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Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership - 2012-10-10

Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership

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The science of human relationships

By Jim Hawhee, APNEP staff
October 10, 2012

 

Members of APNEP's Policy Board represent varying organizations, constituencies, and interests

"Today we are faced with the preeminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships..."  - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Efforts to improve our sounds and estuarine ecosystem are a shared responsibility. For casual observers and seasoned professionals alike, understanding the roles and capabilities of the region’s players can be a dizzying exercise.

During the next two months, the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program will partner with Kate Brogan, a graduate student at Duke’s Nicholas School for the Environment, to conduct a social network analysis of the professionals, agencies and organizations working in the Albemarle-Pamlico region. Several Duke professors specializing in complementary environmental and social science fields have also contributed to the study’s approach and methodology.

Kate Brogran of Duke University is conducting the social network analysis with APNEP support

In a nutshell, social network analysis is a system of mapping connections between people and organizations to analyze pathways of communication.

Pop culture buffs are probably familiar with the Kevin Bacon game, in which actors are connected to the star by shared screen appearances. This parlor game doubles as a social network analysis of Hollywood actors, linking them through shared relationships.

A more sobering example of social network analysis efforts can be found in the National Security Agency’s approach to locating and disrupting terrorist cells. Their network analyses seek to identify and neutralize key links in communication, making coordination of attacks more difficult.

A social network analysis diagram.  Original image

By contrast, APNEP’s engagement initiatives seek to forge bonds between environmental agencies and organizations working in our region. Strong conservation partnerships can help important work move forward where funding is insufficient, experts from multiple disciplines are necessary, or coordination between jurisdictions is required.

A social network analysis has the potential to measure the cohesiveness of conservation efforts. It can elucidate the effectiveness of partnerships or evaluate the reach of programs. The analysis can also identify important communications links or highlight organizations between which those links might be initiated.

Considering the impact of human systems is an important part of ecosystem-based management, or EBM. As we introduce and test EBM approaches with our partners, we will consider the use of social network analysis metrics to complement other measures of management effectiveness.

Pocosin restoration efforts in the region result from state, federal, university, and NGO collaboration.

Between now and December, you may receive an email message from Kate inviting you to take part in the analysis. If you do, you should be flattered. The invitation means someone identified you as a key representative for your organization or agency. Please take a few short minutes to respond as time permits. We’re quite sure you’ll know all the answers, and this work promises a treasure trove of insights about the management of our estuarine ecosystem.

Data collection will be completed by mid-December, with the results published through Duke and APNEP by June 2013. Insights will be used to improve management of our estuarine ecosystem and improve communication strategies between organizations working to restore the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary.

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