Like any methodology, social network analysis has its limitations. In an unknown network, identification of network actors and the collection of their data is reliant upon snowball sampling (asking an initial set of respondents to name others with whom they have collaborated on environmental sustainability projects, and then surveying those named), which may lead to oversampling biases (the overrepresentation of a certain group) or missing data (we can’t paint the full picture). Ideally, data collection ceases when the network becomes “saturated,” or when no new names are suggested during sampling. While this sample is characterized by the reappearance of some of the same names during snowball sampling, the time constraints of the data collection process caused sampling to cease well before the full network could be identified. In addition, the researchers’ personal organizational affiliations (with Colorado State University and the City of Fort Collins) may have resulted in higher response rates from people also affiliated with those organizations, which results in their overrepresentation.

Similarly, bounding the network is a problem inherent to social network analysis when working outside of formal group structures. [10] In this project design, the researchers used the geographic boundaries of Fort Collins to bound the network by focusing only on locally based collaborative projects in environmental sustainability work. While useful, this bounding method necessarily involves certain gray areas; for example, there are many researchers based at Colorado State University who work on extralocal environmental sustainability projects, but whose expertise could potentially be leveraged by actors involved in locally based projects if they were identified as part of the network. In addition, many people and organizations working on local projects rely on resources from actors outside of Fort Collins, particularly in the Denver metro area.

Finally, the data collected can function only as one snapshot in time; while the real-world structure of the Fort Collins Environmental Sustainability Network will continue to morph, the network maps included here represent only data reported in 2019 about projects undertaken between 2014 and 2019.

[10] Borgatti, S.P., Everett, M.G. and Johnson, J.C., 2018. Analyzing social networks. Sage.