Sunday, May 31, 2015

Social Network Analysis and Regrouping of Animals

      First of all it is very important to understand and keep in mind what “Social Network Analysis” really means. Basically the main objective of SNA is to map and measure the different relations and flows between people, organizations, groups and any other connected information/knowledge entity.

     As we know, nowadays this type of research could be used for many different reasons, for example: To help re-structure the organization chart of a company, to help solve cases related to terrorism, to help determined and prevent the spread of a disease, and so on.

      After analyzing the many different ways SNA could be helpful to the Human Beings, I was wondering how could it work and be helpful to the animals (Just because I love them and the world wouldn’t be the same without them). What I found out was really interesting, and not only people have done many different analysis related to animals using SNA, but by using this type of tool the welfare of the animals can actually improve. A clear example of this is:

Regrouping of Animals


It’s a known fact that the well-being of the animals has not been taken into account when a Zoo is being designed. In other words, not only the animals sometimes don’t have enough space to live comfortably, but their behavior is not taken into consideration at the moment of placing them with other animals. Nonetheless, due to this problem, many Zoos exhibits are being re-designed for the animal’s physical and psychological well-being. I believe that Social Network Analysis could play a really important role in the improvement of how Zoos are re-designed.
Facts and Important SNA measures:
      Recently, SNA has been discovered and used by different behavioral biologists, who try to understand and analyze the animal behavior. Thanks to many different investigations, the biologists have come to the conclusion that this could actually be a great tool in the management of captive animal populations.

When it comes to animal behavior, the most important SNA measures are:

●  Prominence (Centrality and Centralization):  The idea is to identify the “Important” or “Key” actors, and the best way to do this is using centrality measures, in other words, the idea is to have a clear idea of: The degrees, closeness, betweenness and eigenvalue centrality.

●  Range: To evaluate the Range, the different metrics that can be used are: Reach (Number of nodes that can be reached within a specified distance, and can be used to evaluate the influence of indirect relationships on behavior or dominance rank) and Diameter (How many steps are necessary to get from one side of a network to another).

●  Cohesion: The following metrics can be used to identify the roles that specific animals play in maintaining cohesion in a network: Centralization, betweenness, cutpoints, density, reciprocity, community structure and transitivity (Clustering Coefficient).

Structural Equivalence: Could help evaluate dominance or other hierarchical relationships in some animal groups.

●   Brokerage: It can be useful for looking at the bridges of connections between animal subgroups with different attributes

What SNA can do in this case, is give important information related to the interaction between the social structures of the animals and the group stability, with the idea of managing aggression related to the remix of the animals (There are many cases where putting the wrong animals together could create serious damage).

How can you collect the Data?:

Of course in this case it’s not possible to collect information through surveys and newspapers (Which are the normal ways to do it). Here the best thing to do is to record the animals at least during 48 hours, where specialists can observe their behavior as a group and as an individual, this way it’s easier to review it as many times as possible to truly understand their actions. Some of the factors that need to be taken into account are: Enclosure and group size, length of time in the social group, weather conditions, visitor numbers, feeding methods/resource distributions.

How can the SNA be helpful?:

SNA can provide the right information that can help understand different points related to captive animals; here I will mention a few of them:

1. By randomly removing an animal from a highly interconnected network, could have less effect on the group stability than removing animals from a less cohesive group.

2. By adding animals to a group may have the least effect when animals within that group are loosely connected (This could be indicated by low density, high diameter or low global clustering coefficient)

3. It is crucial to understand and identify who are the individuals (Animals) who maintain the group cohesiveness to have a clear idea of which are the animals that can be moved. For this, the best option is to calculate the individual-level centrality measures (Including betweenness or eigenvalue centrality). It’s important to take into account that it’s possible to find an animal that acts as a bridge between different subgroups, and their removal from the group could create serious divisions.

4. SNA not only helps to have a more effective animal management, but also gives us a better understanding of interactions within the groups, so at the moment of wanting for example to reintroduce a group into their natural environment, it can be more carefully planned.

5. Knowing the Indegree and Outdegree of the animals can tell us how well connected they are. This will tell us the importance of each animal, in theory the more contact the animal has, the more central it would be, in other words, the more influence it would have.

6. It can be easier to observe through SNA which are the kinship ties, sharing resources (Food of territories) and social interactions (Dominance, hierarchies, grooming, and so on).


       Of course Social Networks has limitations, just like other methods. One of them could be defining group dimensions. This is why it’s much easier to use this tool with captive animals (Zoos, Safari parks or aquariums) than with wild-living animals. Another limitation could be not collecting enough data to construct a meaningful network, however when the collection of representative data is possible, then the analysis can generate enough information related to social behavior that can be relevant when you are looking for greater animal’s welfare standards

        The idea of being able to assess compatibilities between the different animals that live in a Zoo, is not only to improve animal management, but to increase the breeding success within the groups and decrease the aggression between them. Nowadays places that keep captive animals are trying to make their lives less stressful and be more responsible to nature, and even though it’s really hard to know what an animal is thinking and feeling, hopefully with the help of monitors that can record the animal’s behavior and with a SNA tool, it will be much easier to achieve this goal. 

SNA as a tool to understand impact of economy policies.

Governments around the world strive to find the best combination of economic policies that can foster a GDP growth at low inflation rates. For instance, governments through their central banks and other institutions can incentivize the population to spend/save more money by increasing or decreasing the government debt interest rate which has an impact in the grow of an economy. This is one of many polices that government can implement to manage their economy by affecting desired industries.

However, government fails to achieve the desire outcome trough new economic policies; government makes assumptions and predict how different agents (companies, individuals) will react to the new policies but if they fail doing that, the policies will not have the desired effect; even worst, it can have negatives effects which leads to high costs for a nation.

In that sense, it is important to understand what motivates the different economy agents to act in certain way or what motivates them to take some decisions. For that, the social network analysis can be suitable to find the relation between different economy policies and economy agents. The data needed is big and has to include all sectors of the population as well as industries.

Different institutions from the government has to participate in this research to determine all possible economic policies; after that, surveys to individuals and companies can be done to find how those policies make them take one or other decision. For instance, a company can decide to invest in new assets if the interest rates are decreasing, with no change in tariffs and low inflation.

Once gathered all the data, social network analysis can be performed to determine what policies has the greatest influence in the economy and in that way, governments can determine the best economic policies to implement. Centrality measures are useful to determine the policies with higher impact. In general, policies with high eigenvector are the most important for governments; also, high degree policies are element to focus in the analysis.

In order to use SNA as a tool, the magnitude if the research has to be big and extensive, which adds complexity however, the potential benefits for the economy of a country is also huge; making it worthy for a nation.

In conclusion, SNA as a tool for governments for determining the effect of different economic policies can be helpful to understand how agents react to these policies, which ultimately leads to take the best policies resulting in better economic performance of a nation; though, the research for achieving that can be complex and can require a high quantity of resources. Nevertheless, the benefits of understating the effects of different policies is higher than the effort that can be needed to make the research.
Looking back: How to apply SNA differently in a small business

Coming from Venezuela I understood from a young age that learning another language was almost mandatory in order to leverage my future in business, no matter which major I was going to choose. I started taking English classes since the age of 10 all the way until I was 15 years old. Soon I understood how beneficial this knowledge would be throughout my entire life. I got my first job as an English teacher in a kinder garden in my hometown, through one of my brother friends.

It was a small kinder garden, which meant seats available for students in the regular school year were limited (less than 15 kids per class). Because of this, the school decided to start a summer camp at the end of each school year to give the opportunity to more kids to learn the basics of English during summer camp.

Here is where SNAs play an important role. Looking back now that I have gone through so many life experiences concerning social networks and how they affect each aspect of your life, I would have done the advertising of the summer camp much differently.

How it was done?

The advertising of the summer camp was done mostly through word-of-mouth, which was very beneficial the first year the summer camp was done. The new kids that attended were mostly family members or friends with the current students in the kinder garden.

The following year the summer camp was done, this word-of-mouth advertising showed not to work anymore since the students from the kinder garden stayed relatively the same, so the family members or friends from the year before already attended and learned English.

How it could have been done.

The most effective way to apply SNAs in this case would be to:

-       Come up with promotions: such as discounts for new students you are willing to attract to the summer camp other than your own kid. (Hult did exactly this in order to attract new students last year. they would offer discounts to already accepted students that would recruit other new students. They basically left part of the advertising job to already accepted students for the 2015 class). The location of the school makes it vulnerable to society influence, which can be very strong in the city.

First, the school board should have come with a survey that helped them identify the most influential families within their network of parents, in order to narrow the amount of promotions they would be willing to give out. Listing the name of the parents of current students and applying the proper survey that would identify some parents as the most influential ones according to their connections inside and outside the school.

Second, approach those parents and discuss the promotion package available in exchange for them spreading the voice about the summer camp among their connections.

Again, the use of word-of-mouth advertising will be used in this case but the chances of the information getting to truly potential students families is higher due to the narrowing reached by the survey. Keep in mind that we are not trying to reach people from within current students families only this time, but also people on their social environment.

Data such as the amount of new students from last school year to this year, family members and friends who already attended summer camp last year, which families are highly involved in social events (size social connections), extracurricular activities of current students, clubs that families belong to, should be identified through the survey questions in order to give the school board a better sense of who the influencers are and how they could use them to effectively advertise the second term of the summer camp.

That saying “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it”, cannot be applied anymore for businesses these days due to the highly changing society we live in, so businesses, no matter which area, have to constantly reinvent themselves, and SNAs are a great starting point to do so.

How SNA can help improve the diagnostic accuracy of health workers in understaffed areas of Nigeria by using a collaborative platform to access expertise from various sources: physicians, online resources.

Problem statement

How SNA can help improve the diagnostic accuracy of health workers in understaffed areas of Nigeria by using a collaborative platform to access expertise from various sources: physicians, online resources.


Nigeria is a country of 170 million people, 70% of whom live in rural areas. We have only one physician per 2500 people, which is six times fewer physicians per capita than the United States, and most of our senior physicians practice in large, urban, tertiary care centers. Physicians deployed to these rural areas by the government after a year of internship provide primary care for these100 million people in these rural areas.   They are assisted by community health with limited medical training.
Without adequate physician guidance, community health workers inappropriately treated many of these patients, and several hundred lives were lost. Often times, community health workers as well as junior physicians communicated via social media platform (Whatsapp, Facebook) that limit users to only their circle of friends, and nobody at higher levels of expertise.

The solution is MedicFriend, a mobile-based platform that connects young primary care workers with those that have more treatment experience.

I am working on this solution in collaboration with a friend, medical doctor from Nigeria and also MBA student at Hult ( Ebuwa Igho-osagie). 
The app will also provide access to medical protocols applicable to rural, resource-constrained settings and will have Integrated Messaging capabilities making this communication instantaneous and effective.  These features will increase diagnostic accuracy and improve health outcomes.

Usage data from our application is highly desirable to public health organizations. 

How SNA will be helpful for our project?

We conducted some interviews in order to discover how the medical doctors and community heath workers are currently working and whom are they interacting the most.
We found out that:
·      Community health workers and junior physicians communicated via whatsapp or facebook. They are communicated primarily to their medical class mates, because they are sharing the same area of interest  (pediatric, surgery etc..)
·      When they need more help for a difficult diagnostic, they are contacting senior doctors, if they have direct contact in their networks to ask for advice

By attending the SNA classes, I realized that we could develop a better application if we understand well the existing networks of the medical precisians in Nigeria and healthcare institution in place (WHO, Government, Pharmaceuticals companies etc…).  
This project is broad and challenging, below one of the few selected areas I will focus in this blog:

  1. Understand how the network of medical care patricians is organize in Nigeria and identify the main groups and subgroups and how they are interacting to each other.

a.      How : By gathering the information through a series of survey and interview s that will include important attributes for the analysis. For example: in addition to the classical information like gender, marital status and so on, Medical specialties, location, medical school they attend, year of graduation, area where they are located, areas where they did they practice after their internship, how often they are collaborating with their peers? ….

2. Understand how the Physicians are interacting within the health institution in place (medical university, government, international institution like WHO, pharmaceutical companies) and how often?  Are there any formal communication ways to communicate with the ministry of health? How did the doctor maintain their knowledge: through their previous university or association or international institutions?


By using a Social Network analysis of the data (Visual and quantitative analysis )we will gather, we are hoping:
  1.  Understand better the current networks and build ups our application in such a way that it will improve the current networks based on they analysis of how it is currently organized.
  2. Identify the important people in the network or place where the relationship is built. This will help us approach the right people for our solution that will help to spread the use of our application within the community.
  3. Identify how the institution in place share the important healthcare information to the medical team and how we can also improve this through our apps
  4. Understand how the WHO interact within the medical people locally and what information there are looking for, therefore build up our apps in the what that will help to collect useful data and understand for example the spread and frequency of epidemic disease like cholera end even predict them in the future.


 SNA is a powerful tool. We understood that it would help us to have a bright new way of developing our project MedicFriend.
We started to develop the project based on basic data collected and build up assumptions. But now, SNA capabilities will help us to have a deeper understanding about the relationship built by physicians and community’s health workers in the medical environment. We have to also consider the political environment and see how we will integrate the system in place. And more importantly, we wanted to collect healthcare data and share it with important institution in place, we will be able after our research to technically build our apps in order to collect the important information that institution favored to analyze the Nigeria healthcare system.

We had already present the idea to different people and also participated in MIT hack medicine where we gain a lot of positive response. By using my technical expertise in IT and my 6 years background in Medical Devices Company in addition to the healthcare background my teammate. Furthermore, by integrating now SNA in the project development process, we are hoping to be able develop the best solution possible that will have an impact on all the healthcare system in Africa.

MBA Candidate 2015
Hult International Business

Social Network Analysis to systematize the technology projects


Before I started studying at HULT, I was working for a Multi National Company, which offers management consulting, and technology service to Clients. Success rate is something our company strived and promised to the clients. We were asked to execute projects having different deliverables. But there were many similarities in the projects.

I realized a problem; more often in our organization similar kind of work is being done with mixed results. Situation was we were asked to build a website for real estate company and we took 6 months time which included requirement analysis, development and testing and were able to execute the project with 100 % succession rate with zero defects. After few months a similar kind of project to develop a website for the real estate company was given to other team and they again had to start everything from the scratch and to cover all the basis they required the same amount of time as we did. And even after that they had some defects in the website which we addressed during our website launch. Important things our company should have done to avoid these are

  • ·     If they had access to our project then they would be able to avoid the mistakes we committed.(More often than not the project related matter are highly confidential and will not be shared with other teams).
  • ·      If the project would have been assigned to us or any other team, which has done similar project.

So my idea is to find the people who have worked and exhibited good skills in executing the project and when a new project starts form the core team with people who have worked in similar project before and choose people who have little or no experience in this kind project. This way the inexperienced people will have guidance from the experienced ones

 As Social Network Analysis helps us understand the social relations and their networks. I want to use SNA to find out the following things.

  • ·      Execution rates of individuals on different type of projects
  • ·      Does the type of project effects his or hers execution rate
  • ·      How complex are relationships between them
  • ·      Identify people’s specialties or technologies they are good at

Execution Rate:
Every project has metrics, which shows the success of the project. Execution rate takes all the metrics like deadline maintenance, Effectiveness, Resource Maintenance, Deliverables Maintenance etc. into account.

Data Collection:
Gathering data is not a difficult task as every project mangers needs project metrics to report to the leadership. Survey can gives us the data we need. Internal surveys happen in organization and often they are mandatory. Two different surveys can be sent, one to the project manager and other to the employee. Our questionnaire to the employee will have following questions.

  • 1.   What are the projects you worked on before ?(Pick from the list)
  • 2.   What are the success rates of each project ?
  • 3.   According to you who are the people in this project showed commandable expertise?
  • 4.   Who are the people Project Manager turn to when there is a crisis in this project ?
  • 5.   What is the speciality you are comfortable with?
  • 6.   If given a choice what kind of project you will pick?
  • 7.   Who in the project or outiside the project you faternize with?

Our questionnaire to the project managers will have following questions. 
  1. What are the projects you worked on before ?(Pick from the list)
  2.  What are the success rates of each project ?
  3. According to you who are the people in this project showed commandable expertise?
  4. Who are the people you would turn in case of in this project ?
  5. Who would you not pick if you have to do the same project again and why?
  6. Who would you pick if you have to do the same project again and why?
  7. Who in the project or outiside the project you faternize with?

By using the results we will have two different networks and different attributes and can use SNA to find the influential people. Since we have two networks Employee and project manager. We need to make a single combined network to work with both data so using professor Rusty’s technique to combine both data sets.

Dichotomize both the employee and project mangers data sets with people who have very often-highest success rate and with help of matrix algebra and syntax acasoc create a new dataset which is addition of academic and social data sets and this you will now know the people who employee thinks are best and project manger thinks are best and also their individual responses.

Now with the help of the new combined data set we can identify the most influential people and with help of different attributes we can identify the following
  • ·      People who handle stress well
  • ·      People who are most reliable
  • ·      People who have technical expertise
  • ·      People who have good networks

By applying centrality measures I can find people with high degree, high out degree and in degree. So when choosing a person I can customize my requirement. Suppose in the case of project manager I need high degree, high out and in and high closeness as he needs to keep the project afloat and if am choosing a tester I need one who has high in degree than high out degree and closeness doesn’t influence him.

With the help of this data, now if I am asked to form a new project team to build a website for technology company. I would choose the project manager who has high successive rate in handling the project, before making the decision I would also check if he has better relations with other people who might be potential team members and also see what kind of skill set he will offer for the new joiners. And I can do the same for the rest of employees. By this I feel organizations can cut of their project lead time to at least ¾ of the actual time as people will be well aware what is expected of them and also can generate considerable amount of profits.