Using Social Network Theory to Influence the Development of State and Local Primary Prevention Capacity-Building Teams

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Heriot-Watt University]On: 07 October 2014, At: 10:42Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of Family Social WorkPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wfsw20

    Using Social Network Theory to Influencethe Development of State and LocalPrimary Prevention Capacity-BuildingTeamsPatricia G. Cook-Craig aa School of Social Work , University of Kentucky , Lexington,KentuckyPublished online: 22 Jul 2010.

    To cite this article: Patricia G. Cook-Craig (2010) Using Social Network Theory to Influence theDevelopment of State and Local Primary Prevention Capacity-Building Teams, Journal of Family SocialWork, 13:4, 313-325, DOI: 10.1080/10522158.2010.492497

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  • Using Social Network Theory to Influence theDevelopment of State and Local Primary

    Prevention Capacity-Building Teams

    PATRICIA G. COOK-CRAIGSchool of Social Work, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky

    This article examines the role that social network theory and socialnetwork analysis has played in assessing and developing effectiveprimary prevention networks across a southeastern state. In 2004the state began an effort to develop a strategic plan for the primaryprevention of violence working with local communities across thestate. The process included an analysis of how family serviceorganizations and community collaborators networked to solvecommunity problems. In 2005, the state joined the Center forDisease Control and Preventions Enhancing and Making Pro-grams Work to End Rape project to specifically focus on buildingcapacity for primary prevention of perpetration of sexual violence.

    KEYWORDS social network analysis, social network theory,violence prevention planning

    This article presents an examination of how assumptions of social networktheory were used to design a strategy for the assessment of professional net-works and the development of a state prevention team and local communitynetworks committed to primary prevention of sexual violence. Social net-work theory and analysis examines the connections between people or enti-ties. A quantitative analysis of survey data on networks of professionalsworking in agencies committed to violence prevention was conducted aspart of a needs assessment and state profile of violence in a southeasternstate. Social network analysis techniques were used to examine how 139community partners across 10 local regions in the state collaborated withone another. The social network analysis findings were used to design

    Address correspondence to Patricia G. Cook-Craig, University of Kentucky, 629 POT,Lexington, KY 40506-0027. E-mail: patty.cook@uky.edu

    Journal of Family Social Work, 13:313325, 2010Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group, LLCISSN: 1052-2158 print=1540-4072 onlineDOI: 10.1080/10522158.2010.492497

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  • strategies for building a state prevention team and engaging in capacity-building activities at the state and local level to ensure a successful processof developing a primary prevention plan for the perpetration of sexualviolence. First, the article begins a brief description of the structure of theviolence prevention planning process in the state. Then a literature reviewthat defines the assumptions behind social network theory that are salientto the primary prevention planning process is outlined. A review of howsocial network theory intersects with the effectiveness of coalitions isprovided. The article then reviews findings examining the states regionalviolence prevention provider networks. Finally implications for buildingviolence prevention planning teams, engaging in family social work, andconducting further research in this area are considered.

    BACKGROUND: PLANNING FOR PRIMARY PREVENTION OFPERPETRATION OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE

    In 2004, the state began an effort to develop a strategic plan for the primaryprevention of violence working at the state and local levels. One of the goalswas to develop well-functioning coalitions in regions across the state. Thesecoalitions were tasked with the development of statewide and regionalcapacity to enhance primary prevention of violence (see Cook, Morris, &Kelly, 2006). As part of this effort, regional teams participated in an analysisof how family service organizations and community collaborators networkedtogether to solve community problems. That same state joined the Enhancingand Making Programs Work to End Rape (EMPOWER) project in 2005 tospecifically focus on building statewide capacity for primary prevention ofperpetration of sexual violence (for a detailed description of the EMPOWERprogram, see Cox, Ortega, Cook-Craig, & Conway, 2010=this issue). Theorganization of activities for the EMPOWER project was guided by a smallplanning team called the State Capacity Building Team (SCBT). The initialactivity of the states EMPOWER project was to convene a state preventionteam (SPT) tasked with developing a statewide primary prevention planspecifically designed to address perpetration of sexual assault. This planwas developed using a planning process called Getting To Outcomes(GTO) (for a detailed description of the GTO framework, see Cox et al.,2010=this issue). The same network analysis data that was collected as partof the strategic planning process was then used to inform the work of theSPT. To demonstrate how that data was used in the planning process, it isnecessary to first review basic assumptions behind social network theory.

    Social Network Theory and Analysis

    Social network theory describes the set of assumptions that underlies howactors (including individuals and entities such as organizations) connect with

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  • one another. Two assumptions of social network theory that are particularlyimportant in understanding how community partnerships are formed arerelated to the concepts homophily and propinquity. Homophily refers tothe assumption that, other factors being the same, individuals and entitiesare likely to connect to others with whom they share similar characteristics.Propinquity refers to the assumption that other factors being constant, indi-viduals and entities are likely to connect with those that are geographicallyclose to them (Kadushin, 2004).

    Social network analysis is the process by which researchers explain thenature of relations in a network and how that might affect outcomes. Anunderlying assumption of social network analysis is that individuals or enti-ties in a network are interdependent members and that resources flowthrough those relationships. The process of conducting social networkanalysis involves examining the structure of networks and looking for pat-terns that explain how networks facilitate or constrain resource exchange(Galaskiewicz & Wasserman, 1994).

    Visualization techniques allow for the examination of the structure ofsocial networks. By creating representations of network members and theirconnections with one another, patterns in networks can be identified andcommunicated (Knoke & Yang, 2008). The process of creating social net-work maps first appeared in the social work literature in the early 1990s asa tool for understanding the social support networks of client (see Tracy,1993; Tracy & Abell, 1994). More recently it has been used how communityagencies connect with one another (Orthner, Cole, & Erhlich, 2000).

    The Connections Between Community Collaborations andSocial Network Theory

    Research on evaluating community coalitions suggests that these types ofcollaborations struggle with the success they have at involving a broad arrayof constituencies and at meeting their stated objectives (Kadushin, Lindholm,Ryan, Brodsky, & Saxe, 2005). Lack of success in these areas can be related tothe difficulties associated with getting the needed people to the table andworking effectively together. Networks are naturally inclined to includehomophilous relations, in which members have similar experiences, back-grounds, and professional philosophies (see Kadushin, 2004), and collabo-ration can be difficult when the group comprises diverse constituencieswith different perspectives (Kadushin et al., 2005). However, it is just thediverse set of resources and ideas inherent in a heterogeneous coalition madeup of constituencies from different disciplines, agencies, and backgroundsthat is necessary to engage in solving complex problems (Wolff, 2001). Thisnecessitates engaging nontraditional partners as coalition members.

    Even though the research on community coalitions has shown mixedsuccess in meeting state goals and including diverse partners at the table,

    Networks in Prevention Planning 315

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  • many scholars continue to recognize the importance of collective action incommunities and have turned their attention to uncovering strategies thatwill increase the likelihood of working groups and coalitions success(Foster-Fishman, Berkowitz, Lounsbury, Jacobson, & Allen, 2001; Koslowski,& Ilgen, 2006; Wolff, 2001). Wolff (2001) highlighted the importance of adiverse, inclusive membership as necessary for a successful coalition; innetwork terms this means that a key aspect of building successful coalitionsis to actively resist the natural inclination to build a homophilous team. Inaddition, Koslowski and Ilgen (2006) demonstrated the importance of lead-ership and how prominent team members work to create effective teamsand guide effective collaborative action.

    Social Network Theory and the Applicability to CommunityCollaborations Building

    The social network theory concepts of strong versus weak ties is also a usefulway of understanding how the network of community partners that worktogether can make a difference in the success of community collaborations.Community collaborations offer key stakeholders access to new connectionsof professionals they are not currently connected to, which can be calledweak ties. Granovetter (1973, 1982) introduced the concept of strong versusweak ties between individuals, which suggests that there are two differenttypes of connections that offer different benefits. According to Granovetter(1973), strong ties are relational bonds that exist between similar people.These relationships involve relationships between people with similar char-acteristics and provide a connection to a common identity, shared purpose,trust, and an efficient source of information and resource sharing (Burt, 2001;Putnam, 2000; Warren, Thompson, & Saegart, 2001; Woolcock & Narayan,2000).

    On the other hand, weak ties connect people who have heterogeneouscharacteristics (Burt, 2001; Putnam, 2000; Woolcock & Narayan, 2000;Warren et al., 2001). Granovetter (1973) hypothesized that weak ties providenew opportunities for individuals to be introduced to a broader range ofresources. Weak ties are facilitated through common connections, such asfriends of friends, who can introduce one another. Because new relation-ships are formed, new opportunities to share information and resourcesare created.

    The concept of weak and strong ties can be applied to professionalrelationships as well (see Hansen, 1999; Haythornthwaithe & Wellman,1998; Krackhardt, 1992). Among professional networks, strong ties refer torelationships between workers that have regular contact with one another.Weak ties exist between professionals who do not have regular contact.Weak ties offer the opportunity to gain new knowledge and ways of practiceacross organizations and disciplines. They are important to community

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  • collaborations because the problems addressed by these collaborations arecomplex and need multidisciplinary solutions and widespread buy-in toput new solutions to work on the ground.

    Engaging weak ties is also an important factor in addressing communityreadiness to engage in primary prevention of violence. Two importantdimensions of community readiness to make change are community knowl-edge of the issue and community knowledge of the efforts to address theissue (Plested, Edwards, & Jumper-Thurman, 2006). By engaging a broadbase of community partners from different disciplines, organizations, andbackgrounds, practitioners can increase the likelihood that needed knowl-edge of the issue and the change effort will reach the larger community.

    Because weak ties can be important to successful community collabo-ration, a network assessment of the types of collaborative relationshipsthat communities rely on when conducting prevention planning can beuseful in determining the extent to which needed heterogeneous partnersare at the table. The discussion that follows outlines one states efforts toengage in such an assessment.

    METHOD

    To better understand the ways in which regional providers work together, asocial network analysis (SNA) was conducted to determine how organiza-tions connect with one another on a regular basis. SNA is an analytic strategyused to examine the nature of the relations between people in varioustypes of networks (in this case, their...

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