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Knitting the tie that binds - a brief introduction to Strategic Proactive Networking (SPANning)

George Clark (June 2000) www.caledonia.org.uk

"NO man is an island unto himself". Thoughts are gathered and distributed when people communicate. Those who are better connected (networked) are better able to gather and distribute thoughts.

bulletNetworking is the process of increasing your number of connections
bulletProactive Networking means seeking/arranging opportunities to network
bulletStrategic Proactive Networking involves deliberately targeting key individuals or groups

Social Network Analysis is an academic discipline with its own jargon. You may find the following synopsis useful when describing your present, and setting targets for your future, level of SPANning.

Knitting the tie that Binds

People in a network have ‘relations’. These allow for sharing and exchange of content (a) tangibles (eg goods, services, information) and (b) intangibles (eg social support and influence).

A ‘tie’ is formed when two people are connected by one or more relations. Ties can be weak or strong and both levels of strength have their uses:

Weak Ties are infrequent and involve only limited sharing. It is thus easy to have many of them, especially through e-mail. Strong Ties are frequent and involve several different types of relations. They need close contact and time to maintain.
Their strength lies in acting as gateways to new sources of connection. They lend themselves to innovativeness. Their strength lies in building solidarity but this can lead to a strong attachment to tradition and thus a lack of flexibility.


Binding’ of networks may be tight or loose with reference to borders of geography, theme, hierarchy, status, organisational boundary etc Knitting’ of networks may be sparse or dense depending on the strength of ties between individuals and on the number of ties between different members of the network

Ties can also have direction eg give/receive support, ask/answer questions, buy/sell commodities etc

Unravelling Networks

Ego-centred studies’ map the relations of a key individual. This is most appropriate for loose-bound networks. ‘Whole Network Studies’ map the relations between units of an organisation. This is most appropriate for tight-bound networks. Networks can be described in terms of:

Range’ – The network may be small with a single, limited purpose or it may be large and multipurpose. Groups’ are there densely-knit sub units within the network as a whole (Social Inclusion?)
Centrality’ – Does the network have a centre and a periphery or are relations evenly distributed throughout? Would the network collapse if a particular group or individual withdrew? Positional Analysis’ never mind the formal status and hierarchy, which individuals and groups are in fact performing which roles?
Role’ – What purpose does the network as a whole , or units within it, play eg information dissemination, training, timetabling/scheduling, lobbying, etc Networks of Networks’ People link groups and groups can link people. Friends of friends of friends. How much of this is going on?

Try using the jargon to describe your present, and set targets for your future, level of SPANning.

Based loosely on Garton L et al (1997) Studying Online Social Networks




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