The relationships between water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) actors are critical for improving and sustaining WASH services. Social network analysis (SNA) is a powerful tool for studying social systems that focuses attention on the complex relationships among actors in a system. Specifically, it shows the relationships among actors, who can be individuals or organizations. It can increase the understanding of the structural characteristics of a network, such as who the central actors in a network are, how tightly interconnected or fragmented the network is, and what subgroups or clusters exist. This information can highlight strengths and weaknesses in communication, the flow of resources, power structures, and the overall functioning of the network. As part of an overall systems approach to WASH, the United States Agency for International Development’s Sustainable WASH Systems (SWS) Learning Partnership is applying SNA across a range of activities in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Cambodia, with 12 of 19 planned applications completed to date.
This learning brief summarizes SWS’s application and use of SNA. Future learning materials will further detail the results and lessons learned from using this systems tool in low- resource WASH settings.