also accounts for relationships within groups. It's a great introduction to the problem of meta-organizational networks and an excellent preliminary step in solving it. It's preliminary because their approach only works for two groups. Their approach almost cries out loud for a multi-group extension, so I encourage anyone out there with an interest in this topic to go follow up on this, and please keep me posted on your progress. I would love to hear from you.

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