Using the Tool
Looking at the NEST, what is your position in the network? Social network maps such as this one can be helpful to individuals and organizations involved in local environmental sustainability initiatives in several ways.
- Being able to see your network position can shed light on how well-connected or disconnected you are, as well as your organization’s strengths and opportunities for leadership and collaboration in your area of specialty.
- You may not have realized how central to the network you are, or what an important role you play in connecting others.
- You might learn that although you are well-connected to others of a certain sector or topic area of work, you are lacking ties to people and organizations in other realms that could help you to accomplish your environmental sustainability goals.
- Seeing what ties exist between other people or organizations might help you to identify that an organization that you are currently working with has a relationship with an organization or project that you would like to be working with as well.
Tips for strong networks.
Adapted from: Cross, Rob, Heidi Gardner, and Alia Crocker. 2019. “Networks for Agility: Collaborative Practices Critical to Agile Transformation.” Connected Commons.
Click the tab below that reflects your network location to learn more about what this means for you.
For more help using the tool or interpreting the data, please feel free to reach out to Carolyn at email@example.com, and explore some of the additional resources listed in the “Resources” section.
If you or your organization are located in the heart of the network, this means that you have various measures of “high centrality” in the network. Typically, high measures of centrality reflect high capacity to receive and transmit information; to control the flow of information or other resources; to exert influence over other actors in the network; and to act as a connector between other actors.  You may have quicker access to different kinds of resources from others in the network, or access to a wider variety of resources. In social networks, resources are defined as any symbolic or material good beneficial to an individual (or organization); this can include information, relationships, services, funding, etc.  You may be viewed as either a power player in the network who seeks to dominate and control relationships, or as a highly trusted member of the community who can be counted on to promote connections among others.
And with this great privilege comes great responsibility! Well-connected and centrally located actors have the potential to have great influence over the health of the network. If you withdraw from relationships or participation in the network, you risk isolating organizations or people who were previously linked in through their ties with you. You may also be unwittingly acting as a gatekeeper who is preventing the ready flow of information from one part of the network to another. Your centrality in the network means that you are well-positioned to help facilitate the flow of information and resources, and should do so whenever possible to promote the success of environmental sustainability initiatives that others are undertaking. If you strategically form relationships with actors who are on the periphery of the network, you can quickly help them to access resources that it would otherwise be difficult for them to attain.
In addition, you should be sure to keep in mind that diversity of ties will benefit you in the long term. Are the majority of your ties with entities in the same sector or topic area of work? If so, planning future collaborations to diversify your ties will increase your access to diverse resources, infuse your work with fresh ideas and perspectives, and strengthen the solidarity of the network across sectors and fields of specialty.
 Borgatti, S.P., M.G. Everett, and J.C. Johnson. 2018. Analyzing social networks. Sage.; Balfour, Bruce and Theodore R. Alter. 2016. “Mapping community innovation: Using social network analysis to map the interactional field, identify facilitators, and foster community development.” Community Development, 47:4, 431-448.; Giuffre, K. 2013. Communities and Networks: Using social network analysis to rethink urban and community studies. Polity Press: Malden, MA.; Freeman, L.C. 1978. “Centrality in social networks conceptual clarification.” Social networks, 1(3), pp.215-239.
 Lin, N. 1999. “Social networks and status attainment.” Annual review of sociology, 25(1), pp.467-487.; Bourdieu, Pierre. 1985. “The Forms of Capital.” Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. Ed. J.G. Richardson. New York: Greenwood. Pp. 241-258.
If you or your organization are located on the periphery of the network, this means that you have fewer measures of high centrality in the network. Typically, high measures of centrality reflect high capacity to receive and transmit information; to control the flow of information or other resources; to exert influence over other actors in the network; and to act as a connector between other actors.  So, with lower measures of centrality, it may be difficult for you to access different kinds of resources from others in the network, and you may be unable to access a wide variety of resources because of your limited connectivity. In social networks, resources are defined as any symbolic or material good beneficial to an individual (or organization); this can include information, relationships, services, funding, etc. 
While high measures of centrality are generally considered more desirable in social networks, peripheral actors have a very important role to play. You are the key to infusing fresh information, perspectives, and resources into a network, particularly dense networks where “everyone knows everyone.” You promote innovation within the network by acting as a bridge to other networks. For example, you may find yourself on the periphery of the Fort Collins environmental sustainability network because you are a small business owner who happens to be enthusiastic about implementing environmentally sustainable practices in your operations. The majority of your working ties are probably with other small business owners, or members from the Chamber of Commerce or Downtown Business Authority. As a peripheral actor in the environmental sustainability network, you can bring your expertise and relationships from your participation in those business networks into the environmental sustainability network, which would otherwise be lacking that presence.
If you feel that a more central position in the network would benefit you and your organization, there are some steps that you can take to increase your centrality. First, you can use this tool to identify very central actors who are connected to existing ties that you have. Focus on strengthening those existing relationships, which should provide you with opportunities to develop ties with those partners’ connections.
Second, take some time to understand what characterizes your existing ties. Maybe you are well-connected to others in the non-profit sector, but lack ties to those in other sectors. Maybe you collaborate on many projects involving water, but none involving food systems or energy. Think strategically about diversifying your collaborations across sectors, entities, and topic areas to increase your overall number of ties to a variety of actors.
Third, identify the particular strengths that your organization can bring to the table, and emphasize those when you attempt to enter into collaborations. What do you have that others in the network might want, need, or appreciate in their own environmental sustainability efforts?