Theory of social network interventions

Dean Lusher, James Coutinho, Colin Gallagher, Maedeh Aboutalebi Karkavandi, Peng Wang, Garry Robins, Chiara Brocatelli, Petr Matous


Network interventions are seen as a means to encourage change in individual behavior, as well as systemic change, to achieve certain policy, group or organizational goals. Valente’s (2012) seminal paper outlined a useful typology of network interventions. However, some aspects of network intervention are understudied and need more in-depth theoretical thinking. Currently, most research has focused on how individuals can be influenced by their social networks to adopt new practices or behaviors, yet little is known about how best to achieve system-level change through network structural interventions. This may be crucial when the desired outcome is at the level of the entire social system, for instance, in environmental governance, where optimal individual outcomes do not necessarily relate to good global performance. This presentation aims to present some new conceptual thinking on the design, implementation, and assessment of network interventions, incorporating ideas from different areas of research (e.g. education, organizational research, criminology, public health, social ecological systems) where network interventions may be central to good policy outcomes. The presentation will touch upon changing system-level outcomes, study designs for network interventions, network-related research manipulations, and assessment methods for the impact of interventions. It is a thought piece on how we might widen as well as deepen our understanding of network interventions.

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