The Chicago Community Networks study (CCN) is one of the most extensive attempts to measure networks among community organizations and show how they influence service delivery and political leadership. A mixed-methods study, the CCN is gathering data from two sources: a network survey conducted in nine different Chicago neighborhoods, and extensive in-person qualitative interviews.
The CCN survey was administered in 2013 to a number of community organizations, primarily online. It consisted of three components:
A Network Roster
Respondents first identified organizations with which they interacted, then rated the intensity of each interaction and identified its domain of action (see below).
These questions covered an organization’s age, size, funding sources, and areas of expertise.
These questions covered an organization’s ability to function effectively and weather difficulties in funding and staffing, and the challenges it faced related to engaging in network activity.
The CCN is distinguished by attention to the intensity, quality, and nature of local ties. It is also distinguished by its integration of network survey data with qualitative field research. A second wave of the survey was recently completed in 2016, which when analyzed will show how networks changed over time.
The survey asked organizations to identify not just their relationships, but also the frequency of their interactions with partners and the areas in which they worked together. For each partner, an organization was asked to qualify its interactions on a scale of increasing intensity: they might communicate with each other, coordinate to work in conjunction with each other, or collaborate — the most intense level of engagement. The CCN survey also asked whether the partner was a trusted one, as a way of assessing relationship quality.
To identify the nature of these ties, the CCN asked whether respondents communicated, coordinated, or collaborated in any of six domains of work:
- Early childhood programs, efforts to improve schools, tutoring and after-school initiatives, and other school enrichment activities
- Community well-being
- Youth development (outside of schools), efforts to address public safety, transportation, and public health projects
- Housing and commercial real estate
- Affordable or mixed-income housing development, commercial real estate development, tenant organizing, homeowner education, and foreclosure prevention or mitigation
- Public policy and organizing
- 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 the arts
- 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
- 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
The CCN engaged local practitioners in the task of interpreting network survey findings, validating survey results, and determining the appropriate kinds of analyses for network data.
The combination of qualitative research and social network analysis is particularly rare in this area of research.
These interviews helped to validate the survey findings. They also developed information about the outcomes of collaborations. In this way, the survey data could be linked to qualitative accounts of the neighborhoods’ successes and challenges in collective action.
This combination of qualitative research and social network analysis is particularly rare in social network analysis research. It represents a real opportunity to build both theoretical and practical insights about the ways that networks influence program implementation, policy mobilization, and community life.