Project effectiveness - Impact evaluation by using social network analysis

Cathleen M. Stuetzer, Stephanie Gaaw


Surveys in general are particularly important for impact evaluation of projects and programs, which often have an interdisciplinary character. Traditionally, besides reports on basic information, such as achieved goals and results of the previous work, mainly questionnaires about the satisfaction of all project partners within the evaluated project or program are used for quality assessment and project evaluation. Despite the fact that social network analysis (SNA) has already been broadly introduced in other research areas and the analysis of relationships within projects and the nature of these relationships have already been discussed with regard to their usefulness for the evaluation of projects and their success, SNA is only slowly gaining increased access to evaluation research. Therefore, the following contribution aims to give an example for conducting project impact evaluation by using relational methods. The introduced research project deals with the question of how individual mentoring processes within normal student-lecturer relationships can be scaled up by hybrid, technology-enhanced learning environments. Within the project researchers from eight german universities and different scientific disciplines, such as computer sciences, educational sciences and social sciences, are working together on answering this question. Within this project we developed a research and survey design including questions to elaborate the established network(s) within the project and therefore, added important evaluation data beyond other commonly used questions to evaluate projects and e.g. the impact of activities implemented to foster a research-promoting project structure. The contribution focuses on giving an overview on the analyzed characteristics of the network(s) within the project and the elaboration of indicators for successful interdisciplinary collaboration. By presenting the general conditions of the exemplary project, the research and survey design and first results of our conducted survey and their use within the (impact) evaluation, this contribution will show how SNA can contribute to the field of (impact) evaluation and reveals methodological implications for the development of network analysis instruments, such as surveys, in evaluation processes.

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