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"Understanding the pre-existing social relationships in a setting is vital in health promotion, not only for encouraging important people to get ‘on side’ with an intervention but also for appreciating how the intervention itself might change social structures."  
Source: “Use of social network analysis to map the social relationships of staff and teachers at school.” Penelope Hawe and Laura Ghali, Health Education Research 2008 23(1):62-69; doi:10.1093/her/cyl162

What is network mapping?

Network mapping and analysis is a process for visualizing and interpreting connections within a group so that the group itself, and therefore its work and effectiveness, may be strengthened.

Network analysis can also help a group explore options for adapting to a changing environment. Connections, strengths, and weaknesses are made visible, helping answer many key questions in the collaboration community-building process:

  • Are the right connections in place? Are any key connections missing?
  • Who are the people playing leadership roles in the community?
  • Who are not, but could be?
  • Who are the experts in process, planning and practice?
  • Who are the mentors others seek out for advice?
  • Who are the innovators? Are ideas shared and acted upon?

(Source:Valdis Krebs and June Holley, “Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving,” 2002)

Network mapping does not create an inventory of community assets; it assumes this has already been done. Other processes – community mapping, asset mapping, stakeholder analysis –  are effective tools for that work.

How does network mapping work?

The network mapping and analysis process begins with a discussion about what the network needs or wants to know about itself. What information about each network member is important? What types of connections does the network wish to examine?

Based on answers to these questions, a survey of network members is conducted. Network analysis software is used to produce maps and numeric tables. The mapper, along with the network, analyzes the maps and tables and develops a strategy to strengthen the network and its work. Typically, after this strategy has been in action for some time, network members are surveyed again and the network is re-mapped based on their feedback, which may lead to another network-improving strategy. This process can be repeated any number of times.  Over time, network analysis can help a group to demonstrate its growth, development and functional effectiveness.

What are some examples/stories?

The left-hand image below depicts a network before a months-long network improvement strategy. The right-hand image shows the same network five years after participating in Health Nexus' Connecting the Dots process. Note the significantly increased density of connections, including a stronger network.


Network maps before and after a Connecting the Dots process


Where can you go for more information?

Health Nexus resources

Network Mapping @ a Glance

Network Mapping @ a Glance (766KB PDF, 2011)  provides a brief overview of the uses and process of network mapping. Also available in French.

OHPE Feature describes an overview of network mapping

Our OHPE feature article is an overview of network mapping and analysis and its process as well as the  network analysis results of 36 Healthy Communities Partnerships in Ontario.

Slides from our Networks 101 webinar (1.4MB PDF, April 2014). This webinar discussed planning, building, and measuring networks.


Our reading list on networks (160KB PDF, April 2014) - books, journal articles, literature reviews and websites on networks

Other resources




  • Introduction to Network Weaving
    June Holley talks about network building, using her experience developing economic and community neworks in the Appalachians.

  • Nicholas Christakis: How social networks predict epidemics
    After mapping humans' intricate social networks, Nicholas Christakis and colleague James Fowler began investigating how this information could better our lives. Now, he reveals his hot-off-the-press findings: These networks can be used to detect epidemics earlier than ever, from the spread of innovative ideas.

Discussion groups

  • SOCNET listserv
    Social networks email discussion list. Run out of the University of Florida.

Books and articles

  • Holley, June. Network Weaver Handbook: A Guide to Transformational Networks, 2012.
  • Scott, John P. Social Network Analysis: A Handbook, SAGE Publications, 2000.
  • Wasserman, S. and Faust, K., Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications, Canadian Journal of Sociology Online, September-October 2005.
  • Carrington, P.J., Scott, J, and Wasserman, S., (Eds.), Models and Methods in Social Network Analysis, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
    Read a review of this book


Last reviewed: February 11, 2014