Monday, May 01, 2006

Social Networks and Policy

While working on my social networks research, I picked up a book called Social Networks and Social Exclusion: Sociological and Policy Perspectives. The book is a collection of papers written by various researchers, and the one that really stands out for me is called "Public Policy and Social Networks: Just How 'Socially Aware' is the Policy-making Process?" by Vicki Nash.

The paper is interesting in that it helps sum up the rest of the book nicely. The paper promotes the use of social networks and sociology as a whole within policy development. One of her examples is how sending people to jails helps them cultivate negative social networks that provide a negative influence on the people going to jail.

This is like the inverse of Ronald Burt's Structural Holes, where people are told to cultivate their networks to make themselves better targets for promotions, jobs, and other opportunities. Places like jails may do the opposite: create structural holes that make it more likely that people are offered opportunities to commit crime.

This is an interesting concept, and I enjoyed the paper. Perhaps social network analysis does have a place in local / urban / national policy development.


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