initiatives benefit from
the depth of community
Community organizations often interact with each other in different domains of neighborhood improvement.
For example, two organizations might collaborate not only to implement services at local schools, but also to beautify a local park and to influence elected officials on immigration policy. Their relationship, which spans the domains of education, public spaces, and public policy, is therefore more “comprehensive” than two groups that collaborate only on a single issue.
Social network analysis can allow researchers to understand how neighborhoods differ in terms of the level and extent of these interactions across domains — how “comprehensive” community connections are.
This web feature measures comprehensiveness in ties between local organizations in Chicago neighborhoods, and shows how comprehensiveness can help neighborhoods work together to build needed affordable housing and improve schools.
What Is Network
In social network analysis, the number of ways that a person, group or organization interacts with another is known as “multiplexity.” For example, coworkers who are also friends are connected in two ways.
The Chicago Community Networks study takes this concept and applies it to the number of domains in which community organizations cooperate, to understand the overall levels of connections in a neighborhood in all areas of work. These domains include:
- EDUCATION PROJECTS
- Early childhood programs, efforts to improve schools, tutoring and after-school initiatives, and other school enrichment activities
- COMMUNITY WELL-BEING PROJECTS
- Youth development (outside of schools), efforts to address public safety, transportation, and public health projects
- HOUSING AND COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE PROJECTS
- Affordable or mixed-income housing development, commercial real estate development, tenant organizing, homeowner education, and foreclosure prevention or mitigation
- PUBLIC POLICY AND ORGANIZING PROJECTS
- Campaigns to build power with local organizations or residents in order to influence policy change or gain resources from public or private actors
- PUBLIC SPACES, COMMUNITY IMAGE, AND ARTS PROJECTS
- Neighborhood beautification projects such as clean-ups and murals; efforts to promote a positive community image through street fairs or other celebratory events; and community arts projects
- ECONOMIC AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
- Job training; job readiness or placement; financial literacy or asset building; and local economic development efforts aimed at attracting new businesses, supporting existing small businesses, or retaining local industries
Survey data revealed that partner organizations often coordinated and collaborated with each other on more than one area of work. (For more information about this study and its methods, please see the first feature in this web series.)
How did these multidomain partnerships develop? What benefit do they bring to community collaboration? The following case study both illustrates the principle of comprehensiveness and explores these questions.
Defining Key Terms in Social Network Analysis
The number of domains in which an organization communicates, coordinates, or collaborates with another. As the Chicago Community Networks study survey identifies six domains of work, comprehensiveness scores can range from 1 to 6. If two organizations work together only in workforce development, for example, their relationship has a score of 1. If the pair also work together in public policy, their score is 2, and so on.
Public Policy and
Comprehensive local activity has become a significant guiding principle for many community initiatives, as funders and practitioners have sought to promote a broad and inclusive range of neighborhood improvement projects. These projects have included Comprehensive Community Initiatives, and also include federal initiatives that provide many different forms of support even when they focus on a single topic, as Promise Neighborhoods does for education.
Public management research and community research have found that more comprehensive connections are more likely to be long-lasting because they can endure changes such as the loss of funding. But there may also be limits to how well comprehensive connections operate in practice, because work may be spread thinly across multiple areas.
As described above, comprehensiveness is defined by the number of areas in which organizations collaborate. Because the Chicago Community Networks study survey identified six domains of work, comprehensiveness between two organizations can be characterized using scores that range from 1 to 6.
to Community Work?
The Chicago Community Networks study did not find that neighborhoods with more comprehensive ties always had more effective community practices. However, in many cases, ties that developed in one area allowed community organizations to branch into other, related areas of collaboration, and allowed multipronged programs to form. The following case study illustrates this dynamic in Little Village, highlighting how comprehensive ties can be enlisted to implement multifaceted work.
In it, we show how different collaboratives that were coordinated by a community group, Enlace, were developed. These collaboratives, involving education and other areas of work, were built upon, and in some cases repurposed, to respond to public safety issues. In doing so, network ties related to education, small businesses, and policy organizing were brought to bear in a way that appeared to have benefited a violence prevention initiative.
This feature has shown how comprehensiveness in networks can help communities develop multifaceted programs. In particular, this feature has highlighted:
- The potential benefits of combining service networks with elements of public policy and organizing. As shown in the cases of Logan Square and Little Village, these partnerships can sometimes be mobilized to advance particular projects.
- The benefits of drawing on comprehensive relationships to implement programs, when done with deliberate intent. The Chicago Community Networks study did not find that neighborhoods with more comprehensive ties were necessarily more likely to implement effective programs, nor vice versa. But it did find instances in which organizations selectively drew upon those ties to create more powerful programs (as in the case of Little Village).
A print report to be published in late 2017 will explore these themes in more detail. In the meantime, the next feature in this web series will explore how networks changed between 2013 and 2016.