We have all heard the adage “that success depends not on what you know, but who you know.” Empirical research has confirmed that better-connected individuals are valued more in terms of salaries and share of deals. In the area of development, evidence clearly shows that social networks play an important role in the diffusion of innovations, and adoption of new ideas. With the growth in computing power and better statistical models, it is now much easier to apply a social network analysis (SNA) to visualise and therefore understand the social networks that connect the actors in a network. Swisscontact currently is testing various areas for implementing social network analysis in international development cooperation.
There is an increasing awareness that the successful launch of new ventures not only depends on the behaviour of entrepreneurs but also on the availability of resources and support networks as well as how these actors interconnect. Research has shown that the denser this network is and the more ecosystem support organisation collaborate, the easier it is for entrepreneurs to access the support services they need at each growth stage.
Social Network Analysis (SNA) provides an innovative methodology for ecosystem builders as it focuses not only on the actors themselves but also on the connectivity and relationships between them. As we seek to successfully cultivate entrepreneurship by building stronger communities, a sound understanding of how and when different players interact with one another is key to making any intervention strategy more effective.
Through the Credit Suisse – Swisscontact Programme, Swisscontact has been pioneering this approach in Uganda and Rwanda with promising results. SNA has not only proven to be a strong analytical tool to better assess and understand business ecosystems – but also turned out to be an excellent engagement tool.
Swisscontact is currently developing an open-source toolkit for future implementation of social network analysis. We want to make it an open invitation to join forces with us to further enhance the tool and replicate it across more cities and regions.
In Indonesia, Swisscontact has been working together with the University of Sydney since 2018 on investigating cocoa farmer networks using social network analysis. In the Sustainable Cocoa Production Programme (SCPP), Swisscontact has trained over 150,000 farmers in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). All these farmers are part of informal information-sharing networks, and Swisscontact is now working to map the social networks of farmer alumni to understand how they share information and technology. With this information, Swisscontact can recommend strategies for facilitating the introduction and spread of innovation across these farmer networks This speeds up the selection and diffusion of innovations that are truly helpful to the farmer. This will result in more profit for the farmer, who supplies more and better cocoa beans to the supply chain partner.
SCPP is a SECO project that Swisscontact is implementing in close collaboration with the private sector.